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Read a Chapter: Waking Up Happy by Jill Muehrcke




Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at Beyond the Books! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring Waking Up Happy: A Handbook of Change with Memoirs of Recovery and Hope by Jill Muehrcke. Ordering information follows. If you would like to learn more about Jill, visit her website at

WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE: Powerful, absorbing, and beautifully written, this first-of-its-kind book of transformation and healing includes memoirs of people who have recovered from addictions, harmful habits, and intolerable situations, along with exercises readers can do to make the same transformations in their own lives.

Half of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the Recovery Foundation helping people build new lives – so every time someone buys a book, they will be helping someone TRANSFORM THEIR LIFE!


You Are the Sculptor and the Stone

It began with a dream. As a freelance writer, I’m always looking for new writing projects, and one night I dreamed of climbing a mountain with several other women, passing through fierce storms, and arriving at a sunlit peak where we could see the paths we’d taken, gleaming below us, and realized we could help others find their own trails, supporting them on their climb, and helping them avoid the obstacles that had made our ascent so painful.

Because of this dream, I was sure I was meant to join with other women to write a book, using our experiences to help others. I waited for the book to take shape in my mind. Before I went to sleep, I asked my dream sherpa to offer guidance. But I had no more revelatory dreams, and in time I put the idea aside.

Then one day I was talking to my granddaughter, Shyloh, a beautiful young woman who had just turned twenty-one and was one of the brightest lights of my life. She’d recently been to rehab, gotten off drugs, and was telling me about a place called Connections, where she was receiving the support she needed to lead a new, sober life.

As it happened, the woman who’d started Connections, Shelly Dutch, was profiled that month in the magazine Wisconsin Woman, and Shyloh gave me the piece to read. She also talked about her counselor at Connections, Skye, who had an idea for a book relating the stories of people who’d come to Connections. These amazing men and women were, like phoenixes, rising up from the fires of addiction and using the ashes to fashion brand-new lives.

This, I realized, was the book I was meant to write, and Shyloh, Shelly, and Skye were the climbing companions of my dream. We each had a powerful spark within us, but it took the synchrony of my talk with Shyloh to drive our energies toward a common purpose.

For years, I’d been collecting ideas about the process of change because of my own recovery journey. I realized that all the research I’d done after I stopped drinking and the strategies I’d used to turn my life around could be woven into this book of memoirs to help others on their voyages of change.

Skye already had the book’s title – Waking Up Happy — and its premise – focusing not on the misery of people’s addictions but on the joyous journey of recovery. Shelly donated Connections’ meeting rooms, where we began strategizing and found people whose stories were begging to be told.

Like Skye, I’d read many memoirs of addiction and finished each one wishing there had been less immersion in the years of addiction, relapse, and anguish and more on the gratifying

process of recovering and building a new life. But what happened next? I always found myself asking. How did these tortured souls go on to lead meaningful lives? What were their secrets? The title Skye chose for the book resounded with us because we’d all had the experience

of waking up miserable, detesting ourselves for what we’d become. The crowning splendor of a new life is that feeling you have upon waking – that all’s right with the world and that you have a productive place in it.

Connections Counseling Center – the haven Shelly has designed for people in recovery — is itself a place of joy. Those who enter the warm, cozy space feel welcomed and embraced.

On my first visit there, Skye showed me two walls – one of sorrow and one of jubilation. The first wall is covered with pictures of Connections’ clients who have died – of overdoses, in car crashes, and in all the other ways people kill themselves, by design or accident, when they’ve forgotten how to love themselves.

The second wall is made up of collages of people who have lived to celebrate one or more years of sobriety. Each collage has been created with photos of the person laughing with friends and pictures symbolizing key points on the person’s journey.

“Both walls have powerful messages,” Skye said. “The first makes it clear that addiction is a serious disease. People die from it, and many others come close to dying. But my work isn’t depressing. It’s a joyous job, counseling people who are changing their lives. The second wall reflects that miracle of transformation.”

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange,

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong.

–Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Beauty and the Beast


There are many reasons why you may want to change your life. If you have an addiction, habit, or intolerable situation that’s devastating your life, you may realize you must make a drastic shift. If you’re in a relationship that’s diminishing rather than enhancing your best self, or if you’re eating the wrong foods, hurting your body, or doing other self-destructive things, you know, deep inside, that you can’t continue on that path. And as you pass through different phases in your life – as you become a parent, for example, or an empty-nester or a retiree – radical adjustments are necessary.

Changing your life isn’t easy. It means learning to know yourself. It means creating yourself anew. Because you’re both the sculptor and the stone, it’s a wrenching task.

And yet every sculptor knows that the piece of art that’s meant to be already exists: It’s a matter of carving its essence from material that’s already there. When asked how the granite bear came to be, the sculptor says, “I just cut away everything that wasn’t a bear.”

All of us in this book have worked long hours stripping away the false, burdensome, excess parts of ourselves to bring our truest spirits into being. Because we’re all addicts of one sort or another, it’s those addictions – to drugs, to habits that suffocated our authentic selves, to people who hurt and abused us and quelled our power– it’s those addictions we chisel at every day.

You needn’t be an addict to feel the clarion call to remold yourself. Everyone’s life cries out for transformation. If you don’t change and grow, you die: Bit by bit, day by day, your innermost soul dwindles and perishes. The cost of not continuing to grow is ultimately feeling half-dead.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

–Anais Nin

Change doesn’t happen in a moment. But often there’s an instant that signals the need for an evolution into something new. Buried in that instant you’ll often find the power of synchronicity.

Synchronicity may be a vague concept for you until one day events come together in an “Aha!’ moment and it becomes crystal clear how everything’s connected, for synchronicity is all about connection. It’s about turning points, signposts that signal a new route. It’s about the way life surprises you when your heart’s open to the universe of possibilities.

This book was born through a series of synchronous events – circumstances too filled with significance to be mere coincidence. The psychologist Carl Jung described synchronicity as a link that goes beyond simple cause and effect to become meaningful, a fusion of elements that, when they merge, turn into something new. Sometimes a synchronous moment causes a major shift, pointing the way toward a deeper purpose, and that’s our hope for you – that as you peruse this book, you’ll find a story, suggestion, or life lesson that resonates in just the right way, touching you at a moment when you’re ready to take a leap toward a new life.

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hand.

–Helen Schucman

You’re the artist of your own life. All you need do is pick up the tools for change and begin to use them. Each false start is a carving crucial to the final piece of art, paving the way for you to sculpt your greatest creation: the beautiful self that lies within the stone.

– Excerpted from Waking Up Happy. All rights reserved.


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