This summer a coworker of mine lost her arm in a boating accident. Several people that I work with rented a boat one Saturday, and they planned to attend a large boating event at a local lake. Many of the boaters had been up most of the night before, drinking and partying. Most of them had been drinking for hours when the accident happened, and the girl who lost her arm was ‘blackout drunk,’ according to several others on board.
The victim had to pee, and the only sober person on board, the driver of the boat, told her to wait until he tied the boat up. Drunk, and unable to hold her pee any longer, she jumped into the water. When the driver of the boat pulled around to properly tie up, she thought they were leaving her and she swam towards the boat. The driver tried to cut the engine, but being an inexperienced boater, he accidentally put the boat in reverse. It sucked the drunken swimmer under, chopping her body up badly.
The lake water was incredibly prone to infection. She lost her arm, and was lucky to save her legs and other arm. She was lucky to be alive. She spent six weeks in the hospital, and her life is forever changed. She can no longer wait tables to provide her income, and she has an incredibly huge medical bill. Everyday things are difficult with one arm, simple things like texting or opening a soda bottle.
I feel incredibly sorry for her, and it makes me sad to see such stupid mistakes causing such tragedy. One drunken mistake can change your life forever, in an instant. Sometimes I think back to all the things that could have happened, all the dangerous situations I put myself in, and I am so lucky that I am alive, and healthy today.
That is one of the things recovery has given me. Recovery has given me the ability to look back, seeing so many things in a new light. For so long, I put myself in one dangerous situation after another, with no regards to even my own safety. I had no regard for my own life, much less for anyone else’s. And it was always someone else fault. There was always an excuse as to why I was not writing, or why I was still dancing, or why I was going to put getting clean off for just another week. When we are completely immersed in our illness, we are unable to see the clarity from the mire. It has taken a lot of digging, looking deeper and deeper into my soul to be able to heal and look back, to see the picture with clarity, from a healthier place.
The girl who lost her arm just appeared on the local news. She talked about how much pain she is still in, and she spoke of having to give herself a pep talk each day that she looks in the mirror. She also talked about how she wants to become an advocate for boating safety. But, she is also suing the boat’s driver, the boat’s owner, and even the boat’s manufacturer a million dollars to cover her medical bills. She did not have insurance, and she is now in serious debt.
But, I find it disgusting that she is suing all these people. From the news story, articles, and legal documents, it seems evident that this young lady does not take any responsibility for her role in the accident. She was drunk, and I think makes her more responsible for the accident than the sober driver, the boat’s owner, or the boat’s manufacturer.
There is a point in our lives when accountability becomes vital to our best existence. With me, I was obviously headed for disaster, living as an IV drug user, working in a strip club. I was obviously in the wrong, and I was obviously accountable. But, it was not until I was able to admit that, see it for what it really was, evaluating all the pieces of the good, bad, and the ugly, that I could ever attempt to heal from all of it.
Although only a few of my wounds from my battle with addiction were actually skin deep, and I will never know what it is like to lose a limb in an accident, I do know what it is like to not be healthy. I truly believe that physical health, mental health, and spiritual health are all tied together. Losing an arm is obviously such a physical ailment, but you cannot ever truly heal from the trauma if you are not in the right place spiritually.
There comes a point when taking accountability for your own actions becomes the only thing that will truly save you. When you are down at the very bottom of that hole, looking up from the very bottom, where you can hardly see the light, when you have nothing left to do but surrender, then you can finally look up and take accountability for your own fault in the trauma. Until you do just that, you will never really heal.
I think for addicts it takes a lot less time for us to get to the bottom of that hole, looking up without any choice other than to surrender. Most of the population who does not have some kind of substance abuse issue near to their heart in one way or another, never even have to dig that deeply into their souls to survive. So many people skate around their own issues and traumas, never really healing and carrying it all around for the rest of their lives. Addicts hit their bottom much sooner, and with the inevitable pounding sound of a platting Ker plunk, as we dive off headfirst.
But, we all eventually dive in headfirst if we do not take accountability for our own actions. Everything happens for a reason, and that reason is not to win a bunch of money. Tragedies provide us with a chance to build on our character, and those of us who can survive and adapt through tragedy may truly become whole again.
And those who use their tragedies for personal gain are really only harming themselves in the long run. They will never truly heal until they become accountable for their own role in the situation.
Nothing is completely random. The sooner this young lady can take accountability for own fault in this tragic situation, the closer she will be to being without pain each day. For me, some days are more painful than others. Even now, after so many years clean, some days are still just harder than others as those thoughts ride high on the wave of invasion. And I realize this girl is in physical pain, but unless you have been through withdrawal, you cannot argue it is not painful. It is the most painful thing I have ever experienced. More painful than childbirth. And ongoing. Sometimes, you are sick every day. Sickness of the body, the mind, and the soul. They are all related. Even when the problem is loss of limb.
As an addict in recovery, I know how hard it can be to accept responsibility for your actions. Becoming accountable for your actions, and especially your mistakes is a humbling experience. And it is also something that is necessary for recovery, any kind of recovery. Without accountability for our actions, we cannot even begin to recover.