After a couple of weeks of reading too many self help sites and reminicing over what doctors, councillors, and other medical professionals and what family and friends have said or not said or suggested I find myself thinking back to when I was healing after a second surgery for Chron’s Desease which saw 11 inches of ileum removed, the right fallopian tube and ovary scraped of inflammation and one ureter put back into place. I weighed 95lbs at the time of surgery.
The doctors told me I would be sick for the rest of my life. That I would relpase within five years and most likely have another major surgery within eight years. That I’d be medicated on 5-ASA, Pentasa, antibiotics and/or steroids indefinitely that (in 1998) were costing me $300 to $400 per month. I really considered going on welfare so the meds were covered by the government.
With the support of a few close family members and friends I bucked the treatment after six or seven months and began seeking an alternative to the naysaying specialists who, yes, did save my life by removing the rotting intestine and gangrenous apendix but who, by no means offered any words of encouragement or even considered that there was an alternative to taking medications that were causing more side effects than doing good.
I’m happy to say I’ve been in remission of crohn’s since September 1997. That is 15 years. I learned that drinking a bottle of Bio-K and taking pro-biotics on a daily basis for one month straight was enough to ween myself off of the drugs after having followed a strict diet set out by a nutritionist. She first instilled positive knowledge by saying “try it out” and “introduce one food at a time and pay close attention to your body in how it reacts and adjust what you eat or don’t eat as needed”.
I learned that fast and processed food were what may have triggered the crohn’s disease to begin with. I learned that I can eat popcorn, raw vegetables, potatoes, drink milk, eat whole grain products and savour crunchy nuts and fresh fruit with seeds. And to this day eating excess white flour, white sugar, soy and processed or fast foods set me off and cause me to either vomit or have diarrhea which are hallmark symptoms of crohn’s! How odd. I still ingest Bio-K during a potential flare-up and take Natural Factors Acidophlis and Bifidus capsules everyday.
But, the biggest change of all happened on the inside after the surgery. I mentally shifted the hopelessness into repetitive reafirming positive thoughts followed by action.
It meant leaving a husband and his family behind, dissolving a legal business partnership and losing all the graphic design and illustration clientele after my hard drive was mysteriously wiped and moving back to my hometown in 2001. I never looked back.
I’m a fighter and will by no means let the disease of addiction ruin me. It may cause spiritual, emotional or physical pain for short periods of time during my lifetime, just as crohn’s does, but it also makes me sensitive, empathetic and courageous when faced with both adversity and this feeling of emptiness that comes along when you have nothing else to lose but yourself.
In Saint John they don’t look at the fact that I was a social user of alcohol for five years after cleaning up from addiction in 2006 followed by one year of problem drinking that lead to detox this January. Whether I return to drinking or not is something I will decide on my own with the help of those who are closest to me. I guess if I can control and moderate eating only one peice of cake or one piece of white bread every now and then why can’t I moderate what I drink? The clean up process of addiction feels eerily similar to cleaning up from Crhon’s. You simply learn what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly or experience a relapse and need hospitalization.
I am a firm believer that this abstinence from alcohol is allowing me to think more clearly on whether I even want to test the waters or not, just as abstaining from certain foods gave my body, mind and soul time to recover from crohn’s to make healthy decisions on how to proceed.
Rest assured that if I began eating fast and processed foods on a daily basis that I’d likely need another bowel resection and that if I return to what I drank before I would need to detox again.
Tomorrow, on May 25th I’ll be four months sober.
The two drawings in this post were drawn shortly after being released from the hospital. they were drawn with coloured pencil and india ink.