15 years

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!

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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regrets

Regrets; they can have a huge influence on you…if you let them (they can consume you). An example: when my father committed suicide, I found him around 12:30; I stopped at 7-11 from 12-12:15. His death was at 12:15; for a very long time, I was irate with myself. If I had just not stopped, I might have been there; fact of the matter is I didn’t and nothing I do will change that. I sometimes shoot off at the mouth then regret things I say, or act in the same fashion. Often I would feel very guilty and then let these feelings consume me, stuff them down with substances, food, acting out, self-harm,etc. My ego would not let me admit these things publicly; there was a great sense of shame. Then I would frantically try to “fix” the problem at hand through other outlets, usually making it that much worse; I rarely addressed the actual issue. This is something I still struggle with (people normally don’t like admitting where they are wrong). Some situations are neither wrong nor right, they just are. If you didn’t take a certain class, a certain job, didn’t have kids, lost a relationship, ad infinitum; no one can say these are positive or negative. They just ARE; don’t live with regret, just live the best you can NOW;best not to let the past consume you.

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Mental: Live in the here and now; if we trouble ourselves with guilt from the past or consume ourselves with what “might be” (waiting for the other shoe to drop), there will naturally be a constant state of tension and uneasiness about life. It is often difficult not to do, but negative projection leads to one constantly living in fear. Do not forget experiences, but it serves well to not constantly replay the negative events of the past or concoct “doom and gloom” experiences that may be.

Physical: Be the best you can be at the MOMENT. Do not feel like you constantly have to look,act,or perform perfectly; we all have our down moments. If we give up, we are doomed to fail,but if you push through and put in a great effort…at least you have seriously tried (trying does not give you an excuse to quit!). I deal with that issue sometimes,many people do; I just don’t want to quit. Of course, I have moments when I’m not my best!…but that is ok. You just have to keep TRYING, not do it perfectly all the time.

Social: To my friends and people struggling in life, you can do it; have faith. Try very hard not to get sucked up in societal hype. I am a 34 year old woman, I remember my life (teens, etc. well). it is hard not to! But when I do, it leaves me bitter, ungrateful, angry at the world, etc.

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