A New Beginning

It’s been several months since you last heard from me.  I had finally made it to Spokane Washington and was thrilled to be in a city with so many quilt shops.  As I weaved my way through this city, I kept getting these strange leg cramps and a feeling of instability in my legs.  Being one who doesn’t like going to doctors or taking meds for anything, I chose to ignore the pain and instability and figured my exercise would make it go away. 

After visiting every quilt store, every novelty store, and I think every restaurant in Spokane, I decided it was time to move on.  The Pacific Ocean was calling out to me so I was back on the road to Sprague and then Ritzville Washington.  As I cycled down the highway, those sharp pains in my knee continued as if someone had stuck me with a knife.  I figured it was a Charlie horse and rode on although there were days when I found I couldn’t go any farther than 2 miles.  

What should have taken me 8-10 days to ride ended up taking me almost a month.  When I got into Sprague I ended up staying at a hotel for a week trying to get my knees to quit hurting.  I’d do stretches, iced them, and actually rode around town a bit hoping to keep them from stiffening up.  It seemed to be helping some so back on my bike I got and headed towards Ritzville. 

Ritzville was only 25 miles away so I figured 2 days and I’d be there.  A week later I limped my way into town.  I found a little neighborhood diner where I ended up flopping into the booth.  The waitress asked if she could get me anything to drink.  “Water,” I said.  She returned with a large glass of iced water.  As I sucked it down she stood there looking at me.  I was a mess.  She finally asked if everything was okay.  I explained who I was, what I was doing, and that my knees were killing me.  She told me that it sounded like I had torn something in my knee.  My initial thought was “What makes you think you know anything about knees?  You’re a waitress for gosh sakes.”  But instead I asked why she would say that.  She said she had done a cross-country trip a few years ago and one of her team members had torn his ACL on the trip.  He was riding one day without pain, and the next day he could barely walk.  She then told me where their local hospital was, took my order and went about her business. 

After a delicious meal, I rode over to the hospital’s ER.  After a 2 hour wait I was finally seen by the doctor.  The news was not good.  I hadn’t torn my ACL, but I had what looked like a bad case of knee tendon bursitis.  I was ordered to rest and given anti-inflammatories.  I was to be seen again in a week to see if there was any improvement.  A week showed slight improvement, but the doctor ordered me to continue with my rest and inactivity for 3 more weeks.  The good news about this downtime was I was able to start using some of that fabric that I had just purchased in Spokane.  This downtime was just what I needed and I’m forever grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped me out along this journey.  It truly seems that there’s still a lot of people who care for others in a day and age where it seems we are only concerned about money and power. 

And in my real world some of this story is slightly true.  I recently found myself hobbling worse than my 82 year old mother.  Not knowing if I had actually torn something, I quit riding my bike until I was able to see a doctor.  Of course it took me 2 ½ months to make that appointment.  Thankfully I only have arthritic knees with bone spurs.  The bike riding I was doing is actually good for them so back on my bike I go.  It feels like I’m starting this trip all over again for I find myself having new found energy with some hope that this riding will again give me back my legs so that I don’t feel like I’m going to fall with every step I take. 

I know that God made us in His image and likeness.  He doesn’t want us to abuse our bodies the way so many of us do.  This latest health issue was my wake-up call that tells me to get off the couch, put down those chips, and get some good overall exercise.  I don’t want to end up like my mother who uses a walker and is so tottery that she can’t leave the house without supervision and she’s tethered to one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons.  I am feeling now like I felt back in the mid 80’s regarding not wanting to become like my parents.  

I come from a family of heavy drinkers.  It was nothing for any of us to crack open a beer at 9:00 in the morning and sometimes earlier I’m now ashamed to say.  Drinking came first in our lives.  If we were going on a vacation, the beer was the first thing we’d pack.  If we went to visit family who lived a mere 2 hours away, we’d have a 6 pack drank before we got to their house.  Imagine all the drinking and driving that went on back then.  It scares me to think about it now, but it scared me back then too.  Not because I was afraid of getting picked up for DUI, but because I had times where I’d remember getting into the car at my folk’s house and the next thing I’d consciously remember was getting out of the car at my house.  We are talking driving unconsciously for 8-10 blocks.  I’d sober up enough to circle the car to make sure I hadn’t hit anything.  My guardian angel must really love me because I kept him busy back then.  

By my late 20’s I started seeing just how bad my parent’s drinking had gotten and knew that I was drinking way more at my age than they had when they had been my age.  My mother always looked bedraggled and unkempt and my father was wasting away because all he did was drink, he never ate.  I finally told myself that if I didn’t quit drinking I would end up like them or worse, I’d end up in jail for killing someone because I was driving drunk. 

For probably a year every day I’d wake up and say “Today is the day that I quit drinking.”  I’d do great all day long simply because I was at work, but then I’d come home and the first thing I’d do was to look in the fridge for a beer.  So much will power I had.  Yeah, right!  But the notion of quitting remained with me. 

In 1986 I moved from my home town to Denver to work for my cousin’s company.  Her boyfriend and I would share the beer buying expenses since we were about the only ones in the house who drank beer.  It got to a point, though, where I was doing more of the buying.  I guess her boyfriend figured that was one way of getting some extra rent money out of me.  Well, one snowy Sunday my cousin and her boyfriend decided to go workout at a local gym.  They asked me to go along, but I said I preferred to stay at home and work on crafts.  I decided to have some beers.  I probably had 4 while the 2 of them were at the gym.  When they returned, the boyfriend made a big production over how many beers I had drank.  I chose to ignore him.  Then he started drinking his share.  

Later in the evening I decided to have one more beer.  I went to the refrigerator and noticed that there were 2 beers left.  I thought to myself “Thank God there are 2 beers left.  I’ll have one and that leaves one for him.”  When he came back upstairs for that final beer he opened the refrigerator and said “One beer left.  Well, were you being nice or did you finally decide you were a drunk.”  I said nothing, but I thought long and hard about what he said.  He called me a drunk.  He didn’t say “did you decide you were drunk” he said I was a drunk.  It bothered me because I never saw myself as being a drunk.  To me a drunk was one of those homeless people who panhandle for a little whiskey money.  I thought “I’m not one of them.”  Then I thought “Do others see me that way?  Is this how Mom and Dad got as bad as they are?”  I didn’t like the image in my head and the only way I knew how to change that image was to truly quit drinking.  So on February 22, 1987 I had taken my last drink. 

The boyfriend finally asked me after a month why I wasn’t buying any beer.  I told him I had quit.  He laughed and said “I bet my entire wealth that you’ll never make it to 2 months.”  I should have taken him up on that bet because I’ve been sober ever since.  I can’t imagine my life anymore being controlled by drinking.  And I’m forever grateful to my cousin’s ex-boyfriend for saying that one letter word that gave me the will power to quit drinking.  One little word changed my life – “a”.  Through the grace of God, He placed that one little word in that sentence that my cousin’s boyfriend said and I was given a new beginning on life.  I had broken that cycle of drinking that my parents had unconsciously shown me was the way to live. 

I think God is giving me another new beginning now.  I know I need to take advantage of this gift that God has disguised as arthritic knees.  I know at some point in the future these knees will have to be replaced, but if I can be in a lot better shape and weigh a lot less that should make my recovery time a lot easier.  And I know by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program with this new beginning I’ve been given, I will NOT end up like my mother needing that walker by the time I’m 82.  So take advantage of those gifts that God gives us, the gifts of new beginnings.  Through God, all things are possible. 

May God bless you all and let’s keep going the distance.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Fr Michael O'Donnell said,

    This IS powerful testimony … I LOVE THIS BLOG!

    Thanks, Betsy, for the inspiration to keep going the distance.

    Fr. Michael


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