Me

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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What will be

“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.

Things don’t just happen

Let it be clearly known; I did not just suddenly become good. It has taken years! of extremely hard work to become who I am today. I have a horrible past, writhe with substance abuse, cheating, lying, things done to me, self-mutilation, serious eating disorders, disabilities, death, etc., etc. I am not my past. Yes, it affects me, but I had to realize; either I live in my past and wallow in misery or I learn from it and move on. I have spent enough of my life feeling sorry for myself; I know what it’s like to dwell amongst the weeds. I choose to live in the sun, with the flowers, today! There is no magic pill. Often, we seek out a quick fix for our problems. I can use alcohol and drugs and food and sex and love and psychotropics as a temporary solution, but it is just that; temporary and fleeting and I am thus left with myself, after all is said and done. It is not until I search within, am honest with myself and others, and do not hide and suppress my true being, that I find solace. If I am not doing well, I don’t hide it. These days, it is rare that I’m not. For example, one of my very dear friends passed away a month and a half ago; this was followed by 3 other friends dying and the anniversary of my father’s suicide all within one week. Needless to say, this took its toll. I did not, however, take these things to heart and use them as an excuse to feel sorry for myself; how I meet challenges is a choice…these things only stop me if I give them power over me. My attitude is more powerful than people and events in my life. I am not Superwoman, I have flaws; I am perfectly imperfect. Love yourself despite your past and your flaws and I challenge you to be patient and honest and kind to yourself and others!

Embrace love

Love and joy are found in the simplest things; a kind word or action; not always in grandiose acts. It is the quality, not quantity that defines such things. We all have this potential within us; it is often tainted by a lifetime of heartache, yet still still the heart beats and kindness and love run deep. So often it’s tainted by circumstances or our own idea of who we are and our inability to embrace our potential. There is no beauty to be found in anger, hate, and rage. Forgive others as you would have them forgive you. Embrace each others flaws and imperfections and realize we all have pasts and reasons we are who we are. However, be careful not to let these things effect you in the present. You are you present; embrace your love, kindness, and gratitude here… today.