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!
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!
In early November of 2013, 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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 2002). 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 was at the gym this morning doing balancing exercises (I had a stroke and recently stopped using my cane, I have neurology and balance issues); I am supposed to do them for 30-60 seconds. I reached 60, stopped and thought, “Do I want to be alright or do I want to be great?”; so I did another 60. It is the same for everything in our lives :mental, physical, social; doing the minimum or average is fine… if you want minimum or average results. It is tough to go beyond the basic (no one said it is easy) but, if done, you will get better results than otherwise. Try to push beyond, just ask yourself “Do I want to be average or AWESOME!?”
Mental: If you are having problems in this area, if you are gloom and doom or using negative self talk…TALK TO SOMEONE!!! Do not stuff it down and carry that burden alone. As it relates to pushing yourself; if you see the glass as half empty, and tell yourself you cannot do something, you won’t try. Other people can carry you, push you, in the right direction.
Physical: Don’t stop at the minimum; push yourself. You do not improve by half assing it or staying in the same place. Think of your goal; now think of how fantastic it would be to exceed it. Do not put limitations on your physicality; I know if I did I would be very far behind. YOU make your physical situation up to you; do the best you can with what you have. People have issues that might impede them; even non-disabled individuals (injuries, health problems, etc.), but even this (with medical guidance) cannot stop you from doing your best possible.
Social: Use society to lift you up, not drag you down. Yes, there are things wrong with the world; it’s impossible to view the news without hearing of the woes of the world; you rarely hear good news. The world likes to pull on your fiery side and get you riled up, but (believe me) there is good in the world, often you have to seek it out. There is a good program on CNN, called Heroes; it airs at Thanksgiving, but if you don’t have cable, you can probably get it online or see snippets at YouTube; and I will give a link to the website. Even if you don’t agree with CNN as a news station, this program allows you to see truly inspirational people, from all walks of life, appreciated for their contributions to society.CNN Heroes
Last years nominees