Lindsay-Ann Opitz Testimony

Yes, terrible things happen, but sometimes those terrible things- they save you.'” -Chuck Palahniuk

My life had pretty much been unmanageable from age 16 on, maybe even before. My first addiction was food, or the controlling of it. When I graduated high school I was 5’11 and around 120 pounds. It doesn’t seem ‘all that’ skinny but the reality was I had been living off a daily intake of about 500 calories, weed and bad decisions. I hung out with men almost double my age that were a gateway into worse decisions. This mindset and way of living was the image of health for me. I believed happiness came from mood altering substances and escaping reality. I believed love was simply attachment. Attachment for me, not them; I gave every ounce of my soul to men who put me in horrible situations and treated me like no one. I believed health was strictly appearance; looking how you think everyone wants you to. I made my college decision based on who I knew and what they could get me. The college I chose also had a nursing program; which is what I thought my mom wanted me to be. Speaking of parents, I think it’s important to note that mine were exceptionally stellar; they raised me right with morals and hard work yet addiction still got me. I hope this shakes whatever conception you have about addiction; it doesn’t discriminate. I had no dreams for myself. I simply wanted to do what I wanted.

Do what I wanted is what I did. I went away to college and nearly killed myself drinking the first weekend. My R.A. found me breathing about 5 times a minute, head in the toilet. That trend continued. I blacked out on the regular, always doing something shady. Some mornings, I’d wake up with chunks of vomit in my eye sockets and my hair cemented to my pillow with vomit. I lost control of my eating disorder --- I’d black out and forget I’d eaten, or I’d recklessly eat mass quantities to fill the hole in my soul. I started purging instead of starving myself. This two-year chapter ended when my roommates and I had a keg party on the “dry” campus. I had to let all my “friends” know so they were aware of how cool I was. I needed so much attention I invited EVERYONE, including my friend the security officer (who got commission for busting underage drinking). We, my roommates and I, were sentenced to take a $250 drinking class in order to register for the next semester. I asked what would happen if I transferred? Nothing. I was free to go. I told my parents none of this, just that I wanted to come home and “get my life together”. My mental state at this point was inflated grandiosity that hid deep insecurity and self-hatred. I thought that college lost their most promising student. I was 300 pounds, a mediocre C/D student with still no dreams.

I “got my life together”. I came home and immediately restricted myself to 1,000 calories a day and minimum 3 hours of cardio. I got super “healthy”. I lost the extra weight and then some. I showed off my new figure in all my pictures, shamed people bigger than me and spit “health” advice like an expert. I built myself up by tearing others down. All of this just to mask the bottomless hole of self-hatred and insecurity in my soul. Nothing was ever enough. My drinking was on and off. I’d get myself in a bunch of trouble and decide to quit then be back at it a month later. When I was drinking I wouldn’t eat (because my 1,000 calories would be beer).
I finally found something I really wanted. I had a dream: I wanted to be a firefighter. Firefighters help people and they don’t have to go to college. Despite my hardened exterior, deep inside I truly wanted to make a difference. I started drinking less and eating real food to fuel my body to compete for a firefighter job. The goal of something truly fulfilling helped guide my life in a healthier direction. I got the job! I worked my ass off and stayed focus. I worked to become a respected female in a male dominant career. I didn’t want to be mediocre. Although I obtained what I wanted, I never worked on me. I didn’t look at myself and my mental state so eventually the hole in my soul started to eat my “happiness” again.

That’s the thing about alcoholism --- it’s cunning, baffling, powerful and PATIENT. I never thought I had a problem with drinking so I knew nothing about what would happen. Every time I started drinking again, I picked up RIGHT where I left off. About 2 years into my new career, I saw how much fun the guys had drinking and going out. I was tired of watching from the sidelines, I decided I’d get back in the game. Before long, I blacked out nearly every time I drank. I was always the one doing ridiculous things, on ten levels above every one else. I needed a baby sitter constantly. I thought all of this was hilarious. People, important people, in my life tried to help me; I couldn’t comprehend I had a problem.

In June of 2011, I died. I physically had no heartbeat and was not breathing. I was found in a bathroom of a concert by a stranger. I woke up in a strange hospital with no one. No parents. No friends. No idea where I was. I starting crying and asking “what happened?”, “where am I?” I thought the doctor was a DICK (in hindsight, I was a DICK). “You stopped breathing. You have really great friends”, he said sarcastically, “they left you. No one is here for you. You have a drinking problem.” I cried harder. I indignantly told him he didn’t know me or my life. Because I was self-centered to the core, I called a friend who I know was in the middle of a first date she was really excited for and asked her pick me up. She was expecting something like this to happen --- that’s the kind of friend I was. Thank GOD and all my lucky stars for those friends who chose not to give up on me.

You’d think this was my bottom. I’m a medical professional; I know the physiological implications of DEAD. It wasn’t the end. I wasn’t emotionally and spiritually bankrupt enough yet. I called (you read it right), I CALLED my mom to tell her I died like two days after I died. Can you imagine? So disconnected with love and empathy that I thought it was acceptable to let my mother know via telephone that I killed myself. She was upset (understatement). I stopped drinking to help her feel better. There’s another fact of alcoholism (at least for me); you can’t recover for someone else. You have to want it for you. I white knuckled it maybe five months until I returned to my on-again-off-again drinking, ignoring my mom’s pleas and warnings.

On a particular drunk night at the beach, I met a guy. He hung around me and actually liked me despite my ridiculous antics. We became official. We were together four years. We went through several seasons of my drinking together; him drinking on my level, me not drinking for a bit, me attempting controlled drinking. At the end of those four years, I stopped drinking for a year because my drinking was really interfering with our relationship. Apparently, babysitting your girlfriend puts a damper on your nights out. In that year, really bad things happened; most of them completely out of my control. At the top of the bad things list, my grandmom, who was my best friend, got unexpectedly and suddenly very sick. She was put on hospice and given about a month to live. I took on a lot of the responsibilities of helping my family care for her and my grandfather. She refused to let me drop out of college (which I had JUST returned to) so I was also going to school full time. In the time that she was ill, that guy (this name is Jimmy) and I got engaged. I wanted my grandparents would know I was taken care of. She passed away. Then a mere four days later, the love of her life and my other best friend, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. In four days, I lost two of my favorite humans. You’d think this is the part where I tell you I completely fell apart right? No. There were bouts of tears but type A Lindsay kicked right in. I gave a beautiful eulogy, helped plan arrangements, and maintained my 4.0. I even took an exam the morning before the viewings. I started controlling food again. I went back to work 3 days after. I didn’t stop to breathe and feel any emotion.

Fast-forward three months; it all catches up. I am restless, discontent and feel that I am missing out on something. I break up with Jimmy suddenly and without warning. I tell him he’s the problem and to move out immediately. Once I was alone, I rationalized that HE was the reason I couldn’t drink normally. Once he was gone, I started drinking almost daily. My priorities got skewed. My dream job ---- I would count down the moments until I was “free” from work and could buy a bottle on my way home. Friends and family --- I destroyed as much of my life as I could and anyone else’s who came near. I hurt anyone who cared about me either by action or by them standing as witness to my demise. Nutrition ---- I continued not eating. The gym --- I quit that so I could have more money. I met a new guy who was as destructive as me. I let him take me down to as low as I have ever been. To help me feel better, I decided to treat myself to a Mexican vacation with two girlfriends. On vacation I was either drunk, getting my way to drunk or sad. When the booze would wear off I’d catch a glimpse of how much I hated myself and my life and need to start drinking again. That plane home felt like doom. I knew I needed help. Mind you, I was still blissfully unaware that my issue was drinking and thought I just needed someone to tell me who to date and how to be a real adult. I set up an appointment with a social worker cause I thought that was in their job description. I made a deal with myself that if I wasn’t happy in a month I would kill myself.

In my first appointment I told my life story, leaving out majority of the alcohol stories --- I didn’t want her to think I had a problem even though I knew I didn’t have a problem (Fun fact: people in active addiction are insane). Despite this, after my long involved story she said, “do you think you have a problem with alcohol?” Nope. Next question. She asked me to not drink for one week and try an a meeting of a local 12-step fellowship. I agreed, what else was I going to do? That appointment was a Tuesday. Next week’s appointment was a Wednesday. I only had to not drink ONE week so Wednesday to Wednesday (Refer to above fun fact). I left my first appointment and met an acquaintance at the bar. My plan was to have 2-3 drinks cause that’s what normal people do. I would go to next week’s appointment and tell the social worker to get to work on what was really wrong with me. I woke up in an unfamiliar apartment with a giant plastic turtle shell and no idea how I got there. Hungover and nauseous, I walked to my car and I discovered I had an hour ride home. I vomited in my newfound turtle shell the whole way home. Forty eight hours later, when the hangover was gone enough to attempt outside, I went to a fellowship meeting. I listen to people tell stories of strength and hope. I heard people talk about emotions I though only I knew. I surrendered to the fact that I had no control over my life. I called Jimmy and cried that I thought I had a problem. He came over and held my hand and held me while I cried scared. He never let go and neither did I.

That was one year, 7 months and 20 days ago. Once I got sober everyone shit rainbows and happiness. I woke up like the snap chat filter dancing in butterflies. Nope. I worked and continue to work my ass off. I looked at all my past behavior and the character flaws that guided it. I have righted most of the wrongs I did. I honor those who love me by continuing to live the right way. I start every day with gratitude. I end every night looking at my actions and myself; checking my alignment with the person I want to be. Today, I have dreams; dreams of my own. I know who I am. I allow people to get to know me. I know what I like and what I don’t. I set healthy boundaries to protect the life I love so much. Jimmy and I are a new couple that respects, honors, communicates and loves unconditionally. I have peace today. Peace in my head. Peace in my heart. Peace with my body. I haven’t stepped on a scale in three months --- I don’t know what that number is but I do know it doesn’t run my life or control my happiness anymore. Neither does alcohol. I am in control of my own happiness, actions and reactions. There is not a single day I take what I have for granted.

The gym is SUCH a HUGE part of my recovery from both addiction and my eating disorder. Today, I walk into the gym to honor my body, to strengthen my mind and to surround myself with positive people that push me to do better in fitness and life. A few days after getting sober, I competed in a strongwoman competition. I fell in love with the sport and what my body is capable of. I love lifting and carrying heavy stuff. I happened upon Crossfit Everlasting while in a housing transition. I was just doing a thirty day trial. But I found myself so supported and encouraged, I knew it was home. Every day isn’t good. I still have a lot of struggles with food but I am grateful my gym mindset has shifted. The gym is my safe place. I used to punish myself and my body with cardio I hated. I would walk into the gym head down and not talk to anyone. I internally berated myself with horrible words I’d never speak to another human. My mindset has changed to honoring what my beautiful body can do. I remind myself that it is progress not perfection. The coaches and members of my gym today are FAMILY. I walk in with my head up (most days) and have genuine conversations with people. I need those meaningful relationships.