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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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

“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.” Epictetus

Some things I have learned thusly: Not everyone will like you and I cannot take myself too seriously. I have (and still do) face criticism. I have found that the best way to stay out of controversy is to completely avoid it. If one does not do anything negative, then when we find ourselves amongst gossip and chaos, we can rest easy and simply laugh it off knowing that it is baseless and completely unfounded. I am indeed overly happy and all over the place, but I am harmless! I have received reminders of myself from 10 years ago and I must say, it’s COMPLETELY embarrassing! I must call myself out (aside from things done to me) I have been a thief, a liar, a cheat, an addict and alcoholic, completely out of control; this hardly touches the surface. If you are any of these things; do not count yourself out and feel damaged beyond repair. There is always hope; I know but little, I do, however, I know something about and believe in humanity and goodness. Trust that I am well versed on current events, much of my life revolves around them. I am well aware of all of the negativity and atrocities in the world; many of which (and I am EXTREMELY sad about) involve people I love. If I do not involve myself, I can laugh off negativity and realize it is not ME, but the other party. I have spent too much of my life spent at the whim of others; we choose this, no person has control unless permission is granted. One need not waste needless energy on worry of other’s thoughts about them, but rather remain secure with themselves.

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.

Acts of kindness

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world.
There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created
in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores
of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will
appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” –Leo Buscaglia

 

This world is writhe with choices; kindness and love is a choice not unlike any other. Happiness and sadness both take the same amount of effort on our parts. I can choose to be grateful for what I have… or I can wallow in misery. I have reasons beyond belief to feel sorry for myself, but what good would that do? The past is behind me. I can place blame or I can take responsibility for my present actions. I cannot control the actions of others. Seriously… I can’t even control my cats! I have no power over what is said or done to me, but I can, indeed, choose how I interpret such things. I am indeed blessed to have people surrounding me who deeply love me, unconditionally. Those who do not know me judge me based on my history and appearance; it does not affect me unless I let it. Generally speaking, a kind word or a smile tends to soften such pre-conceived notions. It is relatively funny to see someone with a walker holding the door for someone with a wheelchair. If all you can manage is to tell someone you love them today; do it. The world could use it!

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.

Pasts

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.

Past

No amount of dwelling in the past, wishing for things to be different, or harboring resentments will change that which is. Everything that has happened to me has made me who I am today, and all in all, I love me today. I love my life today; yes there are things I have done, were done to me, or simply occurred in my past that I find wholly disagreeable; I would change nothing. These things only have power over me if I allow them. Today, I will not live in my past; it is April 17, 2018. It is not 20 years ago and I need not let past misdeeds effect my present. I have a horrible and destructive past, but I have forgiven myself; thank God for second chances and redemption. It is never too late to begin again; this requires taking responsibility for your actions and being blatantly honest with others. I am far from perfect; I am fortunate that people close to me love me despite my shortcomings. As someone with an awful past, who has rebuilt their life, I can say that I see the beauty and possibilities in others that have walked or currently follow a similar path. Events in the past cannot be changed; it is about the here and now. This moment; what can I do NOW? Not 10 years ago or even 5 minutes from now, but right now.