What is Your Excuse?

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The picture attached to this post is the best excuse I have.  It is an X-ray from the last medical checkup on my hip.  The metal will be with me for the rest of my life, and there is not a day that goes by that it does not impact my life.  I can’t feel it, but I am reminded it is there every day.

In Feb of 2005 I was approaching a house in Iraq, and a man I did not see pointed an AK-47 at me and pulled the trigger.  I have seen my fair share of war movies, and in most, the “hero” gets shot then valiantly fights through it, driving forward destroying all of his enemies.  That night was nothing like a movie for me.  The first round spun me around and knocked my leg out from underneath me.  I ended up pinned underneath a vehicle, about 15 feet from the barrel of a gun firing on full auto.  A good friend exposed himself to drag me around a corner, then continued the fight.  For me, it was the end of the night, and the beginning of a long process.

The bullet clipped a piece of metal in the window frame, and was breaking apart when it hit my hip.  The impact itself hurt, the nerve pain was much worse.  When I arrived at the hospital, my main complaint was my ankle.  I thought it had been completely destroyed.  The doctors explained that the round, or the shockwave associated with it traveling through my muscle and tissue had interacted with my sciatic nerve.  I could not feel or move my foot.  I had drop foot for over six months.  When I walked hallways you could hear the echo of my foot slapping the ground, it drove me crazy.  The nerve pain was constant for over a year.  Throughout the day, I was distracted and the pain was bearable.  At night, I had nothing else to concentrate on, and it was consuming.  I couldn’t sleep, I was miserable to the people who were trying to support me.  At one point I had 14 pill bottles on my bathroom counter, and I liked to wash them down with Captain Morgan.  Why not, I had a great excuse, maybe the best excuse ever.  I went down the rabbit hole for nearly a year.

I made the choice one day to put the excuse down, and to start clawing my way out of the hole.  It took a long time, but I feel I became a better person on the other side.  I was told I couldn’t work out, so I went and worked out.  I was told I would likely never return to full active duty, so I did.  I found a new way to train, and built myself back stronger than I had been before.  I respected the injury, and found creative ways to train around it.  I was not done being a SEAL, I was not done fighting.  I worked my way back to a place that people with decades of schooling in medicine told me would be impossible to achieve.

8 years, 4 months, and 24 days after that night I was medically retired from the Navy.  I received a 100 percent, permanent and total disability rating from the VA.  Again, another glorious excuse.  Another opportunity to sit back and expect others to do something for me.  It is inviting and seductive.  It doesn’t hurt, it’s not hard, it’s easy to do.  It’s also a life lived in the rear-view mirror, a guaranteed recipe for a life unfulfilled.

We all walk through a minefield of excuses, every day of our life.  The beauty of this minefield is that you can clearly see the mines, and you have a choice.  You get to decide how many, and how often you pick them up.  “I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m scared, I’m not smart enough, I don’t know how to do that, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money,” and on for eternity.  You get to choose how many excuses you put in your back pocket, slowly anchoring your down as the ounces become pounds.  No one can pick them up for you, it is a choice that you alone get to make.  How you view them, and how you use them, is also a choice.

I use my past as my excuse to get up in the morning.  I use the title of “disabled” as the fuel to work as hard as I can, then give more.  I use it to push myself, to attempt things that others think are not possible.  I refuse to be defined by the metal in my body, or the metal I used to wear on my uniform.

Put the excuses down and start putting one foot in front of the other.  Everyone struggles with this, including myself, none of us are as unique as we may like to think.  Start with inches, and turn them into feet.  Turn the feet into miles, and the miles into accomplishments that make people sit back and scratch their heads in amazement.  Search for your weaknesses, look for your favorite excuse, and turn them into the fire that drives you forward.

21 thoughts on “What is Your Excuse?

    • Great Stuff Andy.
      Your a great Champion. Thanks for being you. Now, down and out, 15 yards
      is all we need. We can do it. Love you man!
      Loveman

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  1. Hey Andy, while I’ve never served I can relate to your story. I’m 43. When I was 19 I started security work. I’d done various styles of martial arts in my younger years and was neck deep in Jiu Jitsu then. My mates and I trained in the gym daily, powerlifting for reps! I was fit, strong and confidently humble. 10 years later I woke one morning with a sore back. No mystery there, that was a regular complaint with my physical lifestyle. I shook it off and continued with life. Each morning the pain progressed, until 3 weeks later, I couldn’t straighten my right leg and putting pressure on it ALMOST had me in tears! But tears would come…I couldn’t work. I had to move back into my parents place. My car was reposessed and I almost went bankrupt. I went to several GP’s and they ALL said, “it’s a sore back, go back to work!”. I couldn’t understand my life then. I was broken – physically and mentally. I gave up for a while and self-medicated with Pot. Which did help. But on my parent’s request I went to see their GP who listened to me and sent me to a Orthopedic Surgeon who did some “free” cases. After xrays and a CT he described my back as “fucked”, that my L5S1 was “severely herniated”. Surgery happened soon after and I powered through my Physio and 6 months later I was trekking hills and doing hundreds of push-ups/day. I still have pain 24/7 in my lower back n right leg but I can push it to one side of my mind where I can practically forget it. I’m not the athlete you are, but I proudly glean a kind of comradeship from you Andy. You are inspirational. All the best to you n yours mate!

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  2. You are a man your parents are very proud of. Hope you will come back here for a canoe trip with your Dad. You are an inspiration to so many people.

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  3. Smashed back, 8 vertebrae all ignored while trying to rebalance potassium and sodium. Three months later, too late to repair the spine. Subsequent falls caused numerous rib fractures, a hip fracture and eventually a completely destroyed rotator cuff. Implanted hip ball and a stimulus system to help the back pain. Negating any MRI studies of the shoulder. In PT now trying to avoid a shoulder replacement. I’m not a recently retired soldier, I’m 71 years old and cannot yet give up or roll over but I’m sure getting damn tired of fighting this for nearly 8 years. Got any inspiration to help me press on in my home therapy?

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    • Shine on- your a fighter. And God will welcome you home when that time comes. Jesus Christ said I will make all new and this includes us. He died for that message. He intends to back it up. This is not the end here for those who believe.

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  4. 7 years ago I tried to go into the military, straight out of high school. It was my only dream, to serve. When they denied me due to medical reasons, they took that dream from me. I let that be my excuse. I settled for 7 years. I’m done settling. I’m enlisting once more, this time, with the NAVY. I won’t stop until they give me that chance. No more excuses. I can’t explain it, It’s just who I am. Thank you Andy!

    >

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  5. Not everything is an excuse. Nearly ten years ago my life ended. I didn’t know it then and I didn’t intend for it to happen. I wasn’t in the military or in combat, I was actually a ‘Navy Civilian’, but I ended up alone, fighting for my life on many different levels. I went down the rabbit hole, clawed my way back out and fought on for another three years still alone. I thought I was going to make it when it all crashed down again. For me, it all comes back to that one night when someone else made a stupid, inexcusable decision that, like it or not, I have been paying for ever since. What happened that night was the first time I have ever met a problem I couldn’t solve and I’ve been trying for nearly ten years. While I have my share of excuses, that isn’t one of them. I’ve been homeless for over two years. My current living situation feels more like prison than anything else. I am only allowed to do odd jobs-anything more and I’ll be out on the streets. At the urging of well-meaning friends I applied for disability and have never been more relieved than when I was denied. It was my excuse to keep living, to keep fighting. Every morning I get up, kick the excuses aside, take a good look down the rabbit hole, say “Not today!” and then get on with trying to find a solution.

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  6. Another well-written article, great job Andy, even if I have to watch you fake sleep on a Tempur-Pedic commercial…Keep motivating us, unfortunately we need it.

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