Whenever I sit down to write, whether it be a blog, or journal or my ongoing project (do I dare say book?) I spend some time reflecting on my life, on who I’ve been, roles I’ve played, where I am now and where I want to be in the future. In the moments that I look at the Big Picture, I sometimes think to myself, ‘wow, I’ve had a pretty messed up life”. If I happen to be in a particularly spiritually focused moment I’ll say ‘I’ve really overcome a lot of challenges”. Both things are true, it’s just a matter of perspective. I’ve also accomplished some good in my life. I’ve been a Social Worker most of my adult life and I’ve been able to utilize my experiences and compassion to help many individuals and families. And although I haven’t always been the parent of the year, I must have done some things right because my children have all turned out to be intelligent, creative, caring individuals.
I’ve accomplished a lot of personal growth. I haven’t had a drink in 10 years. I have avoided abusive relationships. I no longer obsess about things over which I have no control. I no longer feel the need to plan ahead for the “worst possible scenario”. And I no longer flinch when someone makes a sudden move or noise near me. I’m far from perfect but as they say no one is perfect, nor would I want to be, but I’m generally pretty content with who I am today.
As most of us know healing happens in layers and cycles, and it seems to me at least, that the more “issues’ you start out with having the more layers and cycles you must negotiate.
So, now I’m into a whole new territory, a new layer, a new cycle. And I am reminded again that there is always considerable overlap between these layers, as most of the problems we survivors have experienced are intertwined. Therefore as we grow through one issue, we are really simultaneously healing other areas of our psyches, bodies and social lives as well. By now I can only hope you are wondering with baited breath what this mysterious “next layer” is. I realized I don’t share much personal detail in my blogs. I write as a survivor/recovering alcoholic, but I stick to generalized topics and themes. And yet ultimately one of my hopes is for my website to become a forum where people can share their stories, because I believe there is great power in the telling, as well as in the receiving, of these stories.
My most recent battle, or challenge, is a particularly difficult one for me because it involves consequences of bad decisions I’ve made in the past and because it is something over which I have limited control. About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a consequence of my IV drug use back in the 80’s. At that time, being the dedicated alcoholic that I was, my reaction was to drink as much as I possibly could for a solid year because I knew I’d have to quit soon to save my liver. For those of you who are not addicts, trust me, this logic makes perfect sense to an addict. In a way the diagnosis and my irrational response, was a catalyst to my recovery from alcohol. As you can well imagine drinking as much as possible for an entire year leads to some pretty nasty situations. I ended up in jail more than once, lost my job, my apartment and worst of all my kids. Every time I tried to quit I only made it so far before I was at it again. Finally, as an alternative to a 9 month incarceration I was sent to a residential treatment center. I can honestly say that experience saved my life in more ways than one.
Anyway, despite my best efforts to destroy my liver, I have fared pretty well over the past 9 years or so. In the past year however, I found myself increasingly fatigued, foggy and achy. I thought I had fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Then at this year’s liver screen we discovered my viral load was up and some of my other numbers were off. A biopsy revealed a small amount of liver scarring. To make a long story short, my doctor and I decided that since I’m unemployed right now anyway and since the damage hasn’t progressed too far, now might be a good time to try treatment.
The treatment for Hep C is Interferon and Ribavirin combination therapy. I won’t go into great medical detail here but I will tell you the side effects are pretty notorious, and for good reason. The worst and most common are fatigue, loss of appetite, foggy thinking and, my personal favorite, depression. It’s pretty much a full time job. So after all the healing of my emotions, my thought and behavior patterns now it seems to be time to heal the physical realm. And of course there’s the overlap. The guilt I’ve felt at having been careless with using IV drugs. The sense of loss of not having the energy to be there for my family in the way I’d like. The identity crisis of going from being passionate defender of justice for my clients to being unemployed and pretty much unable to work, at least during the course of treatment. And yet, there are wonderful opportunities for growth. I have time to do things like write, gardening and crafting, to nurture my creative side. I have to opportunity to give back to myself some of the nurturance and forgiveness I so naturally afford to others but save little for myself.
I began this journey on treatment 8 weeks ago now and I’ve already experienced a vast range of emotions, insights and humbling epiphanies. Yes it’s challenging, to say the least, but if I’ve learned nothing else from my years of diverse experiences, it is that if we choose to, we become wiser, stronger more complete beings for ever challenge we survive.
Peace and Blessings,
© 2010 Jennifer Hazard