The greater good of breaking one’s back

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The greater good of breaking one’s back

(Yeah, that’s my spine, with it’s super smushed disc in the MRI that revealed it)

 I “broke my back” once. A “par’s defect” meaning I have some cartilage in my spine where bone is needed, led to a slip of my lowest vertebrate; spondylolisthesis. This slip wound up squishing my sciatic nerve in my right leg, leading to crazy ass nerve pain in my foot and calf whenever I would stand up for too long.

How did it happen and why? Well, it happened in part because of this saying: “If I have to break my back to get out of this fucking place, I will.” If you couple that thought with 2+ years of working 7 days a week (something like 64 hours a week) and constantly throwing 50-70lb bags around for hotel guests and NBA teams on the weekends, you’ll begin to see the story rounding out.

I was in Oklahoma. I had bought a condo and a car. I could walk to the downtown arenas and I could put the top down and see the stars. However, I didn’t realize when I bought all this stuff that it wasn’t for me. That travel still beckoned and that the lives of those around me were … small.

(my car was at least nice though…)

I don’t say that to judge. I don’t say that to boast about my own. However, I think a lot of small town folks choose, or inadvertently choose, the small town life because it’s what they know. I think they’d rather focus on family than anything else. That wasn’t for me. I’d already seen some of the world. …Shit, a lot of the world.

Anyways, moving back in to what I was trying to say. My life became shit.


I was working for a place (a prosthodontic practice) with no soul; working just to get money to pay for the stuff that I had. No vacation days and no money to go new places; insides feeling constantly sad. So, then I decided to move on, try and get back. I took a second job, then a second real job, to try and make some of the money back.

I worked at a hotel on the weekends. I was a valet. I drove cars around, took bags to people’s rooms and generally had a marvelous time doing this every Friday, Saturday and Sunday; marvelous that is, until my back thing.

Don’t know when it happened, but I do think I know how. It was probably from pushing the luggage carts around in a manner that wasn’t conducive to lower back health.

Yeah, you can push them from behind, or you can stand off to the side and sort of pull with one arm behind/to the side. This makes you look cooler and lets you see where you are driving. I chose the latter obviously.

And I think the slip happened because of this, cumulatively over time, while schlepping bags up to people’s rooms.

So yeah, you start to feel some pain in your foot, you don’t know what it is or why. And your only relief is to lean forward and un-weight your body on a table or your thighs.

Once it started, it grew progressively worse until a return flight from New Jersey shook my spine loose and I was forced to go to the doctor to get some relief.

I suffered through the weekends, I’d just grin and bear the pain. However, things were getting worse not better, so I went to the doctor. Probably a combination of no rest, a shitty bed, and yeah no rest – just burning the candle at both ends.

The MRI confirmed what I already said.

I scheduled myself to have surgery to have it all fixed.

They were going to bolt my lower two vertebrate together with some titanium rods. And in the interim, I was granted more Lortab than the gods.

100+ pills to pop whenever I had pain, which – because I started working at the hotel every weekend again thereafter – was quite frequent. At the height of it all, I was taking 2 Lortab 10s every 3 to 4 hours. Then driving other people’s cars and helping them with bags; exactly the sort of thing one should be doing on massive amounts of drugs.

Still, in the midst of this, no accident occurred, and during that time, I even managed to meet a gorgeous actress from OKC, who lived in NYC.  However, I was fucked even before I flew to Las Vegas to spend a weekend with her.

Fucked in more ways than one… With all the drugs I was taking, I was passing out when sitting down, a lot of the time at my primary job, which was greeting patients and answering phones. Thank god each of those things had a bell. “Ding dong” when patients come in, “brrrrring” when the other ones called.

Anyways, after teary eyed explanations to my boss, as to why my work began to suffer, I was left alone to enjoy my pain. I stopped working at the hotel, which was the only place that kept me sane, and started again to have weekends. And on these weekends, my body finally relaxed and started to work again.

I had positioned my computer screen face down on a glass table. I was lying on the floor, looking up. My feet and calves were lying flat on the computer chair I would have normally used. …And I was on a massive amount of muscle relaxers and pain relievers while I lied there watching “Breaking Bad.”

Then, suddenly, I heard/felt a pop. More like a “cerchunk.” The same sort of feeling people have when they get a chiropractic adjustment.

For whatever reason, I knew at that moment that things had snapped back in. I was still wary, but 4 days later, I could walk again without any pain. The nerve was still raw, and I was super weak and wasted away. However, inside of a month or two from that day, I was on my way back to Asia to teach in Hanoi.

No more flittering about just to do what I wanted. I was going.

I canceled my surgery. I gave my two weeks notice; or perhaps it was a month. I stopped cold turkey, taking all the drugs. I went back to work at the hotel and met a super hot red headed flight attendant with large breasts that wanted to do things to my body.  I thanked my chiropractor who I felt actually helped me out.

And I got on a plane to Singapore, before touring on to Chiang Mai and Indonesia, settling again in Hanoi, after 5 years in Oklahoma suffering like I never had before.

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