"You obviously had bad oral hygiene, will you take care of your new teeth?"
"You have a severe overbite, did you suck your thumb?"
These are just a few of the many questions I have been asked since I made my plans known regarding getting my smile fixed. This post will probably end up being a bit long winded and maybe even on the boring side so I'll apologize for that now. But it will also be brutally honest with no sugar coating and no holding back.
In my teens I became a professional. I'm serious. I was extremely good and proficient in two specific areas...irresponsibility and drinking. I was an full blown alcoholic by the time I was 17 which helped me to become even better at my other profession of an irresponsible kid who defined the word: selfish. Being irresponsible spilled over into every aspect of my life including basic and simple expectations such as oral hygiene. I never found the good habit of brushing 3 times a day and in fact it was rare if I brushed more than a few times a week. Disgusting I know. My teeth were bucked and gapped and when I was 18, maybe 19, my mother took me to an orthodontist where I was fitted with braces. For the first year or so I did good. I showed up for my dental appointments, which was usually to get the braces adjusted/tightened, brushed my teeth regularly and did everything I was instructed to do. But then I missed a dental appointment, probably because I was too hung over to go, then another and another.
I moved to another town which was approximately an hour drive from my orthodontist so now the missed appointments really started to pile up. When I turned 21 and could then obtain alcohol legally and easily, my drinking shifted into a new gear. I was on a path that could only lead to disaster but the scary part was that I didn't care. I didn't care about anything except for getting drunk that night and the next and the next. I couldn't keep a job due to being hung over in the mornings and not showing up for work but again...I didn't care. My braces started to deteriorate. The bands that kept the horizontal wire in place started to break and when all of them were gone I ended up pulling those wires out. So now I just had the individual square brackets that are cemented on to each individual tooth. This meant there was nothing to keep my teeth in place and before too long they started to move back to their original position of being bucked and gapped. In fact my teeth kept moving past the original, pre-braces position and when they finally stopped, the gaps and bucked teeth were more pronounced than ever before.
You would think that by the time a person reaches their thirties, they would have their life on track and heading in the right direction. You would think that until you met me. By this time I had several teeth that had developed cavities under the brackets that were still cemented to my teeth. Some of those cavities extend past the bracket and appear as big, black holes. Those particular cavities just happened to be on my front, upper teeth...beautiful. I was such an awesome specimen to look at. I still had the same other problems...couldn't keep a job, in and out of relationships and drunk just about every night. I was drinking so much at this point that I was easily depositing a case of beer (24) into my gut every night.
I have a fantastic mother. None of my bad behavior, selfish actions, irresponsibility or alcoholism was a result of how I was raised. She did everything she could to see that I found and maintained a correct and straight path in life. But I was determined to sabotage her efforts every chance I could even though I was usually doing so subconsciously. Then came a decision that she made that helped me change my life. I was renting a house from my mother and of course I wasn't making the payments on time if at all. She made the tough decision, after giving more chances than I deserved, to sell the house which of course meant I had to go. I found a room to rent and my last night in the house that I was renting from mom was September 11th 2002. I had just enough money to secure the room I was about to move into for 1 month. I had no job and no idea how I was going to pay for the next month of rent. I was on the verge of becoming homeless and I was aware of this. I didn't want to be aware of it so I made sure I would not face any reality until the next day. I made the professional decision to get properly and definitively wasted.
September 12th, 2002 - 34 years old
I woke up to reality in the wee hours of early afternoon. I don't know why I choose this 12th day of September to be THE day, but I had. Maybe it was because I was hitting rock bottom and sometimes decisions of this magnitude can only be made from the bottom. Maybe because it was the only choice I had left in order to save myself. It was time. Time to turn this sorry excuse of a life and person around. I had decided to stop drinking and somehow I knew I would succeed and that the life I had known was now over.
I moved into the rented room on this day and within a couple of more days I had found a job working at the golf course which this house was located on. Being able to afford the room for the upcoming months solved!
I figured it would be very difficult to stop drinking. That I would be forced to fight the urge every single day. After all, my body was use to receiving massive amounts of alcohol every night. There was no way I was going to get through this without experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, right? I don't know why, nor am I smart enough to even begin to explain it but quitting drinking was easy for me. I consider myself lucky and fortunate as I know there are many people who struggle every day. But in my case I have not had a single withdrawal symptom and no urge whatsoever to pick up a beer since I made the decision to stop on September 12th 2002.
Since that day over 11 years ago, almost every aspect of my life has improved. I moved on from that golf course job and from the rented room. I found a great employer and I also found a great woman. I went from a person who was unable to keep a job and pay the bills to now living a comfortable life, owning a home and finally growing up to become a good, responsible and honest man. The old Rod Anderson was gone for good, thank god, except for one thing.
Before I made this trip to Costa Rica, there was one thing that was still part of me that was a direct result of my prior irresponsible life and of the old Rod Anderson. I saw it every time I looked into a mirror. I saw it in the facial expressions of people I conversed with. It was my teeth...my awful, neglected teeth and smile. By this time in my life I had become an expert at avoiding someone wanting to take my photo. When I couldn't avoid it, it was fine because I also mastered the closed mouth smile. I had those orthodontic brackets on my teeth for over 16 years! I finally went back to the same clinic that had put the braces on my teeth when I was 18. They removed the brackets free of charge. It was embarrassing but unavoidable.
The reason for this very frank and blunt journal entry is to attempt to record and communicate the importance of this trip...this adventure that I decided to take. My bad teeth and smile where the last remnants of the Rod Anderson that no longer exists and I felt it was time to remedy that. After September 12th 2002, every single thing in my life improved except my smile. When I come back to Costa Rica later this year to receive my final teeth from Dr. Prada, it will mean more to me then just getting new teeth and a new smile. It will finally complete a dream that I've been working on for so long. I will finally bury the last piece of that old me and it will be the most rewarding experience of my life.
Thank you for reading & thank you for joining me on this ride