LIVING JUST A LITTLE, LAUGHING JUST A LITTLE (AIN’T EASY)
by Reggie Smith
I get tired of taking meds!! I know that is not the politically correct position to take, but if you have been taking meds for any period of time, as I have, you might just get tired of taking medications every day too!! Adherence means having to be disciplined enough to take medications EVERY day, in some cases two or three times a day. That is not an easy thing to do, even if it is the difference between good and bad health, or as we have been told and have sometimes experienced, the difference between life and death.
Why should I be any different than most humans I know? After all, adherence is the flip side of prevention, right? The fact that I am in this position of having to take these HIV meds is because I was not disciplined enough to wear a condom, so what makes me think that all of a sudden I am going to be disciplined enough to maintain this new lifestyle perfectly every day! Furthermore, I have been addicted to other things in my life, and I have worked very hard to break those addictions so that I could be the thing my heart yearns for…FREE! Now I find myself strung out on other drugs that I better not stop taking if I want to feel good and protect those whom I love.
Well, for those of us who are hosts to the HIV virus, we need to know that our situation is way beyond just how we feel. The virus is not a morale issue, nor is our well being contingent on what we think about how we got HIV. It is bigger than our often natural desire to be undisciplined and inconsistent. The fact is that experience is showing us that those who take these medications to suppress the HIV virus in our systems seem to benefit the most. I remember when there were no medications at all, and very little if any hope for those of us who fought valiantly to enjoy the best quality life we could. We had to do so without the option of the “lifesaving” medicines that we now find ourselves sometimes taking for granted. How else could we explain the evolution of attitudes about HIV, and how the attitudes about living with the virus has gone from hopelessness to recklessness?
People think that it is easy to just take the medications if they catch the virus, but like I always try to share with those who are still HIV negative, it’s easier to wear a condom than it is to get and take medications every day for the rest of your life. When I ask people about their addictions to things like cigarettes, sugar, fried chicken, soda, etc., most say that they do not have the discipline to stop using those substances, even with the knowledge that they may be harmful to their health. Many have said “I can’t think about living without my ____”!! So clearly the threat of bad health is not the ultimate motivation to live a disciplined life. What is it that will get folks to change their behaviors?
I have been sick and at deaths door. When you have had that kind of experience, or if you have lived as long as many of us who are long time survivors have, the motivation to adhere to our medicine regimens is rooted in gratititude. I try to remember what it was like being sick and how much more enjoyable my life is when I am feeling physically well. Life is so much more sweeter, and I am so much more of a productive human being when I am not consumed with how to overcome sickness. Besides, many of us longtime survivors are now grandparents, so the curiosity of how my grandchildren will look and be as they grow up is keeping me going too! I mean, my children are still a part of my motivation to be well, but my grandchildren are even more intriguing, and watching them grow will take more time, so if the meds will help me achieve that, I guess I will do my best to adhere to the regimen as prescribed. The best thing I can do along with that is to make sure that I drink enough water and do the other things that I can to try to keep my organs (i.e., liver, kidneys, heart, etc.) as healthy as I can!
So, even though I am tired of taking meds, and I want to be free of even the addiction to medications that are legal and beneficial; and even though I can use my humanity as an excuse to not take meds all the time because I am not perfect…I am way too grateful and nosy about what life has to offer to NOT take them. There are too many who have died as a result of either side of the arguments of the scientific debate. I chose to err on the side of caution for now. Actually that has been working out pretty well for me. After being sick in 2005, I have been taking the antiretroviral combination that has kept my virus at undetectable levels, and allowed me to enjoy really good health. With God’s grace, and enough desire to live well, I have been able to adhere pretty well to this regimen. My oldest granddaughter was 2 years old at the time. Now she is nine, and I have two other grand daughters, a grandson, and a set of boy/girl twins due in months! I play softball and golf, take flying lessons, I am of service to my community, and I am blessed to share my experience and hope with you. I think that the benefits to adhering to this regimen of medicines is bigger than what I might be feeling about being tired.
There are probably a lot of politically correct things that could be said to try to encourage people like you and me to adhere to taking our medications religiously, but for me it’s best that I remember that it is easier to try to stay healthy than it is to try to get well!! I have seen the fruits of being alive and well, and I will try to remain grateful for every day that I can have this wonderful life. If part of the price for being able to share life and love, while protecting my wife, who is HIV negative from any greater danger, than I need to be unselfish enough, and willing enough to give it my very best shot. There are plenty of things that we can do to try to understand ourselves and our addictions better. Twelve step programs like HIV Anonymous (www.hivanonymous.com) have been very helpful on both accord. So I suggest we do our best to make the right choice on a daily basis so that we can enjoy watching the adventure of life unfold!
Here in "RISE", we are always seeking to share encouragement and information, as well as resources in the community where we might find support for our healing. We hope that you will be uplifted by the stories of these young women living with HIV, and are as encouraged as we are about the great potential of loves healing power!