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My Wake-up Call!! What do I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?

car accidentIt didn’t occur to me that I had a precious life until my last year in college. Until then I didn’t believe my life was precious. I didn’t respect my life. I didn’t respect the lives of others either. I acted in self destructive ways, pushing my way into as many dangerous incidents as possible. The car was my pencil. I drove like an expressionist painter. I used to drive fast. I used to drive drunk. I used to smoke in my car. One night, during a full moon, I turned off the lights and drove by just the moonlight. I scared people with my driving. I remember taking my mother for a joy ride. Perhaps it was joyful for me, but my mom had another view of it. How does one's stomach handle the waviness of stop and go, of fast and slow, of weaving in and out? I know why I got car sick.

My healing process began on the fateful night of my senior year when I drove my car into a river. It was around 8:00 PM. I was lonely, not knowing what to do with the evening. I had been up for 36 hours, having successfully finished a term paper that morning. The “black beauties” I'd swallowed had given me so much energy; I wanted to stay up another night. As I was about to call my mother, my friend Drew stopped by and invited me to a party. I wanted to go. “Hang on” I said, “I have to follow you, but I need a pack of cigarettes.” I ran to the cigarette machine in the Commons building. The machine took my money and did not release a pack of cigarettes. In my fury I kicked the machine several times, trying to convince it to deliver my purchase. My last kick slipped and my toe flew into a knob, opening the tip at the end of an artery. The blood gushed out. I stood there frozen. Drew appeared after a few minutes. What was taking me so long? He saw the blood, and gallantly carried my to the college health service. The nurses almost fainted. The doctor wrapped my big toe in a bandage, ordering me to keep it dry for a week. He also told me that I would need a tetanus shot. Unhappy to hear this news, I took several sips from my scotch bottle, hoping to numb the pain of the injection. Not long after, I was on my way to the party. Where was Drew? I soon discovered that he had gone without me. I got directions to his house from a friend and was off to my little VW Rabbit, with one shoe off and one on.

It was a balmy late March evening and I was wearing sandals and a skirt. I put the bottle of scotch between my legs. The roof light was on in the car so I could read the directions. It didn’t matter – I got lost anyway. Back and forth I went on this road that led to nowhere. Finally I chose to forgo the party and go back to the local bar. I needed a drink. A little extra push on the accelerator and I was on my way. The way was dark and curvy. I didn’t see the L-shaped turn ahead. I thought the road went straight. I hit the brakes hard and turned the steering wheel to the left. The car began to skid. I was heading for the trees. I ducked. What was ducking in a car?—merely crossing my arms over my face to protect my head. I was not wearing a seat belt. I must have missed all the trees because there was a long pause where I thought there would be a bang. Thump, thump. Thump. The car finally stopped and it was quiet again. I was in the passenger’s seat. I patted myself all over, to see if I was still alive, and to see if I was injured. I was alive, and from what I could tell, not injured.

As I pondered my situation, a flood of water came over me. I discovered that I was at the bottom of an embankment in a river. The window must have broken as the car had rolled over. Water had started pouring into the car. Without thinking, I pushed myself out through the window and into the chilly water. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which was a bright spot of this experience. I swam and swam until I reached the shore. My car was on its side. I had lost the bandage on my toe. After climbing up the embankment and receiving some help from a kind stranger I waited in his friend’s kitchen till help arrived. I recognized the leader of the rescue squad. It was Paul, my boss in the school kitchen. I was so happy to see him. As we drove to the hospital, I recounted the events of the evening and told him that I had been on my way to Drew’s party. We all worked together as dishwashers for some extra cash. Once at the hospital I had to wait a while for the doctor to arrive. To my horror and relief, it was the same doctor who had bandaged my toe. He appeared to be upset. My cuts were serious and required special stitching. Since I had been drinking, they were not able to put me to sleep. I had to be awake during the 5 hours it took to put 126 stitches in me. I spent 5 days in the hospital. Once back at school, I mended quickly physically. However, my soul was forever changed. Now the question was no longer “What do I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?” because I had almost ended this one wild and precious life with a wild and crazy car accident; instead, it was “how can I best live my extraordinary and precious life without killing myself?” I had a second chance—a new life. Now I could ask “What do I plan to do with my new life to include the love of my wild and precious self and the love of precious others who may or may not be wild?”

A week after the car accident, just as I was beginning to mend, word came that an old house mate of mine had died in a car accident in New York. Barely had I recovered from my own experience, when I had to absorb the reality of this terrible news. Changes are hardest when they involve losing people we know. Death was beginning to appear in my life. Everyone was stunned by the news of my house mate's death. Few hearts were left untouched, and as the days passed I realized that my accident paled in comparison to the death of a friend. God had a plan and soon I would feel its impact on my life. Halfway through the semester there was another accident, in which two girls I knew were killed when their car hit a tree as it sped up a driveway at 90 miles an hour. Just as in the previous accident, both died instantly. Kids aren’t supposed to die before their parents. Lilacs were blooming; it was spring. Mild winds and cool air gave way to sadness. Nights grew into days. Others felt the sadness too when there were three or four other serious accidents that semester. Parties continued, however, and we had to cope. Quiet weeks led to the end of the semester. Rivers and streams filled from rain drops and the sounds of spring gave way to the heat of summer. Something new was emerging. There was a reason to live. Until that point in my life, I could not find a reason to live. Vehicles were toys to me. What was I thinking? Young and naïve, I could not see that death was around the corner. Zealously we continue on despite the tragedies.

Within six months I had turned my life around. I spent the summer back in New York, playing with college friends and looking for work. By fall, I'd had enough. I found a job at a bookstore. A woman came in one day and asked for a book called Sugar Blues. Though I had never heard of it or seen it, I was sure we carried it. I asked what it was about. The woman looked at me graciously and said that it was about how harmful sugar was for us. She explained that many symptoms such as headaches, PMS, depression, etc., were the result of side effects from sugar consumption. I got it. I didn’t have to read the book. I understood that sugar was the reason for all my symptoms. I had headaches, bad PMS, and depression. During the next few days or weeks, I don’t remember exactly, I quit sugar, alcohol, dairy, and animal foods. I quit cigarettes after going to the dentist. He cleaned my teeth and expressed that he understood why we as a generation smoked pot, but could not understand how with all that was known about the harmful effects of cigarettes, that I would choose to smoke tobacco. After my appointment, I walked out of the building and threw my cigarettes into the garbage can. I never looked back. I knew that he was right. Cigarettes were bad for me. I didn’t smoke pot because I thought it was bad for me. Why would I want to smoke something even worse? Suddenly I felt free.

By the end of the fall I was a full-blown vegetarian. I worshiped every petal, every weed, and every stamen of every plant on the planet. I read every book I could find about health and nutrition.

I soon learned that food could be my medicine and that all I needed to do was to eat healthy foods and I would be well again. Or so I thought. At first I struggled with my tastes. I remember hating vegetables, and dousing them with Prego tomato sauce to make them palatable. I had a limited recipe repertoire, and did not know how to prepare any foods. Even though I had eliminated animal foods from my diet, I continued to eat many processed foods. I couldn’t figure out why I would feel sleepy after eating a pint of Rice Dream. Over the next few years, I reintroduced alcohol into my diet, but selected Guinness Stout because I thought it was the most nutritious. I rediscovered pizza, but went to the best pizza places in New York. Apparently I didn’t understand that cheese was dairy, which was an animal product.

I knew that foods could heal, yet at times the food was still a poison to me. Twice, I succumbed painfully to the toxic effects of ordinary popular substances. One day I went out to a party. I had some beer. After the party I went with a friend to a sushi bar. In the middle of the night, I woke up with an excruciating headache. At the hospital, they could find no cause even though I informed the doctor that I had been drinking the night before. After 18 hours of waiting in pain, a negative CAT scan and a negative spinal tap, they let me go home. My headache seemed to have subsided. The next day I awoke and felt fine until I stood up. Once on my feet, the headache returned, but this time much worse than before. Although I eventually went back to work, the headache persisted, and finally I had to return to the hospital. This time the diagnosis was that I had had an improperly administered spinal tap. The hole was too big and the spinal fluid was leaking out too fast. I had to go home and lie in bed for the next month before returning to work.

The headaches had abated; however, one day, as I got up to put something away, I felt the room spin out of control. I collapsed onto the floor. I couldn’t stop the room from spinning. Another trip to the hospital brought a new diagnosis. This time so much spinal fluid had leaked out that my brain was pressing on the eighth nerve, causing the dizzy spells. The dizzy spells went away in about two months. I had fun with those.

The second poisonous food incident happened after I consumed an entire wedge of Brie by myself, and then went to Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin’s house. The next day I awoke with a case of diarrhea that would last ten days. The doctors advised me to eat toast and Jell-O. Nothing could take the pain away. Ten lost pounds later, I knew I had to do something. I found an alternative doctor who preformed many tests. In those days alternative doctors were regular doctors who administered vitamins as if they were drugs. The tests showed that I had e. Coli, and was allergic to wheat, food coloring, and many other things. It’s a good thing I ignored the doctors about eating toast and Jell-O. I recovered from the e. Coli but continued to have digestive problems. The doctor kept prescribing vitamins, and I kept on being sick. I had to hear the lesson again; food is medicine. I moved to Santa Fe, stopped taking all vitamins, and found some real alternative doctors to work with. I worked with an acupuncturist and a homeopath and adopted a macrobiotic diet.

I was getting closer to using food as medicine. I still didn’t have the whole picture. Macrobiotic food is heavily cooked. Many of the foods are root vegetables, and grains. All of those convert quickly to sugar, and because they are cooked, they have no enzymes. I continued to experience uncomfortable symptoms. My liver was stagnant. I continued to struggle with liver issues until I discovered the salicylate-free diet. On this diet, I avoided most highly nutritious foods. Ironically, I felt much better. I had always been allergic to aspirin, and during my nutrition studies I discovered that many highly nutritious foods contained high levels of salicylates. Just reducing this load made significant improvements in my health. Not long after the salicylate free diet, I discovered raw foods—another irony. Raw foods have high levels of salicylates, however, and because of the presence of enzymes in raw foods, and with NAET (an allergy elimination technique) treatments, I was able to switch over painlessly and have maintained the raw diet to this day. I continue to be symptom free, healthy and vibrant.