It’s Not Just Sex

A good approximation of how sex and intimacy is regarded by the U.S. Armed Forces can be summed up in the phrase I heard recently: “If you needed a wife…we’da issued you one.”

These days, the U.S. Army is perhaps the most chaste and constrained military organization on planet earth.  No drinking on duty, no sex, no pillaging, no cavorting…and go easy on the damn swear words.

Contrast this with the Russian Army, and German, which frequently serves beer with lunch; the harder stuff after dinner.  And numerous armies – no joke – provide prostitutes to their deployed troops.  Effectively, a little mini-platoon comprised of practitioners of the world’s oldest profession gets sent to war zones right along with the soldiers.  No doubt this idea  is regarded by these armies as a Godzillian leap up the ladder of human rights.  In the past, when victorious they just raped the women (and men) of their vanquished quarry.  At times, a veritable sexual bonanza was promised as the leading incentive to engage in vicious battle in the first place.

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces by contrast, seem expected to never have sex of any kind.  If sexual organs didn’t come already attached to the bodies of their troops, I’m rather certain the Army would have confiscated all tissue related to human reproduction – and especially the related pleasures of it – on the first day of basic training, relegating every appendage to iron storage boxes next to the gold bars in Fort Knox.  “You can have your clitoris back after your 20, soldier.  Until then, kill stuff.  And like it.”

I’m a happily-married, loyal-to-death-do-us-part, honest-to-a-fault type of husband who, with the perfectly understandable exceptions of Rachel McAdams and Jennifer Connely, can provide infinite assurances to his wife that she has minimal reason to fear infidelity (in kind, if she ever meets Johnny Depp in a smoky, sultry, bean-baggy, beatnik bar…she has my blessing).  That said, I think the “Hooker Platoon” is a great idea.  Presumably, said professionals are well-paid, in control of their lives, and free of drugs.  Like it or not, humans are sexual beings and they go about obtaining it in a myriad of ways.  Might as well make it safe, fair, protected and consensual, even if questionably moral.

But what about the ones who aren’t deployed?  Or the ones who, by choice, remain celibate as they await – with admirable fidelity – their dear lover back home?  What about the people who have returned from over a year’s deployment, waay beyond ready to re-start a healthy, loving sexual relationship with their spouses?

Unfortunately, many soldiers return from war zones with major emotional and physical damage – and major problems having sex.  PTSD, insomnia, chronic pain, depression and anxiety all affect sexual ability.  And these problems are like cockroaches…if you have one, you probably have others.  Worse, the meds used to treat the above problems often severely inhibit sexual function too.  Am I the only one who sees the Faustian irony in “You can be happy…OR you can have sex.  Not both.  Your choice.”  For many (including me), that choice is an oxymoron…emphasis on moron.

While not always the problem, erectile dysfunction is one of the more common issues I deal with.  Given the ubiquitous commercials displaying medically-enhanced virile men, one would think ED wouldn’t be such a problem.  And it is true…a pill can solve the problem sometimes.  Cool, right?  A nice, easy fix.  The problem is that sex is considered by the Army to be something of a sport.  Golf, but morally suspect and generally distrusted.  As if to clarify their position, one of the more odd policies I’ve seen is the meet-you-1/20th-of-the-way idea of providing 6 pills of Levitra per month for up to 3 months for erectile dysfunction.  6.  For 3 months.  Then…good luck.

But 6 pills?  A month?  I know they’re expensive – something like 10 bucks a pill – but who came up with a number like that?  Was he (or she…or it) ever in a loving, happy sexual relationship?  Had it already donated the entirety of its copulation gear to NORAD for weapons testing?  Turns out the decision comes from the Department of Defense.  Yep.  The guys buying fiber-plated bombers and infra-red rifle sights and inventing bombs that suck your inner organs out through your maxillary sinus, are also the ones who decided that 6 sexual encounters a month should keep the average couple happy.

Truth is, for many of my returning soldiers, sex and intimacy isn’t simply a nice addition to their lives after over a year of living in austerity.  It is life.  This seems to be especially true of the committed, married soldiers I work with.  Their marriage, and the love they share within it, is often the only salve on wounds that cover their bodies and souls.  Imagine falling into the yearning arms of your wife after 15 months alone, after encountering horrors on the battlefield you will never describe, only to have to say you’re sorry, you just aren’t the same as you were…even as a lover.

A patient recently said to me (to paraphrase), “My wife and I LOVE to have sex, doc.  It’s an every day thing, if not two or three times a day.  At least, that’s how it was.  Now we spend most of the time we would have spent in bed – or in the kitchen, or in the microwave, or in the neighbor’s tool shed, or on top of the dresser, or under the aquarium, or in the chimney, or dressed up as Tonto and the short curly-haired lady from Cheers – with a counselor, trying to figure out what’s wrong with me.”

Most (not all) healthy, vital, loving relationships are comprised of sex more than just once a week with an occasional “two-fer” on the weekend.  Especially if one of the partners has been gone for over a year.  If returning injured soldiers have anything to look forward to, for many of them it’s their longsuffering, waiting, pent-up, willing spouse.  Divorce is a catastrophe, especially when it’s between a broken soldier and the person who typically is the last one standing in their corner when the world is running down.  Seems to me that we could forgo a couple of those useless air-to-air combat fighters everyone’s arguing about and use the money to give these soldiers as many nights of intimate bliss as we possibly can.

The Toilet Excuse? Really?

“I need more drugs because I had a heart attack yesterday and in my monumental pain I flushed my Percocet down the toilet.”

I stare.

 

AWwww, MAN, I don't know WHAT happened, man.

“No really.  I’m serious.  I don’t know what’s going on with my heart and I accidentally flushed my drugs down the toilet when it was causing me, like, serious pain.  I REALLY need some more.  I’m in like 24/10 pain.”

 

“That’s a pretty strange fraction.”

“Well, that’s how bad it is.”

I hope my eyes are at least a little more than half-closed, “Dude.  That’s your excuse?  Really?  That’s the best you have for me?  Flushed?”  My ever-blindingly cheerful mood deflates a bit.

“Well, it was the case manager who told me to come to you for more Percocet.  I tode her Dr. SW101 isn’t cool with narcs, so I figured you wouldn’t go for it, but she told me to try.”

“So, the NURSE made you do it?”

“No…well (looks hopefully at me), uh, maybe?”

 

Dr. SW101 set me UP!

He did utter one truth, I’m not cool with writing for unfathomable doses of highly-addictive, mind-altering substances that have outrageous street value and regularly cause the utter destruction of families, careers and lives.

 

He’s right.  I’m not cool with that.

Sometimes it feels like I’m just sitting in my clinic handing out bullets…each one stamped with “If this causes a disaster of any kind, please blame Dr. SW101.  His bank account number is 7749220485, and you can find his children at 13 XX street, usually after 6pm.  Punish him accordingly for making such a mockery of his Doctor’s Oath, society, God, the memory of Elvis, Stonehenge, Hello Kitty, Gooeyducks..and everything else even remotely sacred to humanity.”

But I’m used to that.  I’m used to being the candy man.  What I’m NOT used to, is being taken for so dimwitted that the medical equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse might work on me.

“You’re really using THAT one on me?”

“Look man,” (whips out his Blackberry Smartphone, provided free of charge by the Army to help with his healing), “I got pictures of the pills in the toilet.”

I decline the visual.  Don’t even need it.

“You’d need to pin my face to a cork-board with something in the range of 34,000 thumbtacks to talk me into giving you more narcotics with that lame excuse.”  I say.  What I DON’T say is that aside from fighting the good fight against blatant drug addicts (I do take care of true heroes; he’s not one of them), I’m just flat-out annoyed at the excuse.

“Frankly, you’re story is miserable.  Put in a little work, and you might score a few hits out of me for creativity.  I’ve been known to drop a few Vikes on someone just to tribute their impeccible style alone.”

“Style?”

“Yeah, you know, do some deep-thinking before you try get me to double your daily horse-halting, blue whale-euthanizing, brontosaurus-stupefying doses of addictive opiates.”

“Liiike, a better story?”

“Yep.  I loovvve fiction.”

“Um, like what?”

“The doc I’m replacing was partial to “I washed ’em in my uniform”, so I’d say that’s a little, uh faded haha no pun intended *aHEM*, sorry, not making light of your “pain” or whatever, just a little side-joke for this glorious Army morning.  Anyway, where was I?”

“You were helping me come up with a story to score more narcs out of you.”

“Oh YEAH.  Thanks!  Let’s see, maybe I can help you….next time, try something along the lines of:

 

They're real. Seriously.

After a valiant but ultimately tragic battle, a saber-tooth tiger ripped your friend’s head off.  In desperation, you heroically dispatched said wildcat with your bare hands (careful with the back).  Then, without pausing to consider yourself, you gave him your ENTIRE BOTTLE of pills strong enough to drive the entire population of Gambia into rehab.

 

Unfortunately, when he swallowed them – since his head was removed from his body – your pills just dropped out on the ground, all slimy and spit-covered and quickly dissolved.  Thinking fastly, you propped his body up and then held his head over what you figured was the esophagus part of  your life-long friend’s neck so the remaining few pills – “Damn you, Johnny, swallow! – dropped out and settled into one of his neck-tubes, hopefully not the trachea.  Then you got him to a local ER, where they skillfully re-attached his head.

ONLY THEN, after your friend was recovering (he just might pull through, snif), did you think of yourself, realizing that you were, in fact, out of drugs for your endless back pain and heart attacks which you’ve been suffering from since you were born, 20 years ago.”

That would work?”

“No.  But honestly, that story has more credibility than, ‘I flushed ’em, brah, gimme some more.”