Day 189: Irish Soda Squirrels Gone Wild!

Squirrely. A much loved AA term to describe feelings of unstable craziness which may or may not lead to drinking.

It’s a perfect descriptor in many ways. It highlights the crazed and distracted mind that takes us all to places where we’d rather not go. Today, for me, it’s the pub.

St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. It’s an important day for me. No, not just because it is known as a ‘drinking holiday,’ but, because I am very closely tied to my Irish heritage. When I lived in New York City, this day was one, yes, for drinking, but also, for celebration of my heritage. Portland, Oregon doesn’t do St. Patrick’s Day very well, if you ask me. Even while I was still in my cups, I found myself miserable here, missing home. Missing the Irish pride that is impossible to avoid on the streets of New York.

Here, St. Patrick’s Day has been a pity party for me, one where it became about drinking alone just because there isn’t a cultural outlet or celebration here to make it otherwise for me. And, this year, tomorrow, not only will I have to face yet another year without New York’s Irish spirit, but now, without a drink in my hand.

After my morning AA meeting, it started. My squirreliness reached fever pitch. I saw myself sitting at the pub. Ordering a Guinness, then a Jameson, neat. I saw myself buying shots for the regulars, raising my glass, green ribbons, springing jovially from my hair. I missed that camaraderie. And, with no plans for the evening tonight, my mind felt like it was trapped in a cage of anxiety and loneliness. I wouldn’t be able to see Lars because he had plans, and there was no one else I could think of that would make me feel happy, not in Oregon anyway.

As my visions of walking to the pub started to become all too real. I drove to the Safeway supermarket and called my rehab husband, Pete. I told him I was going crazy. I was just wandering around the store aimlessly to keep myself from wandering into the pub. He talked me down. And, as I started to feel better, I realized that I have to lose myself in something that’s going to make me happy, something that’s going to give me the Irish pride I need to exude, and to distract me.

I hung up the phone with Pete and walked straight to the baking aisle. I loaded up on whole wheat flour, baking power, baking soda, raisins, milk, butter, and caraway seeds.

It’s soda bread time.

I spent the whole night baking. I started around 9PM and didn’t feel finished until around 4AM on St. Patrick’s Day. Every year, soda bread is a part of my St. Patrick’s Day story. It’s a tradition that I hold pretty dear. And, as the holiday season proved to me, baking is by far the best way to distract me from drinking. It’s an activity where I’m able to totally lose myself, be engaged, be totally present in the moment. It’s something I love, and, it’s something I love to give away.

So this year, St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be giving out the fruits of my labor. And, now that the squirrely moments have passed, I can see that throwing myself into baking, while being sober, actually gave me time to reflect on my culture and heritage. It gave value to the holiday beyond the party pomp and circumstance. It was me and my baking. A meditation in it’s own right.

Much like my drinking days, my baking was no exception for excess. So, I look forward to handing out the fruits of this year’s Irish bounty. I made it through, and while I may not be in New York to be with my family, I got to spend the day with Irish me…and I was present for the whole thing. And, that’s the most joy I’ve had on this day in three years.

Érin go bragh to that.

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