A lot of choices I made as a young man led to long-term consequences I still have to deal with today. And I don’t just mean ignorant decisions made because of my blue pill upbringing.

Some of the punishment I put my body through when I felt invincible eventually brought me to a state in which I feel far more fragile than agile. Between football and the Airborne, my back and knees are a hot mess. Slamming your body full-speed into other strong, healthy young men, jumping out of airplanes, and pounding the ground carrying 80 pounds of whupass is not exactly work that the human body was designed to perform for extended periods.

Some physical ailments I suffer have an origin I can’t identify—like acid reflux.

I’ve gone to doctors, but as many of you probably already know: today’s doctors have no interest in healing you; they only push pills. Modern medicine is not about fixing root problems—it’s about getting you dependent on drugs that numb some of the symptoms.

At least that’s my experience.

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Let me add another personal detail that’s relevant: until about 12 years ago I slept like the typical infantryman…which is to say: HEAVY. I could sleep through almost anything, anytime, anywhere. But I didn’t appreciate what a blessing that was. Then the V.A. prescribed medicine for a symptom of a problem I was suffering, and it wrecked my sleep.

I haven’t been able to sleep right since then. Add to that my increasing difficulty getting comfortable in bed, and the acid reflux that strikes without warning at night, and the result is not nearly enough rest.

Sleep is when your body heals. When you don’t sleep, the long and short-term results are problematic. You don’t just need healing after an injury per se—if you lift, for instance, that’s when the muscle groups you taxed at the gym recover and grow. Guys who get really big don’t all follow the same diet or workout regimen or all take steroids; but one thing they all seem to have in common is they sleep a lot.

I have plenty of pain pills on hand, and some of them knock me out. Unfortunately, they also make me groggy after awakening when I need to be alert.

The solution I found

Since my back is the main culprit keeping me from sleeping, I’ve been stretching a lot, using a Shiatsu massager, keeping my knees elevated at night, and I stiffened up my mattress as best I could. None of this did the trick.

For Christmas I was given an acupuncture mat for back and neck.

There’s no universal consensus on what exactly acupuncture does. The explanation that makes most sense to me is: by stimulating multiple nerve clusters at once, it works some kind of hoodoo on your central nervous system, releasing neurotransmitters and hormones into your body. This results in pain relief, a revitalized immune system and other microprocesses restored throughout your body.

Though not everyone agrees why it works, most agree that it does work.

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The mat I got for Christmas does not use the long metal needles you may have seen in movies, but fairly short plastic spikes—thousands of them. Willing to try nearly anything, I rolled it out on my bed and positioned myself so that it was in contact from my tailbone to my neck.

Laying on the mat is not comfortable. It felt like my skin was burning. But a lesson I learned years ago is “no pain, no gain.” So I elevated my knees to flatten my mangled lumbar against the mat and resolved that I would endure the discomfort for at least 10 minutes.

Before 10 minutes elapsed, I fell unconscious.

I came half-awake at some point later that night, put the mat away and laid back down, falling asleep as readily as I had as a young man.

I mentioned that I no longer sleep like an infantry veteran—more like an assassin. Any little anomaly wakes me up. And whether it is my woman, the dogs, an itch, or my bladder, I usually find it difficult-to-impossible to fall back asleep.

For the last two nights, however, only my bladder was able to wake me. After stumbling like a drunkard to the toilet and back, I conked out without trouble just like the old days. And no acid reflux either, so far.

I still need to invest in a better mattress. Even then, I might never be able to sleep on my stomach again. But this experience has brought so much relief that I’m now a believer in acupuncture.

If nothing else is working out for you, the acupuncture mats are affordable and well worth the temporary discomfort.

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