As of yesterday, I've gone an entire year without drinking alcohol.
It was something I needed to do, for myself, and it wasn't easy. It's been a very long, hard year, both working through the things in my past that led me to drink, as well as facing this illness and other woes, without being able to find solace in a bottle.
I'm choosing to mention this accomplishment here, because it directly ties into my journey with Aspergillus. I'm not going to go much into detail about my drinking days, because that's not relevant, but I will say that there are huge parallels between my recovery from alcohol and my being able to cope with my current health issues.
In recovery, I've been doing the AA 12 Step route, I've been going to therapy, and I have put everything I have in the hands of something outside of myself. In AA, we call this our Higher Power, and each person formulates their own definition of what this means to them. For me, it wasn't the "God" I'd grown up being told I should believe in, but rather, an entity outside of myself embodied by love.
Throughout this illness I have employed the coping skills I've learned during my recovery and I don't believe I would have been able to deal with any of the things it's thrown my way had I not been in AA and therapy, or, most importantly, if I hadn't placed my entire life in the hands of my "God."
I've worked the 12 steps around food and resisting cravings and temptations, just as I did with my addictions: I have recognized, categorized and let go of my resentments for this illness. I have accepted that there are many things that are out of my control related to my health and my life. I have learned to express my gratitudes rather than my gripes. (This does in no way mean I don't have bad days, or that my sarcasm has waned even a little bit, but for the most part, my tune is far cheerier these days than ever before.)
Multiple people have asked me how I stay so strong; how I seem to be happier now than the surly, cynical person I was before; and how I am coping with all the shitty things occurring in my life. I have two responses to that: "Just keep swimming" and "Bitching won't solve my problems." Basically, if I put those phrases into AA rhetoric, I "take it one day at a time"(or sometimes one hour, one minute, one second, one breath...) and I "accept the things I cannot change." There, that's my secret.
I don't know what's going to happen, so there's no point getting bent out of shape worrying about what might or could occur. I just put one foot in front of the other, I tackle head on everything that's put in my path, and I keep going. I trust that something bigger than me has this all under control and everything will work out the way it's supposed to. Maybe that plan won't be what I would have picked and maybe my path won't lead me to where I'd hoped, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to enjoy myself along the way.
I must also say that had I not stopped drinking when I did, had I not had four months sober when I first got sick, or six months when I was diagnosed, I would have literally drank myself to death. My body just would not have been able to handle the yeast and sugar and my heart and kidneys would have failed me. I think that the fact that I got sober when I did was an act of God.
It may sound silly, but this illness has been somewhat of a blessing to me. It has allowed me to grow in my humility, grace and appreciation for what's truly important. It has shown me how loved I am and how amazing the people in my life are. It has reminded me that life is a daring adventure and to seize every single opportunity I'm granted, because you never, ever know when it will all be taken away.
"May you live all the days of your life." -Jonathan Swift