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Word War Won: “Victim” vs. “Survivor” vs. “Thriver”

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of I Forgot How To Feel Better (4)

I was going to talk about different words during this edition, but Alexis got me thinking. We had a very uncomfortable session the other day during which she asked me how things are going now that I’ve cut out sugar and alcohol. It started last week when we had a Skype session and she saw my face. She said I needed to do a detox. Immediately.

I felt slow and inflamed, my brain was foggy, and even my face looked puffy. I’d gone to a small law school reunion/memorial for my friend Andy and saw surprise on my classmates’ faces; the last time they saw me was thirty pounds ago. (Granted, some of that weight gain was necessary at the time since I was an anthropomorphic coat hanger, but do you know how hard it was just now to type “thirty pounds ago”?) My pain was worsening. I’d been gaining weight despite exercising every day, thanks to my medication increasing my appetite to that of a starving boat wreck survivor.

"I know we're only ten feet from the shore, but I am STARVING." (Courtesy photo.)

“I know we’re only ten feet from the shore, but I’m STARVING. Johnson, you’re taking one for the team. It’s been nice knowing you.” (Courtesy photo.)

I’d binge in the evenings after work, thinking I deserve this as I snatched up the box of Cinnamon Chex. It felt good at the time, but later that night I would always hurt more.

Alexis asked if I had to slowly wean off sugar and alcohol, or if I could go cold turkey. I’ve never been good at anything but extremes.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been hard. This is day 8. I’d been expecting a monstrous headache like when I stopped drinking coffee a few years ago (a deprivation that has, thankfully, been rectified). My father said I might crash after a week on this diet, which happened at about day 5. Pure, undiluted exhaustion dogged me throughout the day.

Anyway, Alexis asked how things have been going since I cut out the sugar and alcohol. I was very remote during this in-person session (wordplay!) and resistant to our discussion. She sensed this and called me out on it. What was I resisting?

It had to do with three words: victim, survivor, and thriver… the last of which apparently isn’t a real word, but who cares. She asked me which one I have been and which one I was now.

VICTIM: noun. [vik-tim] A person who suffers in some way, who complains about his or her given circumstances and does not attempt to alter them.

SURVIVOR: noun. [ser-vayh-ver] One who stays alive and claws his or her way up from the pit, bloodied and exhausted, and who will continue to fight.

THRIVER: noun [thrayv-er] Not a real form of the word “thrive.” One who prospers and flourishes, expanding beyond confines and living life to the best degree possible.

From the time I was 17 to maybe 25, I was a survivor. I’d broken my back as a teenager. There were definitely periods when I was a victim, asking the universe why this had happened and being all “woe is me,” but mostly, I just went about my life. (Those around me might heartily disagree.)

When I was rear-ended the second time, the very instant that car hit mine, I became a full-blown victim.

I cried a lot. I sank into a very dark depression and withdrew from everything around me. It’s like I was covered in black gauze. The momentary spark of hope I got when I was scheduled for a cervical fusion was dimmed when the months went by and I did not improve the way I’d wanted or at the rate I’d expected. So for years now, I have been a victim.

I was resisting this discussion because I didn’t want to admit that.

Since starting this blog, I like to think I’ve become a survivor again. My mood has changed drastically; for once I am actually optimistic. I feel hopeful, and I’ve come to realize that self-perception is everything. Even when I have bad days now, I don’t see it as a continuation of a years-long hell hole; I see it as a temporary arc upward on the pain scale. It’ll settle back down. It always does.

The winner this week?

See, he's... you know, he's climbing a mountain... a very short mountain... TRIUMPHANTLY COPYRIGHTED BY J. W. KAIN.

See, he’s… you know, he’s climbing a mountain… a very short mountain… TRIUMPHANTLY COPYRIGHTED BY J. W. KAIN.

THRIVER wins, obviously, but survivors are not lesser beings. Survivors are busy surviving. They have more important things on their minds. Once the smoke clears and they are able to see, only then can they even think about thriving.


  1. Reblogged this on The chaotic life of the toad and commented:
    I’ve been going to a chronic pain counselling group for the past couple of weeks ( Not constantly you understand, but for one morning a week I get to be completely honest and open about life in my world.

    I’ve had to do alot of thinking about what has happened, how I feel and most importantly where I go from here and how.

    So I’m going to stop blaming the tractor that hit my car, the stairs that weren’t where I thought they were and anything else that might or might not have contributed to the deterioration of my spine.

    J.W. Kain explains it much better than me, but I think I’ve stopped being a victim. I’m a survivor on the verge of becoming a thriver and who cares if it’s a real word or not!


  2. This really touched me, I think everyone that goes through an accident that changes their life that wasn’t their fault goes through this. Also I cut out sugar too! 😀 Yay! We can do this together now ^_^ Keep being awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

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