With the recent beautiful weather we have been having in San Francisco I have been thinking a lot about my legs.
If my legs could talk they would tell a story about how much they have suffered during my periods of active addiction and benefited equally as much, if not more, from my recovery, both physically as well as from drugs and alcohol. Since they can’t speak, I’ll relay their thoughts for you.
For a period of time which lasted longer than would have been medically prudent during the mid to late-90s when my drug use and sexual activity were at their peak, I would only agree to have sex with someone if he was into the leather scene; though I do think a leather jockstrap, harness, pair of boots (leather anything) can make a hot man look even hotter, my reasons for seeking out a partner had less to do with my sexual fantasies and more to do with what I was trying to hide.
I had open, pussy, oozing sores covering nearly every square inch of my legs which could be hidden by wearing crotchless leather chaps; I simply applied the same theory to that situation that I applied to other important issues such as bills, anger of family and friends and various criminal activities to name a few: if I couldn’t see it, it did not exist. Later, when the sores began to also appear on my hands, arms and feet I found out they were symptoms of second stage syphilis. I had no other choice but to be treated which, of course, I resented at the time because it meant taking quite a bit of ‘time-off’ from the life I thought I had in order for my body to heal. It was not until shortly after finishing my first Fifth Step when I recognized how fortunate I had been that the sores did not become infected and that the disease did not transfer to my brain.
January 2003 saw me in the hospital after being confined to bed since practically the previous October. By the time I was discharged my legs had atrophied to the point where I was unable to walk without assistance; I spent the first two weeks at my mother’s house and nearly three or four months after that teaching myself how to walk again; I started by walking from the bed to the dresser and back, then I started to take myself to the bathroom, then up and down the stairs. It was slow going at first – when I was finally living back on my own it would take me two-hours to walk just one and a half blocks (I refused to use a cane which I was told would increase my speed) – but eventually I was being told by my friends with shorter legs that I was walking too fast for them to keep up.
Two months into this recovery I started to hear a creaking when I would walk up the stairs of the community center where I attended recovery meetings; since it was an old building I thought it natural that every stair had a loose floorboard. I did think it odd, however, when every step in the house I was living also had a loose, squeaky floorboard. When I mentioned the coincidence while also discussing the mild pain in my knees with my medical care provider, she sent me for tests. The results showed that I had osteonecrosis in the tips of both my left and right tibia and fibula. Ironically, this condition which I still deal with daily is not a result of either my HIV/AIDS status or my illegal drug use; before I did meth for the first time, I lived a fairly healthy lifestyle which included going to the gym several days a week for several hours a day, even working with a trainer – when my results plateaued, I thought I would begin using decadurabolin, an illegal steroid I acquired during several trips to Tijuana. Turns out, that was not the best thought I had.
Until recently in this current sober life my health has, I believed, been non-conducive to my wearing shorts; not only did I feel extremely self-conscious about how unhealthily skinny my legs looked, I always felt like I was walking through sub-zero temperatures, even when the sun was covering everyone I knew with its warmth and I was dressed in several layers of clothing.
As late (since I began my new med regimen) my temperature comfort has been in line with the weather report; I feel warm when the sun is out and chilled when the wind blows – I still get colder more quickly than most people I know, but not to the point where I need to wear a winter coat year round. And since moving back to San Francisco I have done a lot more walking – most of which is on hills (even walking down a steep hill can be good exercise for the leg muscles). The result has been that my legs are once again becoming one of my better features! Yes, this is a bit of a conceited statement, but I think I’m due a verbal flaunt! The exercise has also helped to reduce the pain in my knees which makes all that walking more appealing. And the more appealing walking is to do, the more walking I do, and, the more walking I do, the better my legs start to look, which, for the past three days, people have been able to see for themselves as I have once again donned the shorts which had spent so much time in storage!
The greatest benefit to feeling better about even just one part of my body is that it helps my self-esteem. That is important because the better my self-esteem, the more likely I am to continue walking the path of recovery!