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This Pain Isn’t Normal

As a retired military male of age 44, a long 13-hour work shift is the norm in the civilian defense contracting business. I had thought that the pain associated with climbing down military aircraft, lifting bombs and missiles, and utilizing an assortment of special hand tools was normal. Especially, after performing this arduous job for over 20 years.

In the beginning, swelling in my feet, knees, and hands would occur once every other month. My body always felt tired and fatigued as if I had completed a long water workout in the pool. My remedy was to take time off from work for a few days and rest. Leaving the heavy steel toe boots at the door and prop my legs up on the back of the couch. A few cold cans of my favorite alcoholic beverages would also do the trick. There were many of times. There were times when I would also push through the pain at work. Watching the clock, counting the minutes until my shift was over. As time went on, the frequency of these flare-ups occurred closer together. At times, flare-ups occurred on a weekly basis. The entire process took 3-5 day to heal up. These pains can’t be normal. Let’s just say that my work wasn’t always happy because I had already used up all my accrued paid sick/vacation time for the year.

Up to this point at age 44, I have used alcohol to subside and mask the real problems that my body was going experiencing. My routine looked like this: work, pain, drink, sleep, and go back to work the next day. With this pattern, I also discovered that I was an alcoholic with alcoholic tendencies. I have since then stopped drinking 100%. I believe that the discovery of my diseases might have come much earlier had I not numbed my pain with alcohol.

The symptoms had become worse. Examples include: fatigue, sleepiness, drained of energy, arms and legs feel heavy, loss of weight and appetite, hard to get up a move because of stiffness. After seeing various military doctors spanning 15 years, it was determined that I should be referred out to see a pain and joint specialist, a rheumatoid arthritis specialist. All the suggested treatments (Xrays, MRI’s, and a bone density scan) explored was not working. Fast forward, the specialist determined I have RA from what he had seen during my body examination to include a new set of blood labs. My RA factor, sed rate, and all other indicators were ridiculously high.

Since my RA/osteoarthritis/Fibromyalgia diagnosis at age 44, I had chosen to leave my career in aviation of 25 years, stay at home and heal up. My body couldn’t handle the stresses associated with aircraft. Especially after having to take prescribed RA cocktail mixture of medications (Enbrel, methotrexate, prednisone, and meloxicam). My worrying sets in because the medications have drastically limited my job options.

I’m age 45. Although my working career has been abruptly cut short, I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason. For now, instead of working with airplanes, bombs, missiles, and hand tools, I now move flower pots and do a host the things that come with gardening. I’m happy and content with what lies ahead. I just smile when I see a military jet fly over the house. My wife and two boys now understand that the pain that I was experiencing was not normal.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Kimberly King
    4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was “lucky” in that I was diagnosed after only five months. I had never had anything like it and it brought me literally to my knees. Suddenly I couldn’t hold a mug of coffee without using two hands, let alone hold a grandchild. My husband also has a chronic pain disease and I know he has said many times that if only he could drink the pain away. While I am sure leaving your job was difficult, staying could have been worse. People don’t understand what they can’t see. I think we all have someone who judges from the sidelines. I am glad to hear you are happy and content with who you are. 🙂 Just enjoy life and your family, those are the important things.

  • John
    4 years ago

    I’m reading your story and nodding my head. Sorry to hear that you had to leave your career.
    I too was about 44 when diagnosed with RA and reckon I’ve had it for 25 years. I always put the pain down to playing sport hard and working long hours.
    Glad to hear your family are on board now.
    Hope the meds control it now.

  • Cassandra Bird
    4 years ago

    I self medicate with “upper” drugs for many years before diagnosis. I knew something wasn’t right about me but I had been fobbed off as mentally ill for years, no one ever thought to test my blood for the numerous conditions I’m now diagnosed with I was sat to one side with antidepressants and people would criticise and judge. Now I know what’s wrong with me so much of my life makes sense….and no RA pain is far from any pain ever experienced and I know I’ve given birth four times without pain relief. People think I’m weak or I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill but this pain is truly disabling. There is nothing you can do other than concede to it and or tap out of the game. I wouldn’t wish it or addiction on anyone but its easy to see how it goes hand in hand, people trying to numb their pain or continue on even though it’s crippling them. It’s not easy. Best wishes Lawrence I hope this finds you as well as possible x

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator
    4 years ago

    Hi Lawrence ~
    Thank you for taking the time to share your story. It can be difficult when a diagnosis forces you to stop working, but I am glad you have been able to maintain such a positive outlook. I hope that things continue to look up for you! Please remember that we are here to support you!
    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

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