One of my goals, and a huge part of my recovery, is to become 100% accountable to myself, and to stop running from the things I’m afraid of.
Three and a half months ago, my doctor ordered a slew of blood tests for me. This was nothing new. My pattern was to show up for my annual physical like any responsible adult, go through the motions by chatting with the doctor about how I’m fine, nothing unusual’s happening with me, everything’s fine. Each year the doctor would order labs, and every year I’d blow them off and refuse to get them done.
I was too scared.
I lived in a constant state of fear, utterly convinced that something was horribly wrong with me, that I was so unhealthy I must be just this side of death. To some this probably sounds utterly ridiculous – and it was – but honestly, it’s what I believed.
It had been five years since my last set of labs, even though my doctor had ordered the tests every single year since then like clockwork. Five years ago my labs showed elevated liver enzymes, and that was it for me. I wasn’t willing to face the issue and quit drinking, so I just stopped showing up for the labs instead.
Except that it wasn’t.
Finally, I decided it was time to face this. Whatever it is, I need to know. Sober me is not the same person as drunk me, after all. Responsible people get their annual blood work done, and I am now responsible. Dammit.
So I got the tests done. The lady who took the blood told me to expect results “in the next day or so.”
I tried to wait patiently, I really did. I had trouble sleeping that night, absolutely convinced I’d soon be getting a call from the doctor to tell me how sick I am. That the years of abuse I did to my body caused damage that cannot be fixed. I was especially convinced that a decade of alcohol abuse had made my liver shrivel up and die. I simply could not fathom any other outcome, given what I’d subjected my body to, over such a long period of time. My last round of blood tests weren’t exactly stellar, so I figured I was well into cirrhosis-of-the-liver territory by this point.
I’m sober now, yes, but the time I spent on the bottle still outweighs the time I’ve spent off of it.
I kept thinking about the last time I had a drink. How sick I’d been, coming off a several day binge. My body ached – my kidneys ached – and so did my liver. My ankles were swollen to the size of softballs, and I was so bloated my clothes didn’t seem to fit. My head was pounding, and I was shaking. Surely I had been deathly ill. I still remember it so clearly.
Unable to wait any longer, I called the doctor mere hours after the lab had taken my blood (way sooner than within “the next day or so” as I’d been quoted). I asked them to give me the results of the liver function test, even if the others weren’t back yet. They refused, and said they’d give me a call when all the results were in.
This morning (which was only a day later, even though it felt like several lifetimes) I got the call from the doctor’s office.
All your labs are in, and everything looks good.
Liver enzymes? Normal. White blood count? Normal. Platelets and thyroid? Normal and Normal. Even my cholesterol is fine.
The only thing slightly off is my glucose, and even that was “just on the high side of normal,” to quote the doctor.
After spending several minutes working to convince me that he was not reading me the wrong patient’s results, the doctor advised me to watch my sugar and carb intake, and continue with the cardio five days a week.
I’m healthy. It honestly took several minutes for that to sink in. I did not kill myself with my bad habits after all.
I know I can use this experience in other areas of my life. Instead of hiding from that which scares me, letting things morph into these horrible scenarios that only I can come up with, I need to stand up and face it.
Most of the time, it’s not as bad as we think.
Sometimes, it isn’t bad at all.