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Sunny Buick was born in British Columbia, Canada in a small cabin in the woods. She was then raised in California by a single hippy mother, who always encouraged her creative spirit. Finally arriving in San Francisco at age fifteen after years and years of constant displacement, she finally felt at home. The next year she decided to become a tattoo artist after meeting some influential misfits. Many years later after finishing college she gained a tattoo apprenticeship with Henry Goldfield and it was in North Beach, not too far from where Lenny Bruce fell out of his hotel window that her career was started. Her work is heavily influenced by tattoo imagery which has become a symbolic language in her work.
Sunny started exposing her paintings around the same time as she started tattooing. She has appeared in several art books like Vicious, Delicious, Abitious about female artists in the lowbrow scene, also in Beatsville put out by Gallery Outré. In San Francisco she participated in the Mexican community ritual of making Day of the Dead installations in museums and galleries including the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In 2003 she organized a massive group art show and catalog called “Sci-Fi Western”. She’s written for Juxtapoz and several tattoo magazines. She was photographed by the French artists Pierre et Gilles. She currently lives in Paris where she daily finds inspiration and lives out her artistic dreams.
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Sunny: My story with the meetings is, I just started going back to meetings last year. I went 10 years here in Paris without going to meetings because when I first arrived here I went to a couple meetings and I was full of resentment that they weren’t as cool and hip as the meetings in San Francisco. I was really like, “These guys are nerds.” They’re so boring. I held onto a resentment for a long time so I went back. Unfortunately for me to get to an English speaking meeting it takes 3 hours out of my day. I’m really going sporadically at the moment. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll try a French speaking meeting that’s closer to my house that I can really be more – It’s complicated. I would feel more comfortable in an English speaking meeting but we’ll give it a try with the French speaking meeting, see if I can get more regular with it.
Omar: You speak French, right?
Omar: That’s the advantage of having 2 languages that you could choose. Maybe there is a much cooler meeting in French. I think it’s just a matter of mindset anyway. I don’t know. I live in Costa Rica, I’ve been here for 17 years. I won’t go to the Spanish speaking meetings because I can’t connect in there.
Sunny: I feel like I won’t be understood 100% or I feel like I would be even more naked with my strange accent. I don’t know. I don’t know what it is that keeps me from going to French speaking meetings. I just feel more comfortable in the English speaking meeting.
Omar: I just had one of those flashes, the little clichés that pop in your head, “You can’t save your ass and your face at the same time.” I have to remind myself of that too.
So Question #1: Was there anything keeping you or holding you back from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Sunny: I think that I needed to do every single mistake that I needed to do, to get to the point where I was ready to change my life. I call it a soul crisis. I had a soul crisis and I really wanted to do something. I had my dream job. I felt like there was no reason for me not to take a look at myself and try to change myself, and be happy. I really just wanted to be happy.
Omar: Excellent. That’s beautiful. I like that, the soul crisis. I can dig it. I can dig it. At what point, you touched on this, I don’t know if you want to expand on it, at what point did you have that spiritual awakening that “aha” moment in recovery? Probably in recovery because I think you had an “aha” moment that lead you to recovery.
Was there a moment inside of recovery early on where you realized that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol but for the first time you developed a hope that now you could recover?
Sunny: I just saw what my mother went through with alcohol and I just didn’t want that for myself. When they talk about powerlessness in 12 step programs, I totally automatically understand that and surrender. I have no problem surrendering. I’m lucky, I’m lucky that all these horrible things happened to me when I was a kid that made me. It was just hell. I just saw right away that my life was working so much better without that stuff. I just had an immediate affirmation that this is the way to go.
Omar: Do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to our newcomers?
Sunny: I read The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac in the first 3 years I think. There’s some really great spiritual nuggets in there. When you know his story, you just keep on going, “Why didn’t he stop drinking?” That’s the problem is the alcohol. In this book he reveals that he knows that it’s a problem but there’s no solution. Unfortunately he died from his alcoholism. I think sometimes we need to hear stuff like that to know what the results are. To really see what would happen if would continue to the end with alcohol. Sometimes that’s good to read that. It’s a good example.
Omar: That’s why we’re here today, sharing your story. People need to hear this. People need to listen to this so they know that there’s hope. That’s the whole point of this. There is hope. What was the name of that book again and the author?
Sunny: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.
Omar: Perfect, got it.
The Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac
Sunny: You know what, there’s a recovery movement that’s based on that called The Dharma Punks.
Sunny: I don’t know a whole lot about it but they were punk rockers who got into Buddhism and are in recovery.
Omar: Get out. See, that’s another new nugget of gold here. Would these guys be considered straight edge?
Sunny: No because-
Omar: Is that an entirely different movement?
Sunny: Maybe they’re involved with the straight edge movement but the straight edge movements really specific to hard core.
Omar: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Sunny: I think these guys were just in punk in general. I don’t know if they go vegan and put X’s on their hands and stuff like that.
Omar: Gotcha. All right. Just to clarify. Sunny, tell us what is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Sunny: Okay so I was telling you about how I got sober and then it was the end of my marriage. I was in this purgatory period where it’s very, very painful and my sponsor suggested that I do volunteer work to get me out of myself. I think that’s a really good suggestion when we’re just waiting something out and we’re just totally either in self-pain, self-loathing or a little too self-obsessed. If you get out there and you try to help others it takes all that away and you realize–stop whining. There’s people that have it worse than you and you really don’t have it that bad. It takes your mind off of something that you’re waiting- If you’re waiting for a response or waiting to make a decision. It’s something to fill that time that’s totally useful and beneficiary and makes you feel good. Makes you stop thinking about yourself and helps a lot.
Omar: It’s true. We talk about that. The 12 step is all about giving back and doing service. Regardless of whether you’re in a 12 step program or not, that selfless behavior of helping others, doing volunteer work in whatever facet that is disconnects you from self and puts you directly in contact with your higher power so you get that immediate high that comes from it. It just feels so good to help others. In any facet that you can, that is a great suggestion for helping anybody get through any crisis.
Omar: If you could give our newcomers only 1 suggestion, what would that be?
Sunny: I really think the meetings are great when you’re first getting sober. Just go as much as you can just to absorb it all and do the steps.
Omar: Get yourself in there. Plug yourself in. Excellent.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
“…meetings are great when you’re first getting sober. Just go as much as you can just to absorb it all and do the steps.”
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Sunny!
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.