BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
There’s that moment in your life when everything comes to a complete stop and all the air is vacuumed out of the atmosphere - when you realize that everything, yet nothing matters and lyrics to a popular song are your story being told to music.
He said, "I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me and a moment came that stopped me on a dime. I spent most of the next days looking at the x-rays talkin' 'bout the options and talkin' 'bout sweet time.” I asked him, "When it sank in, that this might really be the real end, how's it hit you when you get that kind of news? Man, what'd you do?" Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw Written by Craig Michael Wiseman, James Timothy Nichols, Tim Nichols • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Round Hill Music Big Loud Songs, BMG Rights Management US, LLC
With my earphones in, I leave the doctor’s office in a state of shock. I feel like I am having an out of body experience. I feel like I am watching a movie – someone else’s life. I am numb. The doctor’s words are muffled and replaying in my mind. “Tami, if you don’t figure out how to change what ever is happening outside of this office, you are going to die. You are committing slow suicide. Things must change and change fast.”
How could this be? They had found five masses on my liver. I have been blessed with great health all my life – a fact I obviously took very much for granted. Now this. I no longer abused my body with substances and practiced healthy living regularly. This wasn’t registering. Did I deserve this from all the years of torture I placed on my poor liver with my ill choices?
I had to admit, for the first time in my life I was honestly scared. I had jumped out of planes, been an unwed teenage mother, and faced some demons that most people only have nightmares about, but nothing compared to facing your own mortality square in the eye.
Every formidable thought was loose in my head. My most dangerous fears were encroaching on any sane thought I could try to muster up. I was immobilized by this. All I could think was that I didn’t want to hurt anyone. My children and siblings had experienced so much loss this last year. I didn’t want me to be a reason for any more of their pain. They had been through enough.
I must have been on autopilot or driving on the wings of angels because I was behind the wheel of my car and I don’t know how I arrived in my driveway. Tears unleashed and were welcomed with deep sobs that accompanied them.
There in my driveway I prayed to my God to please give my family time to breathe from all this loss. I told him that if they lost me I don’t think a few of them would be able to make it, not this soon after all the losses this last year. I begged for them. I sobbed for each one of them. I feared for them. I didn’t want to be the source of anyone’s pain. It wasn’t about me. I had lived a wonderful life. I just didn’t want them to hurt anymore. Give them time and then maybe they could deal with this.
For the next few days I bumped around the world without being in the world. The words of the doctor echoing in my head, “you are committing slow suicide” and “you are going to die if something doesn’t change.” At weeks end I found myself at an early morning Al anon meeting and as my higher power would have it, my Al anon sponsor would be sitting next to me.
By the end of the meeting I knew I was right where I belonged. My higher power is funny like that. I spilled the beans during the meeting; you see we are only as sick as our secrets. I was embraced in love and empathy and compassion – all of those I needed desperately. I wrapped myself in all that was good that morning, sucking up every ounce I could get.
I was like a sponge in dire need of water. My very soul was drying up. I was drying up with it. As I spoke with my sponsor after the meeting, she listened with loving patience. I cried like a baby. It was evident that I was searching outside of myself for the water to quench my parched soul. The water was living within me and I had to find a tap for that well before it dried up for good.
As I shared with my sponsor my thoughts she waited until I finished telling her how much I didn’t want to hurt anyone else and that it wasn’t about me. Then stated a very obvious observation, “Tami, that’s the problem. It’s not about you.”
She went on to explain that my constant need to make everyone more important than me would be my demise. She asked me questions like, “Why aren’t you important enough to stay alive for?” and “Why aren’t you asking yourself why you aren’t important enough to not want to hurt?” Because the truth was, I was the one that was now hurting in a way that could possibly take my very last breath and I was doing it to myself. Why couldn’t I be just as important as everyone else? Why couldn’t I love myself just as much, if not more?
I bowed my head. She had spoken the truth that I needed to hear. The mirror was placed in front of me and I had no choice but to see who it was that was in fact murdering my very existence. It was me. I had no one else I could blame for my death if I kept at it.
Before we parted ways, I was back into step work and personal discovery. I was back into the program with the greatest sponsor God could’ve picked for me. She left me with a very profound parting thought. She said, “Perhaps you could change the way you think about what is happening. Perhaps you could look at this as your body’s invitation to love it more.” My body was asking me, no begging me, to love it. My soul was screaming in agony for me to baby it and nurture it. The wounds were much deeper than the scars on my liver. I had to search out a way to heal them. The only way this was going to happen was from within. Doctors could help, but the real specialist was me.
I was on a mission to save my very life. My thoughts needed to change. My attitude needed to change. My whole entire lifestyle needed to change and damn fast – but only one day at a time.
So, today as I finish this blog post, I am currently waiting for biopsies to be done on the two small masses they removed. The doctors are hopeful. They offer me words of encouragement, and with my loving family and supporters beside me, I know I can do this.
I have embarked on a mission this new year to put death behind me and put life before me. I want to own my life and be free. So, I started my own challenge. In order to stay accountable each month I would begin a month long mission to become stronger and more loving towards myself each month in 2017. As I learn to take care of myself, I am taking everyone with me. I want to show the world that the disease of alcoholism is real – even when you aren’t the one drinking.
I have the disease of alcoholism and Al anon. I am a double-winner. I put down the drink over six years ago and haven’t regretted it yet. The climb out of the bottle was the hardest journey then. This is now the fight of my life, to stop placing others before me and start caring for myself in a healthy way so I can care for others (like I love to do) in healthy ways. The journey to let go of the bottle (other people) will be the greatest fight so far. I want my life back.
So I’ll take it, one step at a time – one day at a time. I have accepted the fact that I am powerless over the disease of alcoholism and that my life has become unmanageable – that is quite obvious. I have also accepted that I will always fight relapse with the disease of Al anon, as relationships and people you can’t just put down. But, with the help of my very big higher power who hasn’t let me down yet, and the programs of recovery that I work I know there is a solution.
I wrote my own verse to that popular song and I will sing it every day now going forward:
“I was in my late forties with my whole life before me, and I thank that moment that gave me back my life. I spent the rest of my days, looking at the sunrays, talkin’ ‘bout the future, talkin’ ‘bout sweet time. I asked myself, “When it sank in, that your love for yourself knows no end, how’s it hit you that you gave yourself the gift of life? Girl, what’d you do?”
~Tami Harper Winn~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.