It is no secret that my days 15 years ago were comprised of needles, vodka, knives, blood, vomit, powder, pills, and self-destructive behavior. It is all a blur, but I know that sometime soon (15 years ago) I almost died and became handicapable. As I reflect on my life tonight, I can honestly say I’d change nothing. Indeed, I am supremely happy with my life. No, I don’t have a great deal of material possessions, but I am supremely content within; something I lacked for much of my life. If I tell you something it is this: you’re alive; if anything be grateful for that. We so often chase that which is elusive; feel inadequate and never enough. You ARE enough! Don’t sell yourself short 🙂 To my friends struggling: you are not broken; maybe scratched, but you’re worth salvaging! I am not special; if I can come from THAT, trust that ANYONE can! Whatever you do, believe and have faith that anything is possible!
Sorry I have been gone for a little while; I am having technical difficulties! (Seasonal affective disorder) Eh, I’m used to it! We had a hurricane a few weeks ago and it brought cold weather. Add low sunlight and presto! It is obnoxious, but I have tools to deal with it and while a thorn in my side; it is nothing to write home about. Just know you CANNOT control your thoughts and emotions, but you can deal with them in appropriate manner. NOTHING happens without our permission! Negativity in life is inevitable, but it only overcomes us if we ALLOW it! I challenge everyone to concentrate on the haves, rather than have nots! Example : I have very good health (kind of haha, my labs are great!), 2 cats who love me, love in my life, and a roof over my head. I have my life. I will be grateful and slay the day!
In early November of 2003, I had reached my lowest point and attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs and alcohol; I awoke from a coma about a week later. Unable to move or make noise, I found myself as one sees a newborn baby. I was extremely anorexic and malnourished; I was also very addicted to drugs and alcohol. What strikes me now as no coincidence is this: my family was holding vigil over Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria when I came back to life.
My life had completely taken a downward spiral since my days as a glowing college philosophy student. My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder. While in school, I modeled myself after the great philosophers and truly thought the greatest thoughts were derived from the use of some sort of substance. I imagined myself holding council with the greats in absinthe bars across Europe and sharing my brilliant two cents with those around me. As an adolescent, I was an avid athlete and won many scholastic awards; I graduated ahead of my class and the future was in my hands. My addictions had other plans: a dentist’s daughter, private school and university taught, I often found myself homeless and at the end of my addiction, living to drink and drug. My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night. No longer could did I care about my mental or physical health; I was physically addicted and drinking to live. How dark it is before the dawn!
Upon overdosing I found myself in a coma on life support; unable to breath on my own, my systems were shutting down. Recently, I found out that one night, they prepared my family for the worst. It is very important for posterity’s sake that one takes into account what atrocious shape I was in, as you may find the later portion of my story rather uplifting. After awakening, my living nightmare began, I had cut off the oxygen supply to my brain and was unable to move or make noise, due to the large holes now in my cerebellum. I wish I could say that was an a-ha moment, an awakening of sorts; sadly it was not. I did not drink, drug, or practice my eating disorder for three years, as I was physically unable and due to mobility issues had moved back home with my mother (my father committed suicide in 2001). After three years, I was walking with a walker, and ready to live on my own again… so I thought. By 2007, I had destroyed what little progress I had made; I was once again drinking and practicing the eating disorder, only this time I was severely disabled. In the spring, I found myself, once again, in a psych ward. Guardianship was relinquished to my mother; I know not why, but all of a sudden a switch flipped on inside of me and I decided then and there I would “get better”, so to speak.
I remembered the philosophical teachings of Epictetus, how one creates their own circumstances and of the great psychologist Viktor Frankl who claimed that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I began inpatient hospitalization to nourish my body and uncloud my mind. Once I was well enough, I began working with a nutritionist and attending support groups; I abstained from alcohol and drugs, but faltered with the eating disorder. Honestly, it was difficult to let go of all of my unhealthy habits. Resisting drugs and alcohol, I remained sober for 3.5 years. On December 14th of 2013 I, again, drank; that is an important date for me; that is the day I took my life back. I decided enough is enough and all but wore out my copies of my motivating philosophical books. The next few months found me sober, quitting smoking, halting the eating disorder, becoming vegetarian, and obtaining a gym membership. It’s truly amazing as to the things we can do when we apply ourselves! All this while, I’ve held onto the notion that there is reason for one’s suffering; if anything, it is to share hope with those who may well be fighting their own battles. For the first time in 20 years, I myself began to see hope. I sought refuge in the works of William James and studied Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. These works led me to believe there was an immutable sense underlying all; it was not up to me to figure my life out, but I could, indeed, live to show others that hope is for all, not simply the worthy.
In 2014, I was doing so well all around that I set a new goal for myself: to go back to school to be a personal trainer. You must remember that from 2003-2004 I could barely move; so this was a lofty goal. I gained my certification on the first try, joining only 10% of my class; next up, find employment. Believe it or not, I applied at gyms and health and nutrition stores. I secured a position in a health store and took the paratransit bus to work; I remembered stories from my childhood: these helped me overcome adversity. Aesop’s Fables, morals, and abstractions guided me through troubled waters. CS Lewis is another favorite who I studied intensely, not for his religious, but philosophical teachings. I believe now that “Even at night there are stars that shine”.
I have not had an eating disorder or used substances since 2013; neither have I eaten meat or smoked. As I now know, there is meaning in the suffering. Life happens; it is up to us as to its meaning. I know today that I make a choice everyday as to the path my life will take. “I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my destiny.” Hope is available for everyone; take heart; it is yours if you want it.
I love the person I am today; while my life has not been, and currently, isn’t easy…it’s beautiful and I wouldn’t change it. Silver linings and gratitude abound. I have a disability; yet I will not call myself handicapped, I am handiCAPABLE! I will not refuse help when needed. Often, I need an arm to hold, now that I am using a cane and no walker. The silver lining here is the human bond that occurs when one person helps another. I have many other areas of my life in which I have and continue to seek guidance… I strive to pass on my knowledge and unconditional love to others.
This video is awesome! I admire and respect people who live life to the fullest, no matter what their circumstances. I realize my life is not so bad in comparison!
“Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough.”- Richard M. DeVos
There are so many opportunities to do this throughout our day, yet few take advantage. As human beings, I believe we are always seeking encouragement; this often stems from the most unlikely places. Being fellows, we can, indeed, be the color in someone’s otherwise grey world. Personal circumstances may dictate otherwise and life may seem all but hopeless, but know that it is absolutely NOT. Whether it is a smile, kind word, or random act of kindness; actions indeed make an impact. Know that you are loved unconditionally. Even if I don’t personally know you, know that someone loves you for the simple fact that you ARE and nothing more. Know that you are worthy of being loved and of giving love to others. We sometimes feel as though we are alone, you are NOT; trust that I have been and continue to be on the front lines right along with you. And if no one else tells you, “You can do it and I love you!”
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare
We are each ourselves up to this point; yet the present is malleable and the future not yet written. That which will be is unknown. We all have a choice as to our situation; one can choose positive or negative. Trust that the former me did not have the present me on the horizon. I knew what I was, which was absolutely a wreck, but absolutely! had no idea what I’d become. Quite frankly (I was told this by medical professionals) if I had continued my lifestyle, I would have been dead by age 24. I did not expect that I’d be healthy and happy at age 37. I realize each day is but a gift, today I appreciate each day I’m alive and choose to live to the fullest. I am no longer in mental anguish; no one is required to be, yet so often are. The philosopher Epectitus held the idea that a person is free if they choose to be, despite the confines that restrict them. I am quite fond of Epectitus, as his values hold court with mine. I truly believe each man and woman cannot control external circumstances, yet has the power of choice regarding their minds. I know well, we cannot control our brain chemistry, yet we choose things such as deep love, gratitude, and whether or not we will be positive in the face of adversity. Whatever we presently may be is subject to change. If you are clinging to pessimism, negativity, and formerly or presently horrible situations; there is no time like the present to change and be what you may be.
“One filled with joy preaches without preaching.”
I hope I never come across as preachy; if I do, I apologize. Someone who has had great influence on me once told me: we walk this path shoulder to shoulder. Woe be it to me to stand on a soapbox and attempt to control people. I cannot; each person will do what they want to do; I simply aim to encourage and inspire, never preach. Let bygones be bygones and you can indeed affect the world; not letting anyone affect you negatively. No one! If I make you angry, I apologize in advance. Some people despise love and happiness and find it obnoxious; it strikes me as very funny. Let your actions speak for you. I am simply a conglomerate of my words and especially deeds; these must be congruent if I am to live a fruitful life of balance. Today, I am filled with joy, despite external “things”.
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” -Walt Whitman
No matter what you have faced, know that there is light beyond the dark. Everyone has events, people, and/or things in their past that effect their present; it is a choice as to whether or not these are used as motivation or if their used to feel sorry for oneself. Absolutely harrowing events are a fact of life; they happen to the best of us; no one is immune. Do not let your past keep you from embracing your present. It is never too late to be the person you never knew you could be! Settling is also a choice; the alternative is best. Choose love and life and happiness!
The past is just that; it is behind me. It is neither my present nor my future; it cannot be altered, yet I choose to what degree I will let it dictate my life today. I have had numerous indiscretions during the course of my life; too many to mention. I have blessed with second chances and would be remiss if I did not afford others the same and were to sit in judgement. This is not to say at some point you should not do that which is right for you (often it is very hard), but redemption can be found in the most unlikely places. Judging others for the sins of their own pasts would also be condemning me, which I do not do today. However, we must not ruminate or dwell on past grievances, as this will greatly influence our present and future. I am not merely my words, I am what I think and do as well. I cannot expect to lift others up if I am drastically pessimistic. I see my past in the mirror, feel it with every movement, yet I remain as brave as I can in the face of adversity. If I lived in the past, I would surely crumble. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but facing fear and continuing despite.
Give me watcha got, day; I can take it! I had to pump myself up this morning and tell myself “It’s going to be a GREAT day. Good things are coming!” Mornings can be tough, but telling yourself they’re not makes them better; lamenting and fighting causes inevitable strife. Tell yourself, “I WILL be awesome today!”… time to bring it on, life!
Mental: “Que cera, cera” ; What will be, will be. Life is not always what you want; adjust accordingly. You had better believe things are not always grand, but a positive spin will make life better. Rather than focus on the negative, think positive; for me right now for example: I am extremely tired, but I woke up! Or maybe “I feel HORRIBLE, but I am alive!”
Physical: Even if you have limitations,everything from an achy joint to a wheelchair; tell yourself you will persevere, even if your body does not cooperate with you. I have difficulty walking some morning, there was a time I couldn’t move; but hell my brain works (just ask Stephen Hawking if this matters!)
Social : Gather around the wounded; be there for others EVEN if others have not been there for you. Give of yourself always; a passage from the prayer of St.Francis: To be consoled as to console;To be understood as to understand;To be loved as to love. Seek as such, this is state of being to strive for.
Note: This was written at 5 am, but I had much more important matters at hand this morning. Priorities 🙂
Prayer of St. Francis sung by Sarah McLachlan