The sky is bright and blue with not a cloud in the sky. The sun is at its mid day peak. The air is dry and hot and my tongue longs for a drop of cold sparkling water. My stomach forgets what a full meal feels like while shrinking to its smallest state. The last drops of perspiration drip from my brow. I am fatigued and my body is running on pure adrenaline to keep moving. I had just experienced one of the most gruesome in person experience that I would never wish on my worst enemy. Thankful to be alive I fall to my face and kiss the dirt.
This is just a snippet of what a lot of veterans think about, dream about and live on a daily basis. Haunting memories of traumatic events. Even more people think these things in a different context. A traumatic event is not just a combat related event, but things that happen in our daily everyday life. We see children in the news getting raped by relatives, parents overdosing in front of their kids, women getting sexually assaulted. These are all things that no matter how hard we try the memories will never go away. For the longest time I chose not to disclose the deepest darkest memories that dwell inside me. I would keep it all to myself and I learned how to hide the pain from others. This seemed like the best way to deal with the struggle but it almost ended me.
These emotions, thoughts, memories or whatever you want to call them would soon take over my life. I felt like a puppet being controlled by them. I fell into a gambling addiction that felt like an escape. When I would go down the dark lonely road feeling helpless and weak, I would go to my escape. When I was in this so-called escape, fantasy world, I felt as if nothing else mattered. The rest of the world was on pause and I felt as if I was the only thing that mattered. Time did not exist and I would not allow anyone around me into my place of escape.
The addiction started driving other actions out of my character. Destructive lying and hiding things from my loved ones. Saying one thing and doing another. Anything that I was responsible for was slowing vanishing in front of my eyes and preparing to cause one big catastrophe with me being the center of it all.
Death consumed my thoughts and quickly started to become a reality. The questions of self-worth and thoughts of all the mistakes started to surface. It was just a matter of time before enough was enough.
At the very moment my life was about to come to an end I was yanked out of my dungeon and given a chance to ask and accept help. The feeling of being hopeless and lost slowly started to fade. As I opened up and laid it all out there things started to become easier to talk about. Even though I caused so much destruction and hurt battling myself, I have accepted the help of other around me.
The hardest thing I have ever done was accept the fact that I needed help and actually accepting it. My story is not new or unique but is a life that many of us live every single day. We cannot do this alone and we must stick together and fight this or we will FAIL.
© Tim Foster – 2015