Worth Living Ambassador Dale Vernor
Dale is a writer and researcher in the field of mental health and substance abuse. After a battle with addiction, Dale was able to earn his Bachelor’s degree and become the first in his family to earn a degree. Dale was able to find a job doing what he loves, and enjoys writing about substance abuse and mental health to help lift the stigma associated with both of them. You can find more of his work on Twitter.
My Life Worth Living
Lots of mornings I still wake up amazed to feel so full of light and hope. I admit this amazement is sometimes followed by familiar darkness and anxiety. Thankfully, I am able to master my anxiety myself and not be drowned by how I feel.
Anxiety is not something new to me. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) some ten years ago, just a few months shy of my 20th birthday. This is apparently early since the average onset of GAD is at 31 years old.
Then again, my life was a pressure cooker and I believed I was destined for that anxiety. I was one of a handful of pre-med students in an Ivy-league university. Not only were we required to have high grades, and please professors, we also had to have a social life.
So I embraced my fears and compensated by taking more pills than my doctor prescribed, by upping the dosage of my meds on my own, and by combining my prescription with sleeping pills or any other pills I could lay my hands on. I told myself I was merely curbing my anxiety so I could function properly.
It was all a lie. Even then, I knew I was becoming dependent on the drugs I took. I was a very bright pre-medical student, after all. I realized early on that aside from having GAD, I was becoming a drug addict.
I’m only fortunate that during one incident when I had again taken one pill too many and overslept, my lab partner had the audacity to rummage in my bag. She found my phone and called my older sister, whom she knew was a doctor.
My parents had died when I was young and my two much older sisters mothered me ever since. When they found out what happened, my sisters descended on me and promptly enrolled me in a drug treatment facility.
This was, of course, the height of embarrassment for me and I really hated them at that time. I took longer than most to allow them to visit me.
In retrospect, I proved that they really did think of themselves as my parents. My sisters never faltered in their affection towards me even in those dark times. When I finally got over myself and the three of us hugged for the first time after almost a year, I could literally feel their internal celebration. The whole time they were thanking me over and over again because I came out of the ordeal as healthy as I did. They thanked me!
By then, I had already realized that I was blessed to have my sisters. Plus I was lucky to be alive at a time when there were already many forward-thinking rehabilitation centers. The one that my sisters sent me to had a design to treat my dual diagnosis, or a co- morbid condition, as it was called then.
My rehab program was designed to treat my General Anxiety Disorder simultaneously with my substance addiction and not one after the other. The facility recognized early on that this would be the most effective way.
After I recovered, I didn’t go back to that Ivy- league school to finish my medical degree. However, I still became a doctor. I figured I owed it to the universe who had conspired to make me feel that my life was worth living. I don’t like to talk about that part of my past because the few times I do, they say I made it sound so easy. It really wasn’t. I lost many opportunities and I had to work harder at putting my life back in order.
But I strive to be an inspiration in many other ways. And most days, I actually think I’m able to make a small positive difference.