By age 23, my had completely taken a downward spiral since my days as a glowing 18 year old 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 My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder.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 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 My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night.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. I simply could not live like that. I decided that facing possible eternal damnation was a small price to pay for the mortal hell I lived. So I did my best to erase myself from life. I imagined myself to be etched in history, A Sylvia Plath, of sorts. Reality? I would have ended up a statistic taught in a graph at an ASAP class. 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. Years ago I discovered 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 also had serious physical disabilities. 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,relquinshing my eating disorder, 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. Many years ago; for the first time in my life: I myself began to see hope. Possibilty. 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 201. 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.