Monday, November 29, 2010

From playmate to inmate…how I got here – Part 6

Uncle Sammy.

Under the cover of Christmas break – and after just one semester – I snuck back to the university and recovered my gear from my dorm room.  The university had strongly suggested I not return.  

It’s amazing what a .96 GPA will get you.

I had now experienced my first taste of failure.

In defeat, I headed home unaware of the turbulent storm with self that was brewing on the horizon.  Fueled by rebellion, self-centeredness and pleasure, I began to make choices that would lay a false foundation in which to exist.  It wasn’t long before the outcome of my choices began to reveal the actual storm that raged within.  The storm would settle in for several years to come.

Barely out of my teens, I was forced with some very adult decisions to make.

With no job to speak of, no money to continue college, and a family to support, I decided to explore the option of joining the United States Air Force.  In all honesty, I really didn’t want to do it; I was scared of the unknown and extremely unsure of myself due to being bitten by a string of poor choices.  Besides that, the Air Force didn’t sound like it matched up with my mental attitude at the time.


The very selfish, self-centered, rebellious me wanted to live on pleasure and party with the boys.  From what I understood, the Air Force was big on 





This to me sounded all too familiar.  But in the end, logic added up over my empty checkbook, and I decided to clean myself up and submit to Uncle Sam for the next four years.  

This wouldn’t be the last time I “cleaned myself up.”

Now, it may be hard for some of you to believe, but I took to the Air Force like a fish to water.  Why wouldn’t I?  I understood the concept of living under rules, accountability, discipline, and structure, and I certainly knew a few things about conforming to fit in.  So with those things in my favor, I thrived in the military environment and began to slowly pull myself out of the proverbial dark hole of my reckless choices.

It didn’t take long before I was able to support my family as well as get back into college full-time at night.  I even ventured out and tested my entrepreneurial abilities by starting my own little lawn care business.  I was busy, productive and achieving the goals that I’d set before me.  

Don’t get me wrong – all was not picture perfect.

I was still very self-centered and loved to slip in a little pleasure with the drink every now and again (emphasis on the again).  But for the most part, I seemed to be growing up.

By the end of my first four year enlistment, I had been promoted to Sergeant, earned a college degree, and been selected to become a US Air Force recruiter – which came with a little give and take.  

I got to move back East, 

but had to give Uncle Sam four more years of my life.

One morning, just prior to moving back East, I woke up with what I thought was an excruciating earache.  Unable to bare the pain, I decided to go to the base clinic and get it checked out.  

What I would find that day would set into motion 

a LOVE-HATE affair that would last, 

on and off, for nearly two decades.

After I had been examined, poked, prodded and x-rayed, the doctor came into the room and announced,

“I have some good news and bad news…which do you want first?”

Although, this may seem like a clever little way to deliver bad news, when it comes out of your doctor’s mouth, it has a tendency to be quite unnerving.  He asked me if I’d been in an accident or if I’d been experiencing headaches recently - to which the answer was NO.  This questioning was not helping my anxiety.  He proceeded to ask me if I’d had any dental work done lately – to which the answer was YES.  I’d had my wisdom teeth extracted not too long ago.  With a nod of his head and a raised eyebrow, the doctor said “that makes sense.”

The good news:  I didn’t have an earache.

The bad news: I had something terribly wrong with my right jaw.

It (my right jaw joint) was severely inflamed and very, very sore.  But why?  Probably a result of my recent wisdom teeth surgery, but he could not answer for sure.  I had to see a maxillofacial/oral surgeon IMMEDIATELY.  Fortunately he was in the same building.  So with records and x-rays in hand, I was off for the first of many appointments with the specialist.  His preliminary diagnosis was Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), brought on my having my jaw joint overextended during my wisdom teeth extraction.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much the specialist could do for me at the time.  Both the swelling and the pain needed to be gotten under control before he could better determine the extent of the damage.  So with an appointment to see him the following week, he loaded me up with…

anti-inflammatory meds,

muscle relaxers,

and...PAIN PILLS –


The love affair would begin.

…from the inside…ray-ray

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