from organ failure to recovery
-at age 24 I had my first bout of pancreatitis; I knew that I was in deep trouble with my drinking and the level of anxiety that came with my withdrawals. That anxiety was what kept me from becoming sober and kept me from asking for help long before I should have. This crippling anxiety paired with this onset of decreased organ function, actually threw me into running about a year before I physically got sober. I had read that running was like an anti-anxiety drug and I thought "well I'm going to die, so I might as well try this".
Running around Cobbs Hill Reservoir became my go-to, and I absolutely hated it. But for some reason, I knew in my gut or intuition that I just needed to do it. Today I say that it was my higher power that pushed and carried me through the first month of running. Because I truly despised it, but I did it anyways due to this unexplainable 'pull' towards it. I watched my anxiety start decreasing after 2 months into it, and I started mentally preparing for what I knew had to happen in the future - recovery.
Still not ready to put the bottle down, I went on with my life - still drinking, still running, 'working' on my anxiety. As my addiction to alcohol progressed, my insides continued to deteriorate and there was truly nothing I could do to stop. My runs declined from 5ish miles to 2-3, and I was mostly preparing to die from substance use disorder. My doctors (and myself) guessed maybe 2-3 years if I continued down the path I was on, depending on my use of alcohol.
With my 3rd round of pancreatitis, I was given Meclizine for nausea, after tests on my liver were completed. I was literally a shade of yellow when the doctor handed me the medicine, rolled her eyes, scoffed, and walked away. She knew what was happening, I knew what was happening - and I was pretty much deemed helpless from that reaction. Not only that, I had started to accept that I was an alcoholic and that I would die from this if I didn't do something - like today. The week before I checked myself into the hospital (for the 3rd time), I had started to ween myself off of alcohol (which is dangerous - don't do that - listen to science and go to a detox).
A male nurse came and sat down on my hospital bed - after I had been scoffed at and left by the doctor, and he said "you're determined, and I've never seen anyone come in like this - knowing what's going on and knowing that you have to stop - you can do this". That was the first time someone had told me that I could 'do' sobriety, or at least get physically sober. He asked me to go to Helio health, which was nearby, and for some reason, I did just that. Shaking, yellow, sweating, scared to death (literally) - I walked in and sat down when I was approached by the peer that was working there. He chatted with me, gave me a Sprite and a bag of chips. The director that was there called me into her office and she helped me find resources for everything that was going on in my body, brain, and life (after I word vomited to her all of my life and childhood issues).
Yesterday, I went back to Cobbs Hill Reservoir for a run for the first time since moving to Manhattan. As I was running, I realized that it's been almost 4 years since I've taken a run around that reservoir. The entire time I kept wanting to cry - here I am, 4 years later, 4 years of recovery later. I wasn't even supposed to be here, I'm supposed to be in a grave somewhere - my organs were done. I was done. I had given up on life.
Today I continue to reflect on yesterday's run; I have so many indescribable emotions surrounding it. Following gratitude and being at peace with myself, I feel mostly in shock. Not only am I know helping others through the same things I went through, but I reflect on my running and realize it's such a part of my recovery. These days at home, I run the Central Park runners loop and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir about 5 times a week, typically a 7.8-mile run. And as I was running at Cobbs Hill Reservoir I just kept thinking wow this loop is so small. And that's what sparked my brain into this shock of "what the actual fuck - is this real right now?"
As I ran past the places I used to stop and take sips from a vodka water bottle, I couldn't help but feel absurd and completely out of place. I'm living past the point where I was supposed to be gone. I run 7-10 times the amount I used to run - and sometimes it just doesn't feel real; it doesn't make sense in my brain. It reminds me to be grateful for literally every single damn day because each one is truly a gift - as corny as that sounds. But when you live past a diagnosis of death, how can you feel any other way? I kept thinking to myself that 4 years ago I truly believed that I would be dead from drinking by now - and today I live in the middle of Manhattan as a certified recovery coach and peer advocate.
Right?? ....what in the world, how did this happen? How am I here?...
So when I say that you too can do this, you too can have this - and I mean have a life that you can't even picture right now because you don't even know what you want or how to get there, or even know how to get through a day without using some kind of drug to numb you through the pain and self hate you feel right now - I'm telling you that it IS possible to live a completely different life. When we connect with others that can tell our story before even meeting us, that is something that pulls us through and out of the dark dark hole of substance use. Those people, their stories, our programs, and connection through identification - they make recovery quite the miracle. But that miracle is available to all of us that want it.
Don't give up, and DO ask for help.