As a Peer Recovery Support Specialist, not only do you get a fancy name but you are expected to share your own recovery story as appropriate with others who might be in similar situations. The peer's story is not meant as a badge of honor or any kind of credential, but rather used in a way that is useful in the moment.
At any rate, I just had an exchange with a woman who learned recently that she has Hepatitis C, liver failure, and has been told she has perhaps two years to live. Ok, first off, been there done that (not being boastful), but that is not why I am writing this.
She wanted to know if the sever weakness was about the same as she described it for others at that stage. So, I chimed in with the following just to sort of color the thread below the post since it was similar to others.
I post it here so it is available to anyone who may still be considering reeling themselves in a bit knowing their are on the brink of hurting their body by using in excess.
There are very real consequences. As I sit here typing I just had to adjust my chair, since, though it has been three months and two weeks since my liver transplant, my abdominal muscles are still healing and cramp if I sit the same way very long.
So this is what I had to say about the weakness I felt in 2011 through 2016.
"I remember going for walks and feeling like I was walking in quicksand, uphill, against a headwind, and the gravity was turned up to 11. Then, for a moment, just a fleeting moment I would feel fine. I would get like seven steps knowing it would last but a moment, but oh what a moment. Just like before the fall, upright, clarity, and strong. Then the gravity returns, the lights dim, and the birds no longer sing. Once I accepted this was the way it was going to be, it became much easier and I just sank into it. In fact, had I not opted to really look into alternative forms of all kinds of things I don't know how I would have managed. I could not be that Steve in the socially conditioned world that I had previously inhabited. Things were different now, some amount of control was gone, and I needed to adapt to survive. The good news was, I had been in situations like this before, perhaps not this dire, but i knew would win."
Sitting in the sun on a beautiful spring Georgia afternoon thinking of Danu, the first mother in Celtic mythology, or tradition rather, and how grateful I am to be in such a place and have this time. Sometimes, I fail to enjoy these non-descript moments and then I close my eyes. Since journeying is a big part of my life, I can slip quickly and therefore a simple moment in the sun can sometimes yield new or reminder messages.
I immediately am aware of spirals spinning down to a point far below and it fills my awareness. As I remember to forget expecting something to happen and take the parking break off my mind the scene begins to change. It seems to be a coast line. It is remarkably like Ireland does, but, as the cliffs behind suggest, it is not Ireland, or indeed Earth at all.
I am pulled upwards and am aware of the shrinking beach below as the wall passes.
None of that seems to matter, however, as the scene vanishes and changes to a sun setting on what appears as a wheat field, only much larger plants, and some big elephant looking creatures walking around swinging their trunks around to thrash the wheat. The thrashing would cause the wheat to release some pollen like substance that was clouding in the breeze and winds.
Meanwhile, two large humans like guys, I could only see their shoulders and heads from the back as they were in the wheat, were bagging the pollen.
Then I heard like an old west narrator voice say: “And those animals would whack the stuff each season and the people would get enough to feed them for the year. Nobody really knows why the animals just voluntarily this did, but they think it might have something to do with the people keeping the streams flowing when they get to clogged up and can’t flow to the animals below.”
“As far as why the people even cleared streams in the areas that they did not hunt or live they did it because it was their thing to do.”
Then I opened my eyes. Yup, all that took place in about two minutes. Needless to say, it is a good “time out” or “reset button”.
So, back to Danu. Resetting the Earth, in the Western Hemisphere that is, spring time. All the things in nature work together in chaotic perfection and can not be denied. The vine picks its own path, and so should we, and our path must be clear. So reset often, clear your cache, go clean a stream.
Not long ago I woke up to a photo of the Northern Lights forming what a Phoenix rising. The first thing that came to my mind, was rising to do the daily grind. Ugh. Just like the guys in Valhalla. Wait, what is the difference? Right here, right now. I am in Valhalla.
Not the Valhalla that comes to mind where Odin sits in his nightly hall where the souls of the battle slain are raised each day to join in mortal combat only to rise and feast each evening and laugh and brag of the day’s battles. All in preparation for Ragnarök, or the final battle in which all the God’s would perish.
That is thumbnail treatment of the story to say the least, and I am not clear on the end yet, but the first half makes sense.
The warrior class at the time was the standard as is the “middle class” or higher in modern times. Both involve getting up each day and going through the same repetition. You learn to love it because it leads you to the place you have been shown to go.
To make it in the middle/upper class, most people are conditioned to follow the strict 40 per week, eight-hour day grind. Like it or not. You know there was at least one Viking in that mead hall saying as he rolled out of bed, “Dude, love the feast, but I really don’t want to get cut in half again today.”
You are free, but you are free to be, free to be this, whatever “this” is; a warrior or an accountant. Granted, this is painting with a very broad brush, but in my own awareness, that is a Valhalla I do not want to visit.
I prefer freedom from all things. That is not to so I do not to care for anything, but rather I care only for those things I choose to, and if I focus on doing that as best as I can, then I have done me best. The question of how to provide is not about how one provides for him or herself, but where is it that everyone cares for each other?
That is the place to care about, and that is a place where things make sense. The way things used to make sense before Ragnarök, before we got cut in half.
I said the other day to someone that I feel as if I have been on the back of the bus to hell for eight long years doing everything, I could do to slow it down. Suddenly, it stopped, the door opened, and I was kicked out onto the corner of a city I have never been to before. The logical feeling would seem to be of relief, but it is not, but rather of confusion.
While either a failure or the result of happenstance, confusion is a failure. I say that in the sense that in staying present while working the threads of chance out ahead of you something unforeseen occurred that appealed to your attention.
Well, in my situation, it was the fact that it had been so long since I had “been to work”, as most people would understand the phrase in the United States. I had not had a full-time position since the 1990s, and since 1997, I had been a contractor.
My 16 years of publishing a cutting-edge online news company that I owned ended shortly after I was diagnosed in 2011. I had lost interest in the business years ago, but it had grown so large that I was able to pay a full-time staff to run it and still make a living. Don’t get me wrong, it was not an easy job. The early years I was alone doing everything. It was the third year when I hired a part time reporter for a specific beat. From there we branched out into other platforms, such as podcasting, Satellite Radio, streaming video, and video of top prospects and players.
When I turned it all over to my former site staff in September of 2014, the site had collected perhaps $500 in revenue over the 17 years I took it from my bedroom to the Bay Area. Every dollar we made was based on the quality of our content. We were solely subscription based and I believe the website remains so to this day under the new ownership. That said, by 2005 our subscription revenue was enough for me to hire the best people available for three positions. It only continued to grow.
But as is grew and we made more money I had less to do because the challenge was gone and I simply was no longer happy. I had never done this for money or to have a “normal life”, it always starts with I want to do it because it interests me and pretty much everyone would shrug it off as a pipe dream.
I ended up selling the company because I did not care about it any more and today am oddly content just being. I do not really care much about tomorrow or yesterday for that matter. Only right now, not even really the rest of the day.
But it is that corner that the bus left me on that is the problem. For the first time in a very long time I am confused. In fact, I don’t recall ever feeling like this. I have always had a plan, but when all of your present plans end in the same way it suggests a problem in the planning, and I am not used to having to plan. I don’t do “the future”.
Now that sounds strange, and oddly irresponsible, but honest.
I realized within the first hour after waking up following the liver transplant last month that a fog had been lifted. That, no matter how well I had thought I felt emotionally and cognitively, I was nowhere near where I was now. I was thinking in real time.
I had not felt this way in years, at least a decade, perhaps two, and it was wonderful. I remembered that Jonathan had encouraged me to keep a running journal of the journey from the time I was diagnosed with cancer, who came to be called my Teacher, up to this time and through recovery. I had done this, it was not much, perhaps 40 typed pages, but now I was more than ready to flesh it out.
So being that I am still in recovery from the transplant and as of yet can not even drive my own car, I am splitting my time fairly equally between online CEUs in various areas of Peer Recovery Support to stay fresh, researching and applying for positions at a very select group of practices/centers/groups that are hiring, and piecing together all those journal entries into a small book form.
The reason for the book is not to brag about how difficult the process was to go through, to strike it rich and wind up on Opra (though that would be cool, the former that is, though I could be convinced to go on Opra, I am easy), but rather some pages for someone who is currently or about to be wearing the same shoes I did for so many years. It is easy to want to give up when you are in a place of hopelessness and despair, but you can't. I didn't, and I did not have any rah rah story to help me along. Mine will not be a rah rah story, but it will be a story of victory, about not giving up, and about turning adversity into opportunity.
I am not even sure who I am talking to here these days. I no longer have a group since we no longer are associated with an Athens area practice. Twelve-step programs rule here. I have a couple of people, or clients as they used to be called, but now they call to check on how I am doing after the surgery. That's nice.
Perhaps I am writing this to my next group, or my next individual person I will be meeting in some state more than 1,000 miles from here. Now you can know a little bit about that guy sitting across the room from you. Run! :-)
Though I had been working without any over site for some time in matters of the Soul, or in the spiritual realm with people who come to me for such things, I still made it a point to continue to seek out further instruction from teachers who would make offerings either in Athens or at a location that I could easily get to for a weekend to attend.
Over time, I began to notice more and more that these events were repetitive despite dealing with slightly different content matters, and the ways that they were the same were become increasingly a feature of the way I was conducting my own individual sessions.
Then something big took place. I had wanted to attend a two year training that would certified me as an "official teacher" of a specific very well known individual's programs. This would have opened up all kinds of opportunities for me to offer workshops, individual services, and much more. However, due to my physical heath at the time, I had to withdraw despite having been one of the relatively few to have been accepted.
It turns out that the teacher offering this program was a good friend of a man whom I had known for a time and was currently working with on an individual basis. They talked about my situation, they even discussed it over lunch which was just by chance because he happened to be in the US and the two live 5,000 miles apart. I did not know any of this was taking place.
While he did not know it, I had such high regard for him that I considered this as a sort of unofficial apprenticeship because being at least 30 years my senior he is perhaps the most powerful man I know in this field. I don't mean power like lightning bolts or earth quakes, but power in that he has such a firm grip on himself, the world around him, and what it means to be, and how to be, and why. That might sound flighty, but it makes sense to me, and so does he.
Anyway, I we spoke again, like we do, on Skype not long after that and he told me I did not need any more teachers. He told me that I should turn to Spirit as my only teacher now. That was a big moment, and so much of the questioning of things suddenly made sense. I was not rebelling against the things I had been taught earlier, I was not growing tired of workshops, they had worked for me, and I was ready to move on.
So now, I shall be on my path, and stopping to be an apprentice much like in the link I am going to share below. For no matter how much we think we have it figured out, there will always be the time when we have to stop and learn something new no matter how badly we want to continue, so that when we do continue, we do so effectively.
This blog has been swirling in my mind the past couple of weeks, but reading the blog of author Sharon Blackie today I had to write.
Here is the link, and while I encourage you to read the whole blog, if you are short on time, the part that directly impacted this blog starts next to the image of the woman seated on the bench looking down into the box.
Click here to visit Sharon Blackie's Blog
Well, after a seven year running battle with Hepatic Cirrhosis and Stage Four Liver Failure and a 15 month standoff with Hepatocellular Carcinoma (liver cancer), I have undergone a successful liver transplant and now a free from both. The operation was on January 3rd at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Hospital and my recovery has been rapid. I should be back home by mid February.
There are not adequate words to embody the feeling of gratitude I have for the woman whose gift to me in death was life, the team of doctors and specialists that have been with me every step of the way (and will be as I will forever be in their care), my dear family and friends who lent be support though the toughest of times, and my mother who has been at my side for every doctors visit and extended hospital stays since the cancer since our initial trip to Pittsburgh a year ago.
I could not have imagined at the young age of 19 in 1985 when I volunteered for the U.S. Army Infantry that all these later it would be the Department of Veterans Affairs that would live up to their end of the deal and provide this health coverage for me 100%, to include all travel, hotels, etc., for my support person, aka my mother.
So, it is high time that I get back to work now that I am clear of mind and am regaining my physical strength.
If you are someone whom I have worked with in the past and you ever need to get in touch with me my number is the same, or you can email me or use the contact form on this page. I can make time to call you just as soon as I can at any time.
As for where I will be living; that is to be determined. My primary focus is to take my recovery and trauma work to the VA and work with fellow veterans, but I am not ruling out working with a practice again. That said, the tables will be somewhat reversed now that I have options and that practice would have to share the same basic approaches and goals.
Regardless, I will still maintain individual relationships with anyone who would like to sit with me. In person, on the phone, at a bench in the park, wherever. It is all about you, and I am only there to help you in whatever way I can to find your own healing and not some text book or workshop's step by step system.
Trust, honesty, humility, and a touch of humor can do wonders in opening the path to happiness.
So, join me in a big group hug to celebrate all that is going well in our lives, and as for the rest of it, let's talk. I am always here for you.
In my never ending quest to be on the cutting edge of approaches to working with people navigate through troubled waters of substances and trauma, I recently went through the training and now can facilitate individual or group settings for Seeking Safety. You will see SS mentioned in the following story from the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The Link between PTSD and Substance Abuse/Addiction
About 50-66 percent of those who suffer from PTSD also battle simultaneous addiction, and the reverse is also true, TIME reports. People who suffer from PTSD are between two and four times more likely to also battle addiction than their peers who do not also struggle with PTSD, the journal Clinical Psychology publishes.
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