Based on the sobriety app on my phone, it’s been 901 days since I have had a drink. I sometimes feel like a fraud because I don’t know if I would have been considered an alcoholic . I enjoyed my alcohol. I never thought is was an issue. I never thought I was affecting myself or anyone around me. The years have gone by in my life and the number of friends I lose to suicide has multiplied. I have been in a position to help mentor veterans and try to help them better transition, with thousands of resources at my disposal. I have written a book on transition and speak all over the United States about this specific topic, and still tend to not get the call or text from close friends in times of crisis. This keeps a burning in my chest. What is the answer for suicide and why do our Veterans continue to choose that path? What am I not doing enough of and where can I fill the gap? Why don’t my friends call me when they are having a crisis.
I was raised in a drinking household. My father wasn’t an alcoholic like the stories he mentioned about his own father. He wasn’t an angry drunk from what I could remember. He has always been a happier person when Drinking. The type of dad where we would run to get him a beer after a long day’s work. We knew he would be in a better mood with two or three beers in him.
We had a fridge in the back yard that was meant for overflow of leftover dinners, and dads beer.
I remember the first time I drank a beer and it gave me a the best thirst quenching feeling. That actual “ahhhh” came out of my mouth and I drank 6 before my mom came home. That wasn’t the first time I had a beer. That was the first time i liked the taste. The first time I had a feeling that I couldn’t wait for the next cold beer. I was 16.
I remember when I was a sophomore I went to a few parties where alcohol was present. I knew a senior that was in my Spanish class. He recognized me and mentioned “damn, if you keep drinking like this you are going to need a new liver.” 15 year old me took it as a complement.
It gave me some clout with the older kids. I was now getting invited to more parties. I was one of the guys. I remember getting drunk and thinking how cool it felt. Doing push-ups for no apparent reason. This mentality carried on throughout my college years, now the guys who cheered me on are my baseball friends. They knew when I was invited there was going to be some heavy drinking and shenanigans involved.
My father never mentioned “Drinking beer will be some of the most fun times you ever had, and the reason for almost all your regrettable decisions you ever make.”
I failed out of college, immaturity and alcohol are 100% to blame.
The culture of baseball fit right into the same drinking lifestyle I’d grown accustomed to at home and I never would have recognized the problem if it wasn’t for all the issues I see happening in the veteran community now.
Off to the military I go. Special Operations and War…. a psychological cocktail for alcohol answered trauma.
Party hard and play hard, the life of an Airborne Ranger.
I was new to the platoon, our NCO said to make sure the rooms flow with beer for when the boys get back. We did our best to supply the most alcohol for the men who we aspire to be like and careers with experience we have only read in books prior to this. They walked down the halls filled with emotions… They lost someone they loved and no one wanted to point fingers at who’s to blame. They just drank and got louder and more angry. I was choked by an angry Ranger that was twice my size. I didn’t put up a fight, I let him take out his pain. He was younger than me. I knew he didn’t know any other way to get his pain out of his system. He let me down before I passed out…
this wasn’t something that was uncommon. This was Ranger culture in the rear. The chaos that presented itself after combat…
Drinking songs and drinking toasts.
One for them, two for me mentally.
We drink because we hurt, we drink because we have always drank. This is a part of the history as much as combat missions in different countries.
When we were happy we drank and when we were sad we drank more…
2006, we lost two incredible Rangers… my friends. I was on the rear helping organize collecting of the personal items. Helping the families and taking my friends to their final resting place. We had new guys… They supplied the alcohol… I supplied the choke this time… Something I felt I was owed. Something I have held onto for many years. Something that didn’t need to continue but I was angry and drunk and didn’t know how to express that feeling… we had only been taught to drink. Since I was younger, watching my family celebrate and watching my family mourn. This is what I knew from baseball. When we won we would celebrate with drinking and when we lost we would lick our wounds with drinking.
The cycle didn’t change because of my age, it actually got worse and worse the older I got… Beer doesn’t cut it anymore. 2 shots of Whiskey before I get started with beer. Call it a jump start.
I left active duty after three deployments and what I have come to terms with is a whole lot of survivor’s guilt and flashes of PTSD moments I am still trying to navigate.
As a prison guard i was sober at work and drinking when I could. I’ve never been a fan of drinking alone. I enjoy an audience and a team to partake in my misery. I was unhappy in life. My marriage was dead, my mind was broken. I couldn’t find relief in anything I did. So I drank. I found any excuse to drink. Golf at 6am, why not? It’s the anniversary date of another friend’s death? It’s a birthday? It’s a Friday, it’s Veterans Day…it didn’t matter anymore. Anything to drink and find something that will shut off the noise in my own head.
It was in the border patrol i started to have blackouts.
I was divorced and alone. Most would be excited about a new start. I was wishing I was back in war. A part of me would have been happier dead than alive.
I had my own seat at the bar. I was a regular. Two shots and a tall beer the familiar bartender, who knew how days like this started and how it would end eventually, calling my friends to take me home.
I was ok with this routine… It was punishment for being alive. It was normal for someone like me, I would tell myself.
As the years would pass, more friends would pass….
As the years stacked the scales tipped to losing more to suicide than by combat.
I personally believe there is a direct correlation between the drinking culture in the Military to the high percentage of suicide in the Veteran community.
There are white paper study’s that claim Alcohol coupled with undiagnosed PTSD and depression can have a high probability for suicidal ideation.
Reading this, and learning that because of combat and other stressors combined with alcohol, I am more prone to commit suicide. This fact had me rethink what’s important in life.
I refuse to know this and continue to play Russian Roulette with every beer I consume.
And while I am changing my own cultural trauma and patterns, I am also potentially changing the culture in which my kids know to be normal.
I am upset I continued the same pattern for so many years because that’s how it’s been done before me. I will not continue to normalizing the cycle of raising alcoholics in the military and my own family.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but
as Veterans Day approaches, I know I have already lost the attention of those who aren’t ready to hear it… but here’s what I am trying to convey.
You don’t have to drink to celebrate accomplishments.
You don’t have to drink to enjoy your nights.
You don’t have to drink to remember your brothers.
To the Airborne Rangers in the Sky, I have not forgotten you. I show gratitude daily for your sacrifices by living a well fulfilled life. I hope that makes you proud.
901 Days sober and I plan to stay sober for the rest of my life…