Finding Acceptance through Recovery
Sometimes life deals us hardships that literally knock us off our feet. Disease, injury, and near-death experiences. For Avery Nubson, life delivered knock after knock in the form of multiple car accidents. His first, around age fourteen, happened when his mother was dropping a friend off back at his house; it was dark, winter, and on an unlit street in a small Northern Minnesota town called Grand Rapids.
There was a parked car with no lights in the road in front of them and Avery’s Mom didn’t see it in time to stop. After plowing into the back end of the mystery vehicle, Avery was frozen, and unconscious for twenty-minutes before the EMTs could arrive. Waking up in a hospital bed, he recalled leaving the driveway, but couldn’t remember anything after that. The doctors declared him injury free and told him to dust himself off – he’d bounce back. He was young. He would be fine. Even after six car accidents, he was told he’d always “bounce back”.
Avery remembers seeing all the accidents he was in except the first and fifth ones. They all contributed to his PTSD. Most of them while driving a vehicle, but one while riding a bike. Every time the same message – you’re fine. No severe injuries. But he wasn’t fine. His body was holding onto the whiplash, each disruptive impact resulting in episodes of unmanageable pain. Ignoring those doctor’s initial diagnoses, he pursued his own health trying to find resolutions, some of which he found in between accidents.
Before the sixth severe car accident where he was rear-ended by a flatbed tow truck and pushed into a line of cars in front of him, he’d been able to do enough physical therapy to return to some of his favorite physical hobbies like skiing, snowshoeing and speed skating. But that final blow affected his body a little differently…. There had been a hitch on the back of his vehicle when the tow truck cruised into him, causing severe damage to his pelvic floor, neck and back. Getting back to his physical outlets and workouts was not realistic anymore. They were painful and potentially harmful to his body because of all the repetitive damage he’d incurred.
He had realized that his lifestyle would need to change – a hard pill to swallow at first. But after spending time finding new physical activities, he came to accept that he could always find ways to move that not only worked for his physical restraints but fulfilled his needs. Avery and his wife Amy started hiking – something they had done little together prior to his last accident. Sharing time with the woman he loved doing something he enjoyed helped him accept this stage of adaptation.
Managing pain from one instance to another turned into a medicine cabinet full of pills and painkillers. Avery lost himself inside them; people that knew him best saw the man they loved disappear – mutate into a stone silent zombie. The cost of getting sucked into a physical addiction was more than just internal. It affected his friendships, his work life, but most important, his marriage. In fact, to Amy, he was almost unrecognizable. She hadn’t seen him smile, nor was she used to his easy to frustrate burning temper.
It wasn’t until insurance no longer wanted to cover the pain killers and instead replace them with Morphine and Fentanyl that Avery knew it was time to get off of them altogether. He didn’t want to be on anything stronger- they were killing his spirit enough already. So, he went cold-turkey… An experience he’s never wished on his worst enemy. Withdrawal was nothing to mess with but he stayed committed to the new vision he had for his life. Deep down, he understood that the only alternative was to give up his life and live in a drug den alone, still writhing in pain. Avery found comfort in meditation and talk therapy to help lessen some of the triggers for his PTSD.
He struggled mentally in another way – he couldn’t remember how to do his job anymore. All of sudden, after over a decade of coding, the screen looked like a foreign language. Another blow to his mental health. Four years after his last accident, and countless doctor’s visits later, they finally diagnosed him with a brain injury. He’d have to reassess what his new normal was and how to deal with the inevitable emotions around it. But instead of letting this defeat him, he decided he wasn’t going to give up everything, including the business he and his wife had worked so hard for. A shift would need to happen, allowing him to work in a different capacity. He took on a whole new design software and found he enjoyed the challenges in learning it rather than the unbeatable frustration and defeat he felt by staying stuck in trying to remember a skill he’d lost. Now, he enjoys work more than ever and their business success shows it too!
Life at the end of the rainbow always shows those hardships you lived along the way but what shines even brighter are the moments where you overcame. You accepted yourself as you are and pushed forward into a new chapter. At the end of all this Avery comes out with a better life than he started with. A stronger relationship with his wife, spending more time together hiking and playing board games, traveling around the US to feed his mind and body with the warm summer rays, and appreciating life more than he would have before.
It’s true, life knocks us down sometimes but it’s when we learn to accept and love ourselves in any and every stage that we learn to truly live again.