“I don’t think about it much, but I’m damn lucky to be alive”
This is Xella describing losing part of her large intestine.
All through my freshman and Sophomore years of college. I’d wake up some nights, sometimes early in the morning or at like 4, 3 and just be in agonizing, like rolling in place… in pain. Trying to stretch out on the floor, curl up on myself, push on my belly, try and throw it up, but there was just a bit of bile, like I knew something was wrong.
And a short list of things I was doing to myself, besides drinking myself to sleep every night, abusing amphetamines, cocaine, Adderall, Ritalin. There was very little actual eating going on, and when I did eat it was to excess, then I would vomit it up because that was the fun part of it. And that was about three times a day at this point, I was pretty bad, and hiding it very well, or so I thought, but actually very poorly. But that was part of the game, I was happy, things were wrong, I was causing them to be wrong. I didn’t really want to be alive, but I didn’t want to die so I just sort of shuffled off to stage left, because of the things I was doing to myself, all the better.
And in the summer of 2003, which is when this took place, I was very good the whole summer, for like two months. And then when I went on vacation, it just seemed the thing to do, there were restaurants everywhere, we lived on a diving boat, there was tons of eating, and I figured I could always go back and be better again.
I stepped off a curb and got a walking cramp, so I thought. This cramp grew and grew and then eventually plateaued, at this dull aching pain, right above my right hip bone. But I knew something was wrong. Pains like this don’t last for more than 12 hours, and if they do you got issues.
Dinner that night I ate little bit, not that much, threw it up as usual when we got back to the hotel room, and was just laying there in agony, and my mom comes over and pushes on my stomach, I gave my little cry and hiss of pain, and she determines that it is appendicitis. The next day we have tickets to fly to new zealand, and they ask me if I can hold it until then, and I say “yes I’ll be fine.” All during that flight, I don’t know if it was the pressure, but it was worse, so I was doubled over on myself and just walking like a little old lady. I couldn’t pick anything up, every jostle, every step, putting it down, hurt.
We go to the hospital and wait there for like 7 hours, because I’m not an emergency case and by this time I’m handling the pain, I think I’m a champion, it is no big deal. And I turn morphine because I think I can handle it still, but just by lying still, I don’t what it was but it was getting worse. Accepted the morphine and everything after that was gone.
When I woke up, it was dark I had no idea where I was. Coming back to yourself and finding it a frightening, terrifying, painful place. When I woke up there was a doctor and my mom. The doctor was telling me that they’d gone in and everything was fine now, but that they went to get my appendix and it was not ruptured or injured whatsoever. So, they cut me open from belly button to pelvic bone, I guess, and just went in and found like a grapefruit size benign tumor of just stuff that had been leaking out inside of me and pushing up against my organs. Got all that out and took out a foot of my intestine as well because it had ruptured in three places.
I really wasn’t phased. It was just a “Oh, that happened,” and continued bingeing and purging from having my fucking large intestine taken out because of bingeing and purging, because of bulimia. You think that doesn’t make sense, that that would be the wake up call for somebody, but it wasn’t the wake up call for me, I didn’t miss my intestine at all. And I don’t still, actually.
But, two months ago when I had that kidney stone and I was in pain again and I realized “You know what? I’m going to the fucking hospital, I don’t care how much it costs, I don’t care what it takes, something is wrong, I am terrified, I don’t want to die.” It never used to occur to me that if I’m terrified that I’m going to die, it means that I don’t want to die. You’d think that seems pretty simple, but my whole like I had built up as I don’t want to live past the age of 28.
And when I returned from the hospital, I binged and purged that night and I didn’t fucking enjoy it. For the next two weeks it just didn’t occur to me, it was like a weight had been lifted. I was sitting thinking, like, “I’m done… I’m done.”
You can’t tell anybody to do anything, they have to finally come to that point where they realize it’s the option and they make a choice and they stick with it. So, addiction is a choice, to a degree. You can decide when you’ve had enough. Or when enough is enough. Because some day it is, you just have to listen yourself. And that usually takes awhile, because alcohol has been four years, this has only been a couple of months, but I’ve been doing it for twice as long, you know, ten years on this. And that’s why I needed an epaulet, because there is no more war, and I won.
The track is End of Man by Justin Bianco from his album Blackbird. Music is courtesy of MagnaTune.
Losing Something by Jody Stephens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.