This is a part of my life story that I never thought I would share…my secret. But as with all dark hidden things, there comes a time for them to come into the light.
For those of you who see me now…the eccentric Nana who walks or rides a bicycle everyday in the small Kansas town of Ottawa talking to everyone about “Living Well” with such things as community gardens, a local food supply, renovating existing homes and improving quality of life (there are also the people who know me as a pain in their rear who is always asking “nosy” questions)…let me take you back more than a few years.
Every child has role models that they learn about their world by watching and imitating. I was born into a very non-trusting, fearful, segregated community in Alabama…a community with very poor self-esteem like many in this country today. From a very young age I got the message that there were only three things you could trust and put your faith in…science, books and doctors. In 1956, I added Chet Huntley and David Brinkley to my role model list deciding to travel the world asking questions when I grew up.
Life happens…trauma-drama...we either suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome or we evolve through post traumatic growth. I chose post traumatic stress syndrome and went to the area of my faith…doctors and science. I also maintained a very high level of arrogance and superiority because I didn’t use illegal drugs, smoke or drink other than an occasional glass of wine when I was not driving.
Fast-forward to the late 1980′s early 1990′s and I am living in North County San Diego working for an innovative demographic marketing research corporation and playing super-woman flying between Atlanta and San Diego every couple of months. During this period of time, I was very serious about taking care of my family’s and the Earth’s health…organic fruits and vegetables, recycling tons of diet soda cans, no pesticides or toxic chemicals in or around our house, almost weekly visits to our doctor for preventive drugs to treat any symptom that might occur. In a 4 year period, I had five surgeries to remove benign lumps from my breasts. I was a very willing poster child for all the “new” drugs that came out to cure my bi-polar disorder, my obsessive compulsive disorder, my irritable bowel syndrome, prevent wrinkles, hypothyroidism, and of course I had to take medications constantly for my severe allergies.
There was another reason I took my daughters to medical facilities so often…my agenda: they were to study medicine and become pediatricians. They were also taught to believe in science, books, doctors and always asking questions.
Fast-forward again through more trauma-drama…divorce, move to Florida, move to Las Vegas, and in 1999 I was back in North County San Diego. I had reconnected with my long-time doctor friend (?) who had kept me in prescription drugs long distance through my travels and even added to my medications as new drugs came on the market. I also maintained my daily 6 to 8 cans of diet soda addiction which was healthy (?) because I had switched from regular soda before the birth of my twins and I always recycled the cans.
After many months of intense pain and other symptoms, my specialist doctors agreed that major surgery was the only option available. There was never any discussion of lifestyle changes or chemical detoxification. I agreed to what turned into three additional surgeries over a period of eight months. After the first surgery, I woke up to a hormone replacement patch on my butt and was sent home with a narcotic prescription for “pain.”
The pain was unbearable...there was a slight error during the first surgery (?) that required additional surgeries to repair and more pain…more drugs…etc. The two years following the first surgery are a blur…yet I managed to still play super-woman…working a high profile job as Director of Public Relations for a Non-Profit while driving to Nevada on weekends to see my grand-kids, then finally relocating back to Las Vegas. Did I ever think of myself as a drug addict? Of course not…I only took medications prescribed by my doctor. Did any doctor ever refuse to give me a prescription…NO! Did I seek help…yes, I went back to my doctors over and over and was given more pills.
I was a functioning in the closet addict except that I was not functioning. Everything in my life was dysfunctional…health, finances and relationships. Those close to me were so accustomed to drug and chemical induced behavior that they considered it normal for me. When I started isolating myself and giving away personal possessions only one friend even noticed that I was making preparations to end my life.
He asked me, “If you were free to do anything in the world right now…what would it be?”
I replied without thinking, “I would never take another drug either prescription or over the counter, I would go back to college and study nutrition and I would change my world.”
His face lit up as he took my hand and said, “Let’s do it!
Thus was the beginning of my last marriage…I moved into his condo and didn’t tell anyone in my family where I was or what was going on…I flushed all the drugs down the toilet…I sold my car…I read when I could hold my head up…I hallucinated…I puked…I had night sweats night and day between chills…I shivered and shook…I stayed in bed trying not to move my aching head for two months only to get up to shower from the detox. My husband bought a juicer and did the cooking.
During this time, my daughter was very ill and had a premature baby…I was not there to support her. My other daughter had two small children and was expecting her third…I could not be a mother or Nana or anything to anyone at that time. All I could do was hang on, get through hell and keep my secrets. I did not go out of the house for anything except a short visit to the hospital when my grandson was born, I even stopped getting my hair cut and colored or my nails done. As I detoxed, I also lost my Super-woman ego and became completely dependent on my husband.
When I was physically well enough to go back to work, I also went back to college and over the next few years completed a Masters in Nutrition. Since flushing those pills down the toilet ten years ago, I have not taken any drug either prescription or over the counter. I also stopped all soda and artificial sweeteners at the same time, I stopped doing drugs. I do take vitamin supplements, but I know where they come from, what they contain and their quality.
I have changed my world several times in the last ten years. After my detox from drugs, it took about 18 months for me to regain my self-esteem and start valuing myself. My husband who had been my rock and loving support when I was drug dependent felt threatened when I became well and no longer dependent on him. The pain of our parting was the loss of my best friend. The only thing constant about life is change.
During the last 10 years, I have experienced extremely good health with a very strong immune system and have had reason to make two visits to doctor’s offices where drugs were pushed. The first was about 9 months into drug-free…I thought I had been bitten by a spider…the nurse practitioner refused a blood test but wrote three prescriptions. The second was after a roll-over car accident where I knew I wasn’t injured but my insurance insisted I get checked out…the doctor wrote prescriptions for pain medication knowing my history. These prescriptions were never filled and went immediately into the shredder.
Also during the last nine years, I have had the experience of knowing, working with and studying the work of some wonderful, dedicated doctors and practitioners in the field of Integrated Medicine which couples the latest scientific advances with the most profound insights of ancient healing systems, giving their patients the best ways to preserve health, increase longevity and speed recovery from illness.
Integrated Medicine recognizes that the outcome of all health care is strongly dependent upon four powerful influences in the lives of each person:
Relationships: The social support network of family, friends, involvement in community, and a strong-patient alliance.
Diet and lifestyle: Nutrition, habits, and the daily pattern of rest and exercise.
A healthy environment: Protection from chemical and biological toxins.
Detoxification: The body’s ability to self-purify and protect itself from internal toxicity.
Why after keeping my secret for over ten years am I talking about it now? The health and future of the people around me is far more important to me than what anyone may say or think about me personally. I know how easy it was for me to get and use prescription drugs before public advertising and overt pushing.
The pharmaceutical industry is a multi-trillion dollar business. Companies spend billions on advertising and promotions for prescription drugs. Who can remember the last time they watched television and weren’t bombarded with ads for pills treating everything from erectile dysfunction to sleeplessness? And who has ever been to a doctor’s office or hospital and not seen every pen, notepad and post-it bearing the logo of some prescription drug? Medicine is a high-dollar, highly competitive business.
The public believes the FDA reviews all the ads and only allows the safest and most effective drug ads to reach the public. The public seems to genuinely believe that drugs advertised on TV are safe, in spite of the plethora of side effects listed by the commercial’s narrator, ranging from diarrhea to death. Pharmaceutical companies influence the public to ask for prescription drugs, the public asks their physicians to prescribe them certain drugs, and doctors not only acquiesce to their patients’ requests, medical personnel actively coerce and scare patients into using drugs or giving them to their children.
It all comes down to money and ethics. “Death by Medicine” cites an ABC report that says clinical trials funded by pharmaceutical companies show a 90 percent chance that a drug will be perceived as effective, whereas clinical trials not funded by drug companies show only a 50 percent chance that a drug will be perceived as effective.
The corruption in the pharmaceutical industry and in America’s healthcare system poses a far greater threat to the health, safety and welfare of Americans today than any disease or sickness.
And yet, we have a long tradition in trusting science and doctors rather than taking a few minutes to do the research and trusting ourselves.
Wishing You Love, Light & Lots of Laughter…Joa