The Story Behind Waking Up Happy by Jill Muehrcke

No matter what kind of change you want to make in your life, WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE holds the keys. As inspirational as it is practical, this first-of-a-kind handbook focuses on the positive steps of recovery and change.

Powerful, absorbing, and beautifully written, WAKING UP HAPPY tells people’s stories, the turning points that changed their lives, and their secrets to waking up happy. Whenever a storyteller learns a new life lesson, you’ll find exercises you can do to put that lesson to use in your own life.

In WAKING UP HAPPY, Jill Muehrcke tells her true story. She also includes the stories of her daughter and granddaughter. Together, these memoirs shine a light on three generations struggling with similar problems and offer clues to how to break the legacy of addiction.

In addition, Jill includes the memoirs of over 30 others recovering from addictions, harmful habits, and intolerable situations. Brave and honest, these stories are filled with triumphs and epiphanies, as well as concrete, step-by-step advice and guidance.

Lessons learned are summarized into secrets you can use to forge your own life-changing journey. The book ends with 365 Steps on Your Journey – one simple step for each day of the year. If you do just one thing from this book every day, you’ll see dramatic growth.

WAKING UP HAPPY is the first book ever to combine memoirs with exercises in a way that ignites change in an almost magical way. Readers say that the combination of true stories and concrete exercises has helped them change their lives as nothing else has been able to do. The memoirs inspire them and the to-do lists prompt them into action.

The exercises are based on decades of research into how people transform their lives. The memoirs provide hope. They show that change really can happen.

Ideally suited to people recovering from addictions or self-defeating habits, WAKING UP HAPPY is also for anyone who has watched a loved one struggle and felt the anguish of not knowing how to help. Indeed, it’s for anyone who longs to move past fear to joy.

One reader calls WAKING UP HAPPY “a treasure trove of delight. It’s like a work/play book in the style and spirit of the Motherpeace books. You can read it straight through or just open it at random and find wisdom.”

The Story Behind Waking Up Happy

By Jill Muehrcke

When I think back to the inspiration for my book, WAKING UP HAPPY: A HANDBOOK OF CHANGE WITH MEMOIRS OF RECOVERY AND HOPE, I think of a night three years ago. Our granddaughter Shyloh had ended up in the hospital after nearly dying of a heroin overdose. She was going into a rehab center the next day.

She had just turned twenty.

She was spending the night at our house so we could take her to Hope Center the next morning. The center was only a mile from where we lived, while Shyloh’s parents lived nearly an hour away. Shyloh had to be at Hope Center at 8:00 sharp for intake in the morning, so we had offered to take her.

Late that night, I heard her sobbing and rushed to her room. She had gotten a call on her cell and learned that her boyfriend was dead. He had died of an overdose. He, too, had been planning to go into treatment, in a different rehab facility. The two of them had great plans for their life together after they both “graduated” from rehab. Shyloh had been telling me all about their plans earlier that evening.

For Tim, that life was never to be.

For Shyloh, the hard work was just beginning.

Shyloh tells her story in WAKING UP HAPPY, and so does her mother – my daughter – Andrea.

I’ll never forget the times when Andrea was a teen and I was wakened in the middle of the night by calls saying that she had nearly died. Several times she overdosed on alcohol and ended up in a coma. We didn’t know if she would survive with brain damage – or if she would survive at all. Once she was found lying outside in the winter cold, where she would have frozen to death if she hadn’t – just by chance – been found.

Leaving Shyloh at Hope Center that morning was wrenching – as much as it had been leaving Andrea at a similar facility when she was fifteen. I couldn’t imagine how Shyloh would manage the huge weight of her grief over Tim’s death, while far from her friends and family and recovering from her addiction at the same time.

But Shyloh did the work, learned the lessons she needed to learn, and rose from the ashes of her previous life in a way I could never have imagined. She began attending meetings at a place called Connections, an oasis of recovery here in Madison, Wisconsin.

As I got to know others at Connections, I realized that all of them had stories that were begging to be told. Like my grandaughter Shyloh – like my daughter Andrea – like me myself – they had faced a crossroads, changed their lives completely, and learned to live with joy and purpose.

I began interviewing people and writing down their stories. While each person had chosen a different path, their journeys had many things in common with my own.

Ever since I’d quit drinking in 1984, I had been collecting exercises, tips, and wisdom to help me forge a new life. Along the way, I had uncovered a few secrets about change. First, I had learned that profound change was, indeed, possible. I had also discovered that it didn’t happen as quickly as I wanted. At first I was constantly frustrated at my turtle-like pace. But then I found the most important secret of all. If I did just one tiny thing differently each day, those small changes, in time, added up to a totally different life. One by one, I left my addictions and bad habits behind. And one day, I realized I was waking up happy.

WAKING UP HAPPY fell into place as I blended people’s stories with the exercises and steps that had worked for them and for me. Each time one of the storytellers in WAKING UP HAPPY learned a lesson in their life, I added activities that readers could do to make those same changes in their lives.

I realized that the book would be helpful not only to those recovering from addictions but to anyone who wanted to make a change in their life. I saw that the strategies for change were similar whether a person wanted to quit smoking, spending too much money, eating the wrong foods, continuing an unhealthy relationship, biting their nails, or compulsively and rudely checking their text messages while with their friends.

Even people who are very successful in their lives are often so invested in working and achieving that they destroy their relationships and let stress ruin their health. Stress can lead to early death. So it can be life-changing to replace overwork with calming, self-enhancing habits.

It became clear to me that by combining the true stories of people who had changed their lives, along with the strategies that had led to real change, I could provide keys that everyone could use to become their best selves and live the most fulfilling lives possible.

And now that WAKING UP HAPPY has been published and I have been hearing from readers, I cannot tell you how amazing it is to watch others pick up those keys and unlock the doors just waiting to swing open.

* * * * *

Juliana (Jill) Muehrcke is the award-winning author of many books and articles. Founder and editor of the international magazine Nonprofit World (, she has studied at the University of Colorado and the University of Michigan and has a BA degree, specializing in English and psychology, from the University of Washington. Jill is listed in Who’s Who ( In her spare time, she enjoys teaching yoga and eating ethnic food. For many years, in several cities, including Seattle, Honolulu, and Madison, she has written restaurant reviews.

Her latest book is Waking Up Happy: A Handbook of Change with Memoirs of Recovery and Hope.

You can visit her website at

Listen to Jill on the Joy Cardin Show at


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