When her promised stardom fails to materialize, struggling actress Sarah Lassez finds solace in psychics who predict the coming of the man of her dreams. She's sure she's found him in Wilhelm, a suave hotel sous-chef from Germany. But mayhem ensues when she takes the words of the psychics over the words of her actual boyfriend and is convinced he's about to propose — when in reality he's planning to leave the country without her. Here's an excerpt:
You know you look bad when a therapist — aperson trained in disguising alarm — gasps upon seeing you. I guess I still resembled a junkie, and not of psychics, but of actual hard-core drugs. This was something I’d not been aware of. I thought I’d gotten past that stage. Sure, I still couldn’t keep food down, wasn’t sleeping properly, and was an emotionally frenzied and fragmented mess, but no one had said I looked bad.
Then again, the only people who ever saw me were my Beverly Hills employer and the employees on Rodeo Drive, and in all likelihood my gaunt, skinny, unhealthy appearance made me look just like any other Hollywood starlet after a night out. To them there was nothing shocking about my appearance. In fact, it probably made me look successful.
Oh, and I saw Gina as well, but when she told me I looked really thin, it had actually sounded like a compliment, and she’d said it with a certain amount of longing, perhaps the
residue of her anorexic high school days. After all, this is the girl who claimed life would be perfect if only scientists could invent and breed a cute and adorable tapeworm, the perfect pet who would accompany you everywhere and allow you to eat anything and everything. Seriously, the girl was twisted, and I really should’ve known she wasn’t a proper judge.
In my therapist’s professional eyes I didn’t look good. And, I must say, I was shocked to see my therapist. Whereas the last time I’d seen her — years before, during a spell of couples’ counseling with an ex who was actually willing to work on things — she’d had short brown sophisticated hair, now she had long gorgeous fiery red hair, perfectly styled in that bed-head sort of way. I also noticed eyeliner, applied in a fashion I myself still had trouble with. What the hell? My therapist was hot.
I soon identified what had sparked the transformation. She was, it turned out, the resident therapist on a popular reality show. Not only was my therapist now better looking than I was, but she was on a TV show and I wasn’t.
I bypassed the sofa and went straight to the leather club chair in the corner. With the news of my therapist’s acting career, it was as if a trapdoor had opened up and dropped me into an even lower level of rock bottom. Where I now dwelled was a musty cavern with no light and no way out, yet in this cavern were two big projection screens, the first one cheerfully playing montages of my predicted life — images of love and happiness and roles on hit TV series — and the other one slowly and excruciatingly playing my real life — images of a frightening-looking girl clutching a phone, essentially paying for hope in a tornado-swept room, or scraping the dregs of a jar of apricot jam for dinner. The latter montage stopped with a shot of me in my therapist’s office, realizing that not only did she put me to shame looks-wise, but she also had an acting career, while I spent my days searching for discontinued pink nail polish and quilted Gucci dog coats. Then the film looped back around and the fun started all over.
“All right,” Olivia said, forced to sit on the couch. “Tell me what’s going on. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.”
In a few sentences I recapped the chain of boyfriends since the one who’d accompanied me to couples’ therapy. The fact that I was able to just flippantly list them off like that was both intensely disturbing and enormously comforting: Each relationship had felt monumental at the time, their demises so injurious that I’d questioned whether I’d ever be able to love again. And yet there I was, feeling nothing as I reduced them to a few select words. Would I one day be able to do that with Wilhelm? To laughingly refer to him as “that bizarre metrosexual German sous-chef I once dated”? God, I hoped so. What a truly glorious day that would be.
After bringing Olivia up to speed with my love life, I mentioned my issues with psychics and a certain ex’s e-mails.
“Describe to me a typical day for Sarah. You wake up, and then what?”
“When it was bad, or now?”
“Whichever you feel you should tell me.”
Ah, there we go. Typical infuriating therapist banter. “Okay, well, I guess I’ll tell you about when it was bad, because now I’m only calling psychics twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, which is pretty normal.”
At that, I noticed one of her eyebrows twitch.
“Right. I said that wrong. Maybe not normal, but a huge improvement. Okay. So here it goes, when it was bad.” I rattled off my daily events: the e-mails, the translations, the tarot cards that had crept back into my life with arthritis-inducing fury, the intensive split-end cutting, the crying, and, who could forget, the psychics. “Oh, and I have a job working for this rich woman, so I do get out of the house, which is good.” I smiled proudly, as if that one little factor made all the difference, then added, “Sometimes I do online tarot card readings at work. But only the free ones.”
Olivia didn’t look shocked at all. On the contrary, she was nodding as if this were typical for many people. With a smile, I watched as she made one more little note on the pad of paper in her lap, then looked up at me and said, “You need to be in intensive therapy.”
My smile disappeared. Shit. That was so not what I wanted to hear.
“I can recommend one of my associates who works on a sliding scale. But in the meantime, I highly recommend that you join a twelve-step program.”
My brain was reeling. I’d gone there to be cured, but had basically just been told I’d be the way I was forever. My brain was reeling. I’d gone there to be cured, but had basically just been told I’d be this way forever. Intensive therapy? And twelve steps?! Was she kidding? I didn’t have time for twelve steps. I need one step. One! No, no, no, no, no, no ...
I took a deep breath. I needed to communicate this with my therapist. I needed to be clear and rational, needed to make her respect me and my concerns. I opened my mouth, but what came out was the “No, no, no, no, no” I’d thought had been confined to my head.
“Sarah? Tell me what you’re thinking.”
Okay, here it goes. Be calm. Be cool. Don’t frighten the therapist.
“It’s just that I don’t have time for intensive therapy. I’m a mess now. And twelve steps? Are you kidding me?” Uh-oh. I felt the roll I was on and knew I was about to fall victim to the building momentum. “Not only are there eleven steps too many, but which twelve-step program do you want me to join? Because I looked. Believe it or not, I looked. If I were lucky enough to be addicted to heroin, I’d be at a meeting right now, but I’m not! I’m addicted to psychics. And though there are a million twelve-step programs out there, they are for everything else. Like Messies Anonymous? Yeah, you should see my apartment; they’d welcome me with open arms. Or Debtors Anonymous; I bet my thirty grand of debt would buy me a seat in that meeting. Or what about Love Addicts Anonymous? I want love, so maybe that is me, but then of course that brings us to Sex Addicts Anonymous, which also could be me, because my stupid ex-boyfriend wouldn’t have sex with me, so I obsessed over it, so maybe I am a sex addict now and maybe we should add that to my list of dysfunctions, but I’m telling you right now that if you put me in that meeting and there’s some guy who just wants to have sex with me, I’m going to fall in love with him, and I honestly don’t think that’s good for me right now, and after all that, you know what? I’d still be addicted to psychics!”
Olivia nodded. “Another approach would be drugs —”
“I’ll take them!”
She smiled. “What you have is classic obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
I took a deep, relieved breath. Yes. I have something with a name. That means it’s curable. I wanted to do a dance of delight, a pirouette of happiness, a jeté of joy. I wanted to twirl around her office and knock down all the degrees from the walls; I wanted to stand on top of the coffee table and sing, “The sun’ll come out, to-morrow! Bet your bottom dollar that to-morrowwww ... there’ll be sunnn.”
Excerpted from “Psychic Junkie: A Memoir,” by By Sarah Lassez with Gian Sardar. Copyright © 2006, By Sarah Lassez with Gian Sardar. All rights reserved. Published by No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.