Ok, so I celebrated 14 years. I moved into my very own little townhouse. I was driving to work one day shortly thereafter in my vintage Subaru, holding the driver's side door shut, and admiring the steam billowing from under the hood. I thought - that's it! I am buying a new car! And I did! I purchased myself a brand new 1999 white Volkswagen Jetta, and oh, how I loved that car.
Since I had a new car, I decided to take the road trip I had wanted to take for years. I drove (by myself) from Denver to Youngstown, Ohio to see my old childhood friends, and then on to Pittsburgh to see my parents' graves. I also decided to stop in Akron to go to 855 Ardmore Ave.
I didn't really have a huge desire to go there because I think Bill and Dr. Bob are constantly spinning in their graves with the way we have idolized them. But since I was driving right through Akron, I thought I might as well go there. I sheepishly asked my non-alcoholic childhood friend if she would mind - since we were traveling together on this leg. She was happy to go. As we walked up the stairs to that house, I got goose bumps all over. When we walked in the door and a couple of old geezers seated in the living room said "Welcome Home," I cried. I turned to my friend, embarrassed, and was amazed to see that she was crying too! She found it incredibly moving as well. To think of all that transpired in that house was pretty inspiring! I am glad the house is preserved, but I do wish we would stop idolizing those two fully human drunks.... but I digress...
By this time, I had decided to go to school part time instead of full time, so I was watching my original classmates get ready to graduate, while I had another year to go. I still think it was a good decision. I still enjoyed school, I wasn't just "getting through" it or "enduring" it, I was actually enjoying it and putting a lot of effort into my work.
Also by this time my back was just completely toast. I was in pain all of the time. I finally started taking vicodin - just so I could get through my days and nights. I took less than prescribed, and talked with my sponsor constantly about it. I asked myself these questions every single time I opened the bottle to take out another pill - 1. Am I in pain? 2. Is the pain why I am taking this pill? 3. Am I taking the pill as prescribed? If I could answer those questions, I took the pill and tried to have faith that God would take care of me through this period.
I tried acupuncture which helped a little. The acupuncturist (who was also an anesthesiologist) advised me not to have surgery unless I lost the use of my arms. I agreed. So, one day I was riding my bike home from work and both of my arms went numb, it was a scary experience to get home that way. All the way from the shoulder to my fingertips. That was when I decided to have the surgery my physician had recommended.
On June 30, 1999, I checked into the hospital for an anterior discectomy and fusion of C4-6 - with bone grafts and titanium rods. That was a major ordeal. But a week later, my prescription for vicodin ran out and miracle of miracles, I did not refill it. I stopped taking pain meds, and just like the studies said, since I took the medication as indicated for pain, I was not addicted. What a relief that was.
I had to wear a huge neck brace for 7 weeks and that was definitely the worst part of the surgery.
On my 15th birthday, I was wearing this neck brace - along with a pretty dress. I have a picture of myself outside of the meeting that night - with my friend who had moved to San Francisco. He was in town for the meeting. It was a wonderful night.
Among other things, here is what I wrote in my birthday journal:
"It was a very beautiful night but I just want to cry. 15 years is so long. I am so grateful. So blessed. It is such a wonderful gift. Thank you God."