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G.I. Aspirin Part 1
It's all fun and games until someone loses a career.
I joined the Air Force out of High School because I wasn’t ready to take college seriously yet, if ever. And my parents had zero interest in my “plan” to live at home, play in a band, and take Music Appreciation or Shoelace Retipping at the local CC until I figured shit out. Then as luck would have it, I tested well enough on the military placement exam to become an E.E.G. technician in the medical field. Not a bad gig though it did require two years of school, of course.
Working in the hospital, it was pretty easy to get medical appointments for whatever, whenever you wanted them. I was first prescribed Percocet for migraine pain early in my career. It was given out a lot back then. At one point, I remember hearing it referred to as “G.I. Aspirin.” It took years for my addiction to develop. Like most of my friends and co-workers, we just enjoyed the occasional refill when we got it.
But I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of doctors. I eventually learned that I could prescribe myself whatever I wanted via the hospital computer system if they didn’t log out before they left their desks. That’s when the real problem started. And over the course of the next year, I developed a very serious addiction to opiates. By the time I was finally caught, I was prescribing myself so much Percocet that they were quite convinced I was selling it. When I was placed in a solitary confinement jail cell for a few days, I went through severe withdrawals before being released to await the investigation and subsequent trial.
Addiction was viewed very differently in the military 20-plus years ago. It was seen as more of a problem with self-discipline and personal accountability, as opposed to an actual addiction. I had always been a good Airman and was well-liked by my supervisors and co-workers. So in order to give me a chance at redemption while awaiting trial, they put me in charge of the medical dorms. They thought they were doing the best thing they could for me but in actuality, giving an opiate addict the keys to a dorm full of kids that also had medicine cabinets and sock drawers full of prescription painkillers was a recipe for disaster.
The next 6 months I spent raiding dorm rooms for feel-goods and forging paper prescriptions at civilian pharmacies around town. I would get caught, arrested, thrown in a cell, suffer withdrawals, be released, and go out and do it all over again like clockwork. It was hell, and they couldn’t understand why I was doing that to myself. Why I couldn’t just straighten up and fly right. A lot of friends began walking away from me at this point. That was the bottom. It was that time, anyway.
My trial was quick. At my lawyer’s recommendation, I accepted full responsibility for my actions, and never mentioned the word “addiction” for fear that the judge would come down even harder for trying to place the blame elsewhere. I was convicted of a handful of felonies, sentenced to a year in prison with a punitive discharge, stripped of any and all benefits, and forced to repay my 20k re-enlistment bonus. But I was, if you can imagine, elated. Because it was all over. When I was uncuffed and put in my cell, I felt a monumental sense of relief. A nine-year military career was drawing to a close, but I was going to be clean.
I spent that time in military prison working out, reading, and trying to gameplan for life after release - whatever that was going to look like. I was granted clemency after serving 6 months and put out on the streets a little earlier than expected. Shortly thereafter, I moved into a small place in San Diego with both of my sisters, the youngest one’s fiancé, and my new baby nephew. This was, by the way, one of the most wonderful chapters of my life despite the fact that I was working numerous part-time, minimum-wage jobs simultaneously to make ends meet. Nonetheless, there was a goal in mind. Save up enough money to relocate to Colorado.