It is not a story… no heroic actions,
No winning of a war.
If I did not operate how I did and where I did,
Would I still be here, now, drunk, and willing to risk it all?
I tried hard to be normal,
I tried to adapt.
I walked that long dark road alone,
No one held my hand,
And even if they tried, I do not trust anyone.
My face is numb, and my body is cold,
I like it that way.
I want to feel regret,
But I do not.
I am okay with this, laying here… spinning.
I cannot find the rush I require any longer,
I am stuck between heaven and hell,
I need to feel alive.
I used to see them when I closed my eyes,
I feel the cold, steel barrel pressed against my skin,
I crave it more and more each time the thought crosses my mind.
I do not seem to fear death like before,
I actually welcome it.
Welcome to my thoughts,
It isn’t much of a life,
I crave the liquid high to escape this ‘life’,
Craving the edge,
Desiring the cliff,
I beg and plead to look over the edge,
Look down beneath me,
The only ones I trust are down there,
Holding their hands out to welcome me…
I am alone here,
Barely keeping my head above water.
I can’t deal with those who chose to be in my life,
I can’t be myself.
I can’t tell them how many lives I’ve ended,
Or that the number nearly equates to the times I dared to end myself.
Shot after shot, the room is finally spinning.
I desire the letting go.
The freedom from this life.
I cannot complete this mission sober,
Spinning faster, deeper, until I can’t stand or weigh my actions.
Let me forget anything that ever existed.
I am a prisoner in these four walls,
a prisoner in my own mind,
in my brain, it is missing pieces, what should I feel?
I am begging this is what takes me.
This ends the fight,
I’ve exceeded my shelf life, outlived my time here,
There is nothing more for me to do.
I am expired.
Today is December 11, 2020.
I left my weapon loaded, feet away from me,
On the table where I feed my young daughter,
Where my child eats her food.
I know it is there, if I could move through the numbing,
I can stagger over to grab hold of it.
I’ve contemplated the fastest way to death, crying.
Pathetically puking off the side of the couch from the pint of poison I had ingested.
Hoping I would drift off to sleep and choke on my vomit.
Am I dreaming, I see their hands reaching upwards to help me down?
They tell me I can escape; I can be at peace.
But something is holding me back, I can’t move down off the cliff,
I try to jump, I am stuck.
Something is grabbing me, what is that noise, what is holding me back…
“Daddy, wake up, it’s time for breakfast…”
I am an alcoholic.
I did not know I had a problem with drinking. Not until my whole life came crashing down and I nearly lost everything I love.
It seems cliché, but it is my story.
I’ve come to terms with my newly earned title.
But the road to get here has not been easy.
In fact, it was very difficult.
Seems an appropriate term, but for years, I didn’t think of it that way. I didn’t think alcohol was poisoning my relationships, my career, and my health. It was a constant in my life of suffering, anxiety, and turmoil. Alcohol was reliable; it provided a temporary solution, a numbness, an escape. I didn’t consider it a poison, especially since it was normalized within the military community.
Every occasion we had together in the team room, squadron AAR’s, beers flew from the coolers, teammates grabbing two at a time, as if it was their last drink.
We were all consuming the poison with the same enthusiasm and gusto we exhibited when we entered combat.
Our time in war left an imprint on our souls. Memories, dreams, and dark thoughts haunted each one of us. We would blindly look past it in each other, as if we were looking at a reflection in ourselves, but our loved ones saw it, they recognized the emptiness.
The women that once stood by our side gave disapproving glances, their faces smeared with looks of enduring loss and heartache. They recognized that we were not the same person. They grieved as they watched us self-destruct under the control of this liquid poison.
We had made it home from combat, but they had lost us.
Some drink to dull the pain, some drink to cope with the loss of the purpose, the mission, the team, but for some, drinking is survival.
My 15 years of service made me feel whole. Everything I did had a purpose and rhyme or reason. When that was gone, I was at my lowest point. I violated my conscience and committed moral suicide.
I’d like to blame the poison in my blood for the losses in my life. But I’ve realized that drinking was not fully to blame for a life that had spun out of control. As I became sober, my weaknesses revealed themselves, and they were far more dangerous than the drink in my hand.
I “dried up” for the first time in 10 years and found myself walking a fine line between suicide and homicide.
My life had become unmanageable. It was an undeniable ugly truth, and it forced me to do an inventory of my life.
Alcohol caused me a lot of heartache, moral injury, and physical pain. I feared intimacy and closeness, I chased unhealthy and dependent relationships, I engaged in compulsive sexual escapades, I fueled strained relationships, and I held many resentments – all of which were cumulative failures, and they kept building. Reflecting on my failures was eye-opening.
It isn’t an easy road becoming sober, or even limiting your alcohol intake, but the temporary numbness and dissociation that comes with that drink, is not just poisoning you – it’s poisoning your relationships and your support network.
I beg each of you who have walked a similar path, who’ve walked this long walk alone, to do a moral inventory of your life. It won’t be easy. It will make you angry, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you regret, and it will remind you of things you vowed to keep buried.
It will make you uncomfortable. You will want to drink to silence the thoughts and feelings you’ve just awoken. This is a crucial point in your path to sobriety.
When I thought about all the people I had hurt when I was drunk, those times I drank to forget, the times I drank because I was selfish and put my own comfort ahead of others, it hit me like a ton of bricks, a pit in my stomach… but I recognized that discomfort, and it allowed me to react to contact and eventually adjust fire.
One is always one too many, but one is never enough.