I used to think I knew what was important in life.  We all do. 

I used to think all the little things that would irritate me so much were important.  I used to think the 24/7 political news cycle was important. I used to think making as much money in overtime was important.  I used to think complaining about stupid bosses and how they are scared to make decisions for fear of being responsible for a bad decision was important.  I used to think writing as many blog posts to convert to podcasts so I could increase my likes and plays was important.  I used to think eating every dessert I could get my hands on because it made me happy and drinking when I was alone so I didn’t feel lonely was important.  I used to think all of that and more.

Then two of the best and worst things happened to me in a span of a month and a half.  The first was Tito’s Handmade Vodka.  Very smooth and quite delicious.  I hadn’t drunken vodka in years because it rarely agreed with me. 

A few months ago I was hanging out with my brother in law and he gave me some Tito’s mixed with cranberry juice. 

A little vodka just for taste and I tell you it tasted great.  I was very surprised.  So much so that I began raving about it to anyone who would listen and those who had it loved it as well.  Then one night I was alone and wanted to watch a movie.  You can’t watch a movie without popcorn so I made some.  I usually have popcorn with soda or beer. 

I had neither in my refrigerator. 

I did have some fruit juice and a bottle of Tito’s vodka that I recently bought.

The normal ratio for mixing fruit drinks and vodka is 3 to 1.  The reason is obvious.  Vodka is strong and you never want to drink too much because it will get you drunk quick. 

My brother in law knew that and so did I.  For some reason I decided to do the exact opposite.  One drink turned to two, then three and four.  Each consecutive drink had less and less fruit juice and more and more vodka.  By the time I got to the fourth drink something happened.  A whole bag full of microwave popcorn was finished and I could barely get off the couch.  The room was spinning and I was drunk like I haven’t been in many years.  I passed out on the couch and fell asleep.

The next morning I started throwing up.  I don’t remember the last time if ever that happened the day after drinking.  Having a hangover and massive headache, sure. 

Throwing up, most likely a first. 

Along with nausea, I had severe abdominal pains.  So much so that I could barely eat any food and spent the rest of the day lying down. 

The following day was no better and I had to call out of work due to my still incapacitated state. It wasn’t until the fourth day that I began to finally feel better.

Something happened while I was recovering that hit me like a ton of bricks and opened my eyes.  It was a revelation.  I realized that while I thought I enjoyed drinking and did so because I didn’t want to be bored, the real reason why I was drinking was that I didn’t want to be lonely.  The fear of being alone and not having anyone to hang out with made me think drinking alcohol was a valid substitute.  I realized the person I didn’t want to be alone with was myself because I thought if I was alone then for some reason I wasn’t worthy of having people around me. 

When we drink we ease the pain of the inner demons we have inside.

I’m 43 years old and started drinking when I was 13.  For 30 years I’ve had every type of good and bad experience you can have with drinking. 

Most of them I’ve forgotten and are a blur.  By realizing I was drinking to fill my void of loneliness I realized I didn’t need to drink at all.  We’re never alone forever and sometimes solitude does wonders.  That and swearing to my wife that I never want to feel sick for four days again made me give up drinking completely.  I gave away whatever liquor I had remaining in my house and threw out the rest.  The thought of wondering what my life could have been had I not sneaked that first drink all those years ago makes me a little sad but ultimately gives me the motivation to keep my word and have hope for the future.  It’s better to let go of our past mistakes and create positive changes for the present and future.

The second worst and best thing happened a week ago.  I contracted a viral infection.  I don’t know where it came from and how I got it.  I do remember having my shifts changed three days prior and working a lot of overtime. The lack of sleep and long three days had me feeling lethargic.  I began to get the shivers Saturday evening and thought the A.C. was on too high though nobody else was cold.  People were saying I didn’t look well and I said I was just tired and needed some rest. That’s what I thought.

It turns out I had a viral infection.  The next three days I was running constant fevers from 101 to almost 104 degrees.  I could hardly eat and couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time without having to lie down and go to sleep. 

The doctor prescribed antibiotics. 

I was sweating profusely and lost ten pounds in three days.  I threw up like clockwork the same time two nights in a row.  It took four days to have my first bowel movement, which was the same day I finally started to feel like my sickness was lessening.

Most people would not equate a horrible viral infection with being one of the best things that could happen to them.  Here’s why I do.  I suffer from anxiety and mild depression.  Always have since I was a teenager.  The week before I got ill my anxiety was going haywire.  As much as I would try to control it with positive thoughts I was struggling inside. A lot of horrible thoughts were going through my head and I felt very frustrated about work and life.  I had a belief that when I died I wanted to die with a full belly. 

That’s how I justified eating as much crap as I could get my hands on.  Food felt comforting to me and it led to me being overweight.  Everyone said I had been eating horribly and needed to make a change.  I always said it made me happy.  I think the real reason I ate so poorly was that although I wanted to live I didn’t worry too much if I didn’t.

When you have feelings of indifference about your own existence you live a life in limbo.  You don’t care which way it goes and have no motivation to improve yourself.  All that changed when I got sick.  I felt like death was in front of me and was closing in fast.  It sounds dramatic but that’s how I felt.  After three straight days of roller coaster fever swings, I had an aha moment.  For all the times I had said I wanted to die with a full belly and now losing ten pounds in three days from sweating and being unable to eat, I felt like God was sending me a message.  I felt like he was giving me what I was asking for.

When you keep saying I don’t care if I die and at times almost wish for it, you receive an unbelievable clarity when you feel like you are faced with it.  The one thing I kept repeating during my sickness was I don’t want to die.  So much so that it scared me.  A question kept coming to me almost divinely.  “I thought you wanted to die?”  That’s when I realized how much I wanted to live.  Tears of sadness and joy still come to my eyes when I think about those moments.  Sadness for what I almost lost and joy for the gift of life.  Crossroads are a powerful thing.

My fever has since subsided and I’m feeling better overall.  Not 100% yet but not bad either.  The sickness made me take a hard look at the way I was eating, living, and thinking and do a complete 180.  I’m grateful to be alive and know I was behaving in a manner that was anything but.

What's Important, Love Your Life

Since my blog is about politics you may be wondering why I poured my soul into this post.  The reason is we are all alike.  As much as we let politics and many other things consume us with anger, passion, and rage there is more to life that is of greater importance.  The first of course is health.  Sometimes we take it for granted.  That’s until we lose it and become deathly afraid that it may be gone forever.  The second is love, family, and friends. 

They make life all that much better. 

I’m grateful for the people I love and those that love me.  Money is necessary for comfort and enjoying more of what life has to offer. You may have more or less of it than the next person. 

Help each other out when you can. 

Because when we die all of our bank accounts go to zero and all we are left with are the memories we leave behind. 

How we treat each other while we are here speaks more about who we are than any political affiliation or fancy house and car ever will.  What’s important is not material.  What’s important is who.  It’s you and I.  Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian and every shade of ideology in between.  We all have the same hopes and fears and we all shed the same joyous and sad tears. 

As much as politicians and pundits try to divide us by stoking fears, we are more alike than different.  More together than divided.  We are one people, one country, and one voice.  We fight for what we love and love with all our heart.  Who we vote for on Election Day is not as important as what we vote for.  And that is the future.  Whichever way you lien feel confident in your choice.  Respect the next persons opinions and be civil with your discourse. We can agree to disagree and still remain friends.  Rioting over ideology and assaulting someone because they don’t think the way you think is no way to express yourself.  The government will do what its leaders tell them to do. 

Believe it or not, those leaders are us. 

So vote with your conscious and love with your heart.  Whoever ends up winning on the next ‘most important election of our lifetimes’ will not be more important than the times of our life.  The times we loved, the times we laughed.  The times we grieved and the times we cheered.  Celebrate those times as milestones.  When you look back at them you’ll see that none of them revolved around who was elected.  They all revolved around us.  And that’s what’s important.

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