Breaking My Anonymity

I am a member of a worldwide organization, which has anonymity as one of its central principles. After almost thirty-one years, I’ve decided to break my anonymity.

 

A few days ago, I was scheduled for back-to-back scans, PET and CT; and I’d been anxious because I knew these tests would give me the first big picture of the extent of cancer in my body. There was no way the news would be good. The question was, “How bad would it be?”

 

In a small room a technician named Robby directed me to remove some of my clothes, put on a gown and be seated in a wide recliner that resembled a barco-lounger except that it wasn’t fuzzy and the seat didn’t sag. She injected an unknown substance into my vein and then, after laying two warm blankets across my lap, told me she’d be back in forty minutes. Or so.

 

“Drink this quart of water. It’s not really water, but drink it anyway. No reading. No cell phone.”

 

I closed my eyes and told myself not to panic. Don’t think, Dru. Don’t think.

 

Of course, my thoughts bounced out like old-fashioned popcorn in a hot skillet, too high and wide to follow for more than a moment.  Crazy, twisted, old thoughts mixed with memories and fears and who was that guy I almost slept with in London, the one we nicknamed Weedy Tweedy and did we remember to give the dogs fresh water before we left the house?

 

In the midst of this confusion, I realized that sometimes thinking of everything is the same as thinking of nothing. I relaxed and let those thoughts have their unfettered romp through my head for forty minutes.

 

This brings me back to anonymity and the girl who threw herself on the mercy of Alcoholics Anonymous thirty plus years ago, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

 

Nineteen-eighty-three was a time when there was a heavy stigma attached to alcoholism. Nice folks didn’t talk it about in polite company although the truth was that almost everyone had an embarrassing uncle, a tipsy aunt or an ex-boyfriend who’d never come back from the Sixties. When I enrolled in Sharp Hospital’s CARP program, I’d never heard of The Twelve Steps.

 

Right off, the therapist leading our group of eight or ten started talking about something called the First Step. She made it clear from the start that if I wanted to keep my marriage and family, health and career together, I had to stop drinking and using drugs. According to the First Step, my only hope was to accept that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol.

 

Acceptance was a new concept to me.

 

I don’t know how AA works in other areas but here newcomers are encouraged to write out their First Steps. Once I sat down at the big Xerox 820 we’d taken out a loan to buy a couple of years before, I couldn’t stop writing. I ended up with more than twenty pages full of powerlessness. In fact, once I got started with the idea, I saw that my life’s history had been about my trying to be in charge of people, places and things I couldn’t do a damn thing about. The more I wrote, the more my addictive personality was revealed.

 

Those twenty plus pages were enough to convince me. In time and without resentment or bitterness, I accepted my powerlessness over alcohol and drugs and a lot of other things beside. I changed my behavior and began to live my life a new way.

 

So now, back to my sitting in that capacious recliner with my eyes closed: I didn’t try to silence my mind or control the thoughts whiz-banging around in it. After a while, they began to settle down into a kind of bottom line. It was a light-bulb moment.

 

I am powerless over cancer. Fighting the truth, avoiding the truth, ranting and bemoaning and making myself miserable isn’t going to change the fact that cancer cells are alive and thriving in my body. Accepting that gives me energy for the hard work of living in this new reality.

 

May I be granted the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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16 Responses to “Breaking My Anonymity”

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  1. Jessica North says:

    Bless you dear Dru. It is an honor to share this journey of recovery with you. Trudge on, we do. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval! Damn Cancer and all life threatening Vermin!

  2. Oh honey. Sending you love and hugs.

  3. Elizabeth Katz says:

    Sweet Drusilla:
    Praying daily for you…for you to have the strength and spirit and spunk to fight this dreaded cancer all that you can.
    TLAM,
    Liz Katz
    Tampa Kite Tales

  4. Barrie Summy says:

    Dru, you are an incredibly brave woman. Thank you for sharing with us. xo
    p.s. Love the popcorn metaphor, btw!

  5. Sharon Gilfillan says:

    You so fucking rock.

  6. Aline Ohanesian says:

    Powerful lovely piece by a powerful lovely woman.

  7. Andrea Johnson says:

    Don’t give up! Many have survived, and you can be in their group.

  8. Jackie Gray says:

    Even in this time of awfulness, you still write a compelling story. My eyes are tearing up because I can’t do a thing to stop your pain.

  9. Carey Williams says:

    That was a beautiful post about how you are having nice moments in the mornings, free of the dreaded reality of your situation. Lib and I (Lib bad back, me polymyalgia) both feel crappy in the mornings, we come good later when you run out of petrol. When you were here a couple of years ago, we walked in the Bushland Park, you rushed up to big tree and hugged it. Lib and I are going down Sat morning to hug the tree for you. The tree is you to us.

  10. Dee DeTarsio says:

    Sending you happy, healthy vibes!

  11. Mary says:

    In all of those years that you strived to get me to do AA, I never once thought about your story. I’m sorry for my stubbornness, but that’s who I am. I always took pieces of your advice to heart. Thank you for posting your ‘outing’ story. You know I’m not one to open the floodgates, but they’re flowing now. I love you Dru. Keep fighting.

  12. James Mann says:

    Spending endless Prayers to fight every one of those little bastards!

  13. Rik Crane says:

    Dru,
    You and Art are in my prayers and my thoughts every day. I know you have lots of fans but know I am your number one fan! Words can not express the depth of my sadness for you and your family. Fight on girl, fight on.

  14. Dru,

    Beautiful, brilliant prose. Is it the disease that brings us the clarity when we write about it or is it spending our long careers (all the strange hours) writing so that when disease finally arrives, with its unimpeachable declarative, we meet it with such elegantly clear prose? I think it’s the latter turn in your case. Know I’ll be reading you throughout.

    Tom

  15. Patsy C. says:

    You have always been someone I’ve looked up to & still do. Bless you, you are in my prayers, Patsy Crayton

  16. Roger Browne says:

    Thinking of you Dru.

    I so much enjoyed your company and trust I will again.

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