“Get worked man!” I yelled as the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 search and destroy game ended. The last guy on the six man enemy team had been stupid or unlucky enough to walk right into my rifle grenade aka “noob tube.” Since it was the last kill of the round, everyone got the pleasure of watching me fire a grenade round from one side of the level to another to kill the enemy player who was sitting in the corner. The shot was totally lucky but with practically infinite ammo, I was bound to hit a corner camping bastard at some point.
The only feedback I got was a “wow” from Joe. This was far from the first time my five teammates had seen me get a random kill by firing my noob tubes and would not be the last. I had played for years with Joe, Phillip, Ethan, Jake, and Tyler. They had seen about everything I knew how to do in an xbox 360 game. We all met a year ago in 2008 when I first started playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare with my friend from high school Tommy. Tommy played enough to meet random people online and consistently invited them to join his party. Joe and Jake were two of the first people he met that he kept playing with.
When Call of Duty World at War came out, Tommy, Joe, Jake, and I all would play search and destroy together. Soon, Phillip, Ethan, and Jake’s little brother Tyler joined us. Joe had just quit his job at Pottery Barn and was now going to school for accounting in Seattle. Jake and Tyler lived with their Mom in Oklahoma and were in school. Philip was on his way to becoming a father in Minnesota and was working for his Dad’s granite company. Ethan was going to high school in Colorado. None of us outside of the two brothers had met in person but Ethan was set on going to visit Philip at some point.
As the Call of Duty search and destroy game ended with my noob tube kill, we sat in the lobby to start another game. We had not lost a game since half of us had lagged out around midnight and getting a team to play us was getting difficult. It was 4 a.m. in Starkville, Mississippi on January 21, 2010. I had completed my move home just over three months before from my life as a police officer in Columbia, South Carolina. Just over 7 years ago, I started college at the University of South Carolina in engineering while enrolled in Army Reserve Officer Training (ROTC) with plans to go in the Army as an officer after college.
Sitting in one of the four bedrooms in my parents’ house now seemed totally ridiculous and like a miracle at the same time. After two years of college, I decided not to go in the Army much to the relief of my parents. Dad had served in Vietnam and Mom was finishing a 20 year career in the Army as an officer in the Vet Corps. While they had both supported me enthusiastically when I wanted to go in, they were really excited to not see their son volunteer to suffer through what they did. They hoped I could have a bit easier of a life than they had growing up.
Naturally, I made my own life hard to compensate. After talking with my Mom one night, I realized I should change my major to criminal justice since I loved thinking about crime. When I graduated college, I had no idea what I wanted to do and was accepted as a federal court intern. Just weeks into the job, I was so bored that I knew I had to have a job with more action after this. I was responsible for inventory control which consisted of putting ID tags on chairs, desks, and other pieces of furniture the federal courts owned. Most of the day what I did was sit around and think about how hard it was to quit my online gambling addiction and how much I could drink later in the week.
With continued failure becoming a police officer, I got into juvenile corrections as a corrections officer. Let’s just say that was a shitty way to spend Christmas and move on to where I figured being a police officer at the University of South Carolina was a dream job by comparison. As the only young white man in a facility where nearly all of the corrections officers were older black females, I got a good taste of what it meant to be a minority. Nearly everyone expected me to quit but I stayed until I got a state law enforcement job with the Department of Mental Health (DMH).
DMH was halfway to where I wanted to be with the difficult half done. At DMH, I had hurt my back arresting a 5 foot 3 inch crazy lady weighing nearly 300 pounds who took several shots of chlorpromazine hydrochloride aka thorazine and then brawled with me and the female investigator trying to remove her from the facility. The best part was that the lady I removed from the facility was right back there in a few days. The months of my back problems were all for nothing.
Less than a year after getting my job at DMH, USDPD hired me as a law enforcement officer 1 in April 2008. In less than two years, I had my dream job. While work at USDPD was often boring next to being at a sheriff’s department or at the city, there was enough action to satisfy me along with great pay and a much safer work environment than either of the last two I had been in. I loved my coworkers, loved living downtown again, and had tons of time to play video games. Before Tommy got me into playing xbox, I mostly played Rise of Nations with randoms online while drinking a liter of vodka mixed with diet Dr. Thunder from Walmart. I dated a few girls, had fun getting smashed at the bars downtown, and thought it was hilarious that I could wander through campus drunk while walking home and consistently locate a USCPD officer to give me a ride the rest of the way home.
In 2009, I got more than a ride. After feeling like I was doing everything absolutely perfectly around March, my Dad went to the hospital with chest pains. I suddenly realized that I was not paying attention to any of the things that really mattered in life. I got this horrible feeling that time was running out for me to get my shit together. The most frustrating area of my life up until this point was dating and I suddenly became desperate to find a wife. The problem was that I had never opened my heart up to being with a girl enough to build a great relationship. My college ex and I had fun together but after less than two years, it was obvious to her first and then to me that we were not that into each other.
Since I looked to work for everything, I ended up finding the exact right and wrong person to date at work. While I had consistently experienced problems with drinking since the second time I drank freshman year, the rest of my life had always been stable enough to tolerate the disruption. I had never had a relationship that was volatile and in just a few months, my life went out of control. The brief flame at the office burned up in a blaze of glory and my behavior got crazy.
One night, I arrested a guy that was drunk driving on the way home from celebrating his wife being pregnant. I was camped out by the old basketball area and caught him sliding through a red light on a left turn going more than double the speed limit. The only reason I was able to pull him over was that he cut through the liquor store parking lot to avoid a train that had stopped. The irony of him getting a DUI in the liquor store parking lot where I always shopped was not lost on me.
What was lost on me was why I felt like shit about arresting him. I felt disgusted with myself for arresting him and did not feel like I was doing any good. My Dad said I should not feel that way and my coworkers were confused as to why I would. Now, I know why. As I sit at home with my parents, I see that I felt bad because I was out doing the same shit he was when I was off duty. I was driving reckless often at double the legal limit by the time I got home. The breathalyzer I had at home confirmed as much.
When I explained to the brass at USCPD why I had quit, I told them I was moving home with my parents in Mississippi and going to graduate school. They were happy to not have to cover up any more of my bad behavior and I was happy to drop nearly all of the stress in my life and move on. Now I get to “pwn noobs” at home rent free for eight hours every night playing Call of Duty with my friends. If I was honest, this was the dream life I had wanted in high school. What could be better than playing video games at home with my parents, talking shit with my friends all night, going to the gym every day, and still feeling like I would do something productive in the future. For the future, I thought about graduate school. I wanted to move to a fun new city and start my life over. Despite my nearly perfect life with my parents, I had promised them when I moved home that I would move out and try to get my life going again as soon as possible.
In August 2010, that is exactly what I did. The University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa was kind enough to offer me a graduate assistant position in the PHD program despite me not having a masters yet. The graduate coordinator had been very kind to give me this offer and I felt really lucky to get it at USF because this seemed to be my best option for where to live. After less than a year living at home with my parents, I was on my way out. The night I was leaving, I told my parents at dinner that maybe I would marry the girl I was dating that I had met online. I only had met her once for a couple days when I had visited Tampa to do my interview for graduate school and rent my apartment. Mom and Dad both did the verbal equivalent to smacking me. They were horrified at the thought of seeing me make a huge mistake like marrying the wrong person the way both of them had with their first marriages. They knew I hardly knew the girl at this point and my defensiveness quickly turned into a huge fight. By the end of the night, I told Mom I was not going to speak to her again. Dad talked some sense into me as he usually did. I broke down, cried, and went up to apologize to my mom.
By December, 2010 I was single and loving it. After having a girlfriend that practically lived with me, I was confident that I did not need to be afraid of living by myself after what had happened to my life as a police officer. The semester had just ended and I got all As after being away from school for four years. I was really happy and took myself out for a night at the strip club. While I had been known around the policing community in Columbia for my thousand dollar nights at the strip club drunk, this time I drove sober to Mons Venus in Tampa after hearing about it during a presentation in the class I was a teaching assistant for. The owner gave a talk about what he had been through with the criminal justice system and said he had beautiful college girls working at his club for just $20 per dance with a $20 cover charge and full nude. The only limitation was that you could not drink there which was ideal for me since I needed to drive. After driving more than 600 miles drunk on my road trip in July 2010, I had made a promise to God after my energy drinks and liquor wore off in Alabama just a few hundred miles from my parents’ house that I would never drive drunk again if I could just get home this time safe. While I had always considered myself an agnostic and frequently struggled with addictions, this promise to God had a remarkable power for keeping me away from getting behind the wheel when I was drunk. I knew if I ever did that I would have to quit drinking which I had no intention of ever doing.
I brought $60 to Mons Venus to be enough for the cover charge and two dances. Being sober, I was able to say no a lot easier to the strippers and waited until I could get dances with the best two. One was a college student single mother that was 28 and the other was a single mother that was 27 who just liked to have nice things. They both looked exactly like the type of girl I would hope to marry on the outside and for a total of $60, I thought it was a hell of a deal that they would give me a dance naked. I found I enjoyed the strip club a lot more sober, drove home, took some time for myself to remember the ladies I had received dances from, got out my bottle of vodka, and got to work on getting drunk. By the end of the night, I was wasted, had won a bunch of Call of Duty Black Ops search and destroy games with Jake, and thought my life was just perfect.