When Things Fall Apart: My Messy Beautiful

I’ve spent so much of my life trying to get it together, to arrive at that place where everything is aligned and balanced and right. For so long I believed that if I did A, achieved B or attained C, all my external ‘things’ would come together and make my insides whole. When things fell apart for me a few years ago, I thought it was the end. I thought that failing dismally at ‘getting it together’ was about the worst place I could be.

It turned out, however, that having it all smashed apart, scattered like the aftermath of a hurricane, was actually what I needed most.

My alcoholism decimated my self-esteem, my relationship with Tyrhone, my mental and physical health and more. I felt as though the gaping hole that had always existed within my soul exploded, sending pieces flying outwards into space, never to be seen again.

I still struggle to find the words for that rock-bottom feeling – shock, shame, terror, anger, panic.

They are not enough.

My ego fought the notion that things were really so bad (I had a job and a house filled with trinkets and IKEA flat-pack furniture, dammit!) but that deep, dark, Falling Apart feeling allowed me to see the truth that things were really quite dire.

The biggest shock, however, was walking into a recovery meeting full of other Fallen Apart people and feeling my soul’s scattered pieces buzz and hum with life for what felt like the first time ever.

It usually has to get pretty bad for someone to walk into one of those rooms. We don’t go for the free instant coffee, believe me. I had to be broken down by shame and blame and what I later heard referred to as ‘pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.’

It took getting to that place to walk into a room filled with more love, truth, beauty and hope than I’d ever had the privilege of witnessing before.

In all my years of trying to get it together, I had never glimpsed the beauty available in admitting it had all Fallen Apart. I was too busy pretending and covering up to allow myself to be beaten down enough to get honest about how I was feeling – how I’d always felt – that there simply wasn’t enough booze or drugs or men or parties or new shoes in the world to fill the hollow, gaping abyss within me.

There still isn’t.

The kicker, which is highly infuriating and unfair, is that there isn’t even enough travel or yoga or blogging or writing or instagram photos to make me whole either.

How rude!!!!

I still try, of course, to do what I think I see other people doing, to achieve and strive and attain in order to get my stuff together, but a funny thing happens when I think I might almost be there.

Things fall apart again.

When I think my relationship is a sealed deal, I’m quickly reminded that it is not as we once again teeter on the edge of going our separate ways.

When I think ‘I’ve got this recovery thang down!’ and fancy myself a spiritual guru with a devoted following of one (me), I almost immediately find myself wanting to disappear into a bottle of Cab Sav and a carton of Marlboroughs, never to return again.

Because none of the external stuff actually works, you see. There is no prescription of success or security, adoration or bank balance to cure what I have.

A lack of faith, self-love and most of all acceptance. Of me, of everyone else and of life, which happens the way it’s going happen whether it suits me or not. And those times when it doesn’t suit me are the very times when I am being changed and transformed in spite of all my grand plans and lofty ideals for my life.

I have realised that a really good place for me to be is the opposite of together.

Apart. Scattered. Un-gathered (is that a word?).

Because when I give up trying to get it all together, whatever that actually means, I can see, just for a fleeting second at a time, how beautiful the mess actually is.

Falling Apart is what allowed space for Truth and Grace in my life, and since they are the only things which have ever filled me up with a feeling of warmth like a soothing cup of tea before bed time, then that is where I want to stay.


When things Fell Apart, Faith and Love took me on a journey – around the world and within my heart –

to search for my scattered pieces.

And rather than putting me together, they showed me it was exactly the way I was meant to be.


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Glennon’s work has been a huge inspiration to me, influencing my writing and my recovery more than I can say. So I am giving away two copies of her book, Carry On, Warrior – a paperback for US readers and a Kindle version for the rest of the world.

Leave a comment below to enter and let me know which country you are in (or would like the book to go to). I’ll contact you for your details if you win. Winners will be selected by a highly technical system of me asking Tyrhone to choose a random number… then another one.

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When Things Fall Apart: My Messy Beautiful — 28 Comments

  1. Wow Sarah, written so beautifully and transparently. I can relate exactly to what you’ve said about falling apart again, exactly at the moment we think we have it all together. You’re right–traveling, writing, exploring, even they are not enough to fill the gaping hole in our soul that only Love and Grace can fill. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and journey! Sending encouragement and love from France!
    Mariah recently posted..The whole world is a symphonyMy Profile

    • Thank you Mariah! Your words of encouragement mean a lot, especially since I admire you and your writing so much. You should submit a post for this project!

  2. In the haste of leaving a life of convention, we can sometimes fall into the same habits. We have to have it “all together” if we live conventionally, but similarly we think we have to have it “all together” when we are living our new awesome lives too. In fact, the pressure to have it together can be even worse coz we have to prove that we made the right decision in leaving what is conventional.

    But yeah…human beings never really have it “all together”. I think we can only function if we allow ourselves to be that mess. You know that saying “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”? Well eggs are whole and “together” but unless they allow their shells to be broken they’ll never become a beautiful omelette. And omelettes are so much yummier, IMHO. :p
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling (formerly plasticsux) recently posted..Should You Get Your Photo Taken With A Baby Gibbon In Thailand?My Profile

    • Hey Karyn! Yes, I’m happy being and omelette! Plus, if I had it all together, I wouldn’t on this amazing journey, therefore I’m so grateful.

  3. A good reminder that even practicing the positive things (yoga, meditation, healthy eating) doesn’t mean it will magically solve anything. They are the tools we have to continue our work on ourselves, but not a magic bullet.
    Carmel recently posted..THE YUMMY FILES: CAMBODIAMy Profile

  4. Beautiful Sarah, just beautiful. What an incredible realization. Thank you for continuing to share your process! I’ve just read a bit of Momastery’s blog, wow! Sending love from California!
    Sam recently posted..The redwoods are calling…My Profile

    • Yes, it is so WOW. Plus, I think you should participate in this series, Sam!! Or at least consider yourself a warrior, because you are one! xxx

  5. Sarah this is so beautiful and is kind of comforting as well. I think a lot of what we tend to do, as travellers, as think that because we’ve had the courage to take different paths in life, to overcome obstacles in the past and the determination to practice those little things that are going to help us along the way, like yoga or running or drawing, whatever….I think we tend to think these are always going to help us. But sometimes they don’t, we just have to acknowledge that sometimes we’re not OK and take every day as it comes. Everyone is fighting their battles but you’re one of the amazing ones that has the courage the write about it.
    Beverley recently posted..Exploring East London’s Food SceneMy Profile

    • Aw thanks Beverly. I’m not sure it is courage as much as a desire to heal and be healed, but I will take that compliment, thank you! My challenges have given me (and others) ten fold of what they have taken away, and I truly believe there is something sacred about falling apart. That place where you run out of excuses and survival skills and just silently ask, ‘help’. Of course, we don’t know it at the time! At the time is just feels like crap! But it is the start of something great. I’m grateful for my journey and so happy you stopped by to read and comment, thank you!

  6. “Because none of the external stuff actually works, you see. There is no prescription of success or security, adoration or bank balance to cure what I have.

    A lack of faith, self-love and most of all acceptance.”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here, and not just for yourself, but for a lot more people in this life than we realise. So many of us are looking for something more, yet don’t find it in, as you say, ‘success, security, adoration or bank balance’. Some people find it later in their lives, others earlier, and many (dare I say most) never. Good on you for your realisation – it is an important part of our human experience, and one that many people do not encounter.
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..Chennai welcomes Tamil New YearMy Profile

    • Hi Tim, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, like the quote says, I’m living the questions, rather than the answers now, and it feels to good to know that is okay.

  7. Hi Sarah. What a honest piece – I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles. I have wondered if sometimes distraction is what’s necessary. Though having travelled for about 9 months, I can see that once the distraction of travel is over, and when it’s no longer travel, but becomes your life, those major life questions/doubts/holes do pop their head up once again!
    Louisa recently posted..The Ultimate DisappointmentMy Profile

    • Hi Louisa! Yes, distraction certainly keeps us busy and away from asking the big questions. I think there is a time for both getting lost in the moment and pondering the meaning of life and I do both as regularly as I can :-)

  8. Sometimes I don’t comment on your posts as I don’t know how to follow what you have just written. It starts to sound a bit lame when I write “great post” or “love the honesty” every single time… I should just start copying and pasting!

    Despite not suffering from alcoholism myself, I can always relate to your posts. Plus this line made me laugh out loud “We don’t go for the free instant coffee, believe me”. Great post, love the honesty :-)
    Rob recently posted..Borders, Bribes and BelizeMy Profile

    • Seriously, the coffee is crap. Maybe I could change that and it could be my service to the world of recovering alcoholics. Maybe THAT is my purpose!!!!! Thanks for always making me laugh and see the lighter side, Rob :-)

  9. Wow, what a tough journey you’ve been through and are going through. I hope that writing this piece has been therapeutic for you?

    I know of people who’ve been and are going through depression. It is a horrible journey yet as you show there are a lot of support groups and resources out there. I wish you well for your continued journey to a better way of life and things falling right for you.

    (I’m UK based.)
    The Guy recently posted..How An Asian Nose Picker Broke My Computer And Helped Me Start This BlogMy Profile

  10. Thanks for the reminder that we’re all dealing with our own personal battles inside and even if someone appears to have it “together” or “figured out,” there’s always more than we can see. I’m struggling with a lot of this- feeling I “should” be further along, to have things “figured out” and feel sad and the self imposed pressure when it hasn’t aligned.

    Thanks for being you. Thanks for sharing.

    (Based in CA, USA)
    Lauren @Roamingtheworld recently posted..Gratitude and Reflections: A tribute for my fatherMy Profile

    • Hey Lauren, yes I think we all are, whether we are willing to admit or not. I do truly believe it is a blessing to acknowledge that we have no idea what we are doing, to allow ourselves to grow and transform into less ego-centered beings and more reliant on the powers of the universe and the plan it has for us, which is perfect in every way.
      Right now, I am in a process of ‘getting out my own way’ and just allowing myself to be guided. It is a big shift from trying to impose my will on the world, which only led me to pain and fear. I am learning that ‘giving up’ my own designs on life and simply asking to be shown the way each day makes for a happier, more peaceful existence.
      You are enough. You are perfectly loved and fulfilled, even if you don’t know it yet xxx