I spent some time exploring myself at this point and trying some new things. My sponsor had some medical issues and got on pain killers. I had to watch his slow downfall back into addiction, so now I felt like I was on my own in this thing a bit. The one person who knew everything about me was not in the picture anymore to help me. I was still hanging out with his sponsor on the regular, but I started hanging out with people from work instead of just people in recovery. I even dated a couple people from work to try something different.
I was working at a movie theater cleaning out the theaters between shows and running the box office and candy counter. It was minimum wage and I didn’t care much for it, but I had to work. It had its perks though. We would “preview” the movies that came in the night before release to make sure they worked right after the projectionist spliced the film with previews and advertisements.
One night we were in the parking lot after a movie. One of the guys got in his car to leave and started doing donuts in the parking lot. I was driving my parent’s Nissan 300Z at this point, and my father had just put new tires on the car. I had the bright idea to do some donuts too and got in the car. I was excited, this was going to be fun. No sooner had I started than things went south. The new tires had too much grip, and instead of spinning, I drifted. I drifted right into a planter, breaking the left wheel off the axle. I tried to act cool, but I was freaking out. Driving home I had to get out of the car and move the wheel in the direction I wanted to turn. Luckily we were right outside my neighborhood so it didn’t take too long. I managed to pull halfway into the driveway before the steering column locked up and I was stuck.
Waking my dad up at the wee hours of the night to tell him I had wrecked his car was not fun. I was ashamed of myself and I should have been. They were helping me with a place to stay, a car to drive, paying for me to go back to community college, etc… But I hadn’t changed all that much from when I was a teenager. My dad had to get rid of the car since they had just taken off collision insurance as well. I had been talking with my brother in California a bit at this point, and even he was pissed at me. He told me to stop being such a sponge. It pissed me off, but he was right.
Around this time, I started dating one of the girls from the theater. It was another in a long line of convenience relationships. I like having sex, and there was no distinction for me between the body chemistry of lust and desire versus actual love. I just fell in and out of love too easy. I decided I needed to get out of my parent’s house because I was just pissing them off at this point. My girlfriend had her own place and a car, so it worked out for me to just go stay with her.
I changed jobs a few times, working at various restaurants and doing deliveries when I could use her car. Mostly I took the bus though. I was steady going to school and completing my work though. I took my education serious for the most part this time around. Eventually I qualified for a part-time position at the community college working in their computer labs as part of my program. I worked half the hours I did in the restaurant and made about the same if not more money. I loved the work, computers and helping other people. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment and purpose, and I got paid decent for the first time in my life. My managers were all great as well. I seemed to get placed under the mother hens in each area I worked, so they watched out for me because I was a good worker and they liked me in general.
Things took a major turn at this point. I had a pain in my throat that was excruciating. I had the pain before and a swelling in my throat. All the doctors before had said it was just a lymph node and would prescribe antibiotics. It would go away after a bit so I thought nothing of it. I had no insurance now so I just dealt with the pain for a time. Somebody suggested I get into the local clinic with a sliding scale so I went there. It took months just to get an appointment, and it ended up being the same old story. Here are some pills, go away. But the pain continued and the lump solidified.
I fought with this clinic for months trying to get them to do something. Finally one doctor said he would, but then he didn’t return my calls for weeks. Someone at the office finally told me he had graduated and moved on to his own practice. Everyone there was student doctors just putting in their time. I explained things to the next doctor who was surprisingly helpful, and she immediately scheduled me for surgery to remove the lymph node. When I arrived for surgery, her supervising doctor was there. He asked if anyone had run any kind of tests to see what was wrong before we went in scalpels flying. I said no, and he suggested that they admit me so they could get the tests done faster and with less red tape.
A CT scan confirmed I had a lump, but it was in my salivary gland. They did a needle biopsy, which resulted benign. So we scheduled the surgery to remove the salivary gland, not the lymph node. When it was all said and done, they had removed the salivary gland containing a tumor that was only a few millimeters in size and appeared to be encapsulated. All good news so far. However, when they ran the biopsy on the tumor at the lab, it was cancerous. I had Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Needless to say I became an expert on the disease immediately and read everything I could. There is no known cause and no known cure, but at least it’s slow. So if it ever comes back, it will likely be long from now.
This was one of the hardest times of my life. My girlfriend and I split because it wasn’t working out so I moved back into my parents. I was back on the bus for 6 hours a day to work 4 hours at the community college. I had radiation therapy coming up to ensure they got all the cancer, so I was worried about getting to and from the hospital.
I was surprisingly okay with everything though. I had a new sponsor and was in a whole new place spiritually speaking. Little synchronicities started happening as well and I could see the god or the universe working in my life more clearly. My boss wanted to get rid of an old Geo Tracker her son didn’t want for $800. So my father helped me get the car. Things like this had much more meaning to me now. I had a deeper appreciation for my family and everyone in my life at this point.
I’d like to say I took my sponsor’s advice and stayed away from relationships for a year because I wanted to. Truth is I was going through radiation, I lost half my teeth in preparation due to lack of dental insurance and a 12 pack of Pepsi a day habit. I did start taking car of myself though. I quit smoking though, moved to diet drinks and even cut that back significantly. I started exercising 3-4 times a week at the YMCA. I was writing my own music with a computer studio I had built. I was writing poetry again and really digging down into myself and what I wanted from life. I felt good about myself, but I was lonely and didn’t see the point of a good life with nobody to share it with. I never stopped trying to hook up with somebody, but nobody was really interested with a cancer patient missing half his teeth. I had a wicked burn on my neck and chin from the radiation as well.
Good news is I recovered, and I started to put my life together. I started truly making amends to everyone I had harmed, especially my parents. I was finding myself spiritually and gaining some confidence that I could actually face this world. I had a new passion for life, knowing that I had almost lost it to cancer. I started doing things like sky diving and rock climbing. I had a lot of time and energy, but no money or ability so I could only do so much.
To be continued…