“So, I found this picture on the left the other day on one of my old accounts, and I have been debating myself on whether or not to share it because it’s so hard for me to look at, much less discuss, but I think there’s a message here so…
Here goes nothing.
When that picture on the left was taken in the summer of 2016, I was in the height of the intravenous methamphetamine addiction that had been going on for years, and nearly cost me my life.
At that time, I was retired from the military due to my combat injuries, and I was injecting up to a gram of meth a day into my arm. I had destroyed every bridge and every friendship I had ever made, and I did not blame anyone for the way they viewed me, because they were right.
My only concern at that time was my next high because that’s how I dealt with the war, the loss of my father, my mental health issues, and pretty much all of my bad decisions.
(Basically I didn’t.)
My family and the few true friends that I had left constantly urged me to go to the VA (Department of Veteran Affairs) and get help. After all, there were literally a hundred arms stretched out to save me.
But I wouldn’t listen.
Honestly, during that time, I didn’t think there was anything left of me worth saving, so why bother? I was a washed-up Purple Heart and Valor Decorated homeless Veteran junkie statistic, and I had convinced myself that the person you see on the left was all that I’d ever be, and that there was no changing that fact.
But I was wrong, so wrong.
In February 2017, I had had enough and I decided join my fire team leader and so many other Veterans by ending my own life by overdose. Unbeknownst to me, my God had other plans.
After surviving my suicide attempt, something broke inside me. Suddenly, I wanted more. I wanted to be more, I wanted a purpose, and for the very first time I realized that the only thing stopping me, was me.
I then made the decision to cut every bad influence out of my life. I moved 100 miles away from every drug dealer I knew, founded WAT22, a support group, and buried myself in trying to save my fellow Veterans from suicide. Therein, I found my redemption.
Don’t get me wrong, it took a long time to show the people in my life that I’d let down and disappointed for so long that the changes were real and here to stay. I really had to work hard at it, but in the end, their doubt motivated me. For the first time in years, I had a fire in my chest and I was determined to prove them wrong, no matter the cost.
my desire to change
had become greater than my desire to stay the same.
Read that again.
Today, I am the Founder and President of a Veteran non-profit organization called We Are The 22 that has directly responded to, and saved, over 170 Arkansas Veterans from suicide, and I am proud to be surrounded daily by the most motivated and dedicated Veterans that I have ever known. Veterans who have dedicated their lives to responding at a moment’s notice to their Brothers and Sisters in crisis, 24 hours a day, with the sole intention of walking with them through the storm.
That, in itself, is incredible.
I still struggle with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and should probably see the doctors more than I do, but Im sober. I have my family back, a loving home, and literally everything that I ever thought I wanted during my time in the darkness. And by the grace of God, I now consider myself truly blessed…
Yet, that person in the picture on the left still haunts me, mainly because I know that right now there’s a Veteran out there reading this that is just as lost as he was, and they’re putting off getting the help they know they need for one more day…
And all I can think to say from my experiences is this:
YOU are worth saving!
LIFE is WORTH living!
There are more people out here that believe in you than you probably realize. You just have to believe in yourself, in your ability to change, and ask for help.
We Are The 22, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance – Central Arkansas, VFW Department of Arkansas, Arkansas American Legion, DAV Department of Arkansas, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, American Veteran Outdoors, A Veteran’s Best Friend, and Mission 22 are just a few of the places off the top of my head that would be a great place to start.
I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s going to be easy, because it won’t be. All that I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, is that it’ll be worth it.
Remember, if you’re reading this and it applies to you, there’s a reason for that.
I’m not sure how everyone is going to take this when they read it, but what I DO KNOW, is that at the end of the day WAT22’s team will be there if and when they are needed, and if this story saves even one life, or starts one person on the path to recovery, then I will gladly accept any negativity that may come with it.
There’s a whole world out here waiting for you to come home. Recovery is possible, and I know for a fact, you can do it.
Thank you. God bless you!”
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[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mikel Brooks of Little Rock, Arkansas. You can follow his journey on his website and his Facebook. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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