I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in this here blog before, but I have Lyme Disease (I have another blog about that called Bloody Lymey). I was diagnosed in 2008 and the specialist I ultimately saw thought I had it for 2-3 years by that point (based on the progression). I was reflecting today on how lucky I am for this, as lucky as I am to be an alcoholic.
I always used to hate it when people said they were grateful to be an alcoholic and I might have been darned near homicidal if I heard someone say they were also grateful for another chronic illness.
1. Why I’m grateful to be an alcoholic: Well, it brought me to A.A. And A.A. gave me a new skills set, coping mechanisms, tools for this journey we call life. [I’m cringing as I write this since it sounds so hokey, but …. it’s also very true]. Because I’m an alcoholic, I’m far less judgmental. What’s that they say about casting the first stone? Something about being without sin? As an alcoholic, I’ve just about done it all. It’s hard to frown upon other people even if their life choices might be glaringly obviously BAD mistakes. I’m more tolerant. I’m more patient. I’m more kind. I’m more understanding. It’s given me a new caliber of compassion. It caused me enough pain to ask for help and I learned alcohol wasn’t the problem – I was. And in seeking help for my alcoholism, it made me seek treatment for being ME.
2. Why I’m grateful to have Lyme Disease: Already fairly established in A.A. with a foundation built in the steps, it deepened my program. I learned more about staying off the pity pot and removing the victim mentality. It helped me with another facet of compassion, mostly with people with physical problems. It taught me even more about self-forgetting, how to think of others and “get out of myself.” It taught me the importance of service work and staying useful. Today I work with people with disabilities of all sorts. My alcoholism helps me understand the ones with mental disabilities. My Lyme Disease helps me understand those with physical ones. I also have a deeper understanding of the mental toil that chronic pain puts a person through. I had no idea the peculiar thought processes that go with it. It taught me even more about patience and God’s Will. It deepened my relationship with my Higher Power as I understand Him. It strengthened my faith. The experience taught me to live life more deeply, to love more fully. When I’m feeling GOOD, I don’t put off doing something fun so I can laze on the couch and lie to myself, telling me “I’ll do that tomorrow.” I am way more about seizing the day. Carpe Diem. Because I honestly don’t KNOW with a capital K if I CAN “do that tomorrow.” I might not have a chance again for weeks, months, years. Or I might have a 10-month remission like I did in 2009/2010. There’s no knowing. Procrastination was a nagging character defect, and Lyme helped me with it. I still have work to do. I still have to work on household chores and such – I can blow that off. It’s easy after being sick for some weeks to need to “get in the swing again.”
So why I’m grateful today: if I hadn’t gotten help with my alcoholism, I never would have gotten help with Lyme Disease. I wouldn’t have had the skills to advocate for myself. In some twisted death wish, I might have “let it go.” Particularly when it was going for my heart. I might be laying crippled on the couch right now, depending on someone to do me a packy run and using guilt or whatever tactic to coerce them into meeting MY will. I also probably would have been a pill-seeker. Honestly, this combination of different pains would have brought in quite some med-cocktails.
Thank God it’s not like that today. Turning a different corner some years ago, and I might be a vegetable today. As bad as Lyme Disease SUCKS sometimes – the fatigue is epic, the pain is immeasurable at times, and the fear I sometimes feel for the future feels unconquerable – I believe it is necessary for my spiritual growth. And I say that on days I’m in very bad pain.