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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2
   

 

Bird of Transformation

by Cheryl Rowe, Marshall ’94

 
     

Sun God Festival, UCSD, 1992. My drinks of choice on that occasion were Everclear Kool-Aid punch mix, beer, and an inconspicuous water bottle filled with tequila and a splash of margarita mix. Most of the day was spent in a blackout, but I came to a couple of times: once, in the afternoon, to witness a “friend” dropping a live goldfish down my throat in front of the Sun God sculpture. And then a second time, late that night, in my Marshall Lower apartment bedroom, unable to remember how I got there.

Shrugging it off, I nursed myself back to a semi-stable condition so that I could begin partying again as soon as possible.

One year later, I woke up on a gorgeous La Jolla day and had my Sun God drinking agenda all lined up, but little did I know, the Sun God had other things in store for me.

I’d been feeling chronically depressed and didn’t know why, so my mom made the suggestion during a teary phone conversation that I talk to a “professional.”

Offended, but willing to try anything, I trudged off to my meeting with Paul, a man with a serene, steady air, a ready smile, and the patience of Buddha. He began our session with a series of questions about my drug and alcohol habits and by the end informed me that he couldn’t help me with depression if I continued to drink. Alcohol is a depressant, he told me, and then strongly encouraged me to go to a drug and alcohol abuse group on campus—“Dan’s Group”—that afternoon.

Being a curious girl, I wanted to see what drug addicts and alcoholics looked like, so I went. It could be like a sociology assignment.

To my surprise, everyone in the room appeared happy, energetic, friendly, bright, and no one even seemed buzzed. Was I in the right group? And there was Dan, the facilitator, calmly leading the group; he had a warm presence I immediately liked.

The session was nearly over when the group unexpectedly put me in the hot seat. They asked all kinds of questions about my drinking, and I thought I was deflecting them quite well, because I didn’t have a problem, after all! Finally, they asked me about my drinking friends, to which I answered, “They are the biggest alcoholics I’ve ever met in my life!”

Stunned by this comment, and enveloped in the silence of the group, I heard myself clearly for the first time. I drew myself up, breathed a huge sigh, and said, “Oh—they is me . . . ”

“So, what are your plans for the rest of the day?” they inquired.Well, naturally, my plans were spoiled. Instead of going to parties, I packed up some books and went to the library to study (for once). Later, as evening fell, I made a detour past the Sun God to reflect. With its vivid colors, its wings embracing the sky, the silly bird seemed to say, “Isn’t life surprising and wonderful, even comical?” Smiling, I concluded that maybe I wasn’t doomed to a joyless life if I stopped drinking. And it was amazing, suddenly the night felt so clear, beautiful and full of promise.

That was 14 years ago, May 21, 1993, and I haven’t had a drink, nor any mood- or mind-altering substances since then. My life has been such an incredible journey, one that I’ve been able to be awake for.

Huge thanks to Dan Munoz, his group, and Paul. Oh, and of course, the Sun God!

Cheryl Rowe, Marshall ’94, is a middle school teacher in the San Ramon Valley, California, where she lives with her two darling cats.

RELATED LINKS

@UCSD Celebrating Our Sun God

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Sun God Festival Posters

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Niki de Saint Phalle - Sun God

VIEW

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