The Gift of Desperation

First let me start by saying that I’ve been there. I’ve had the thoughts and the sleepless nights, the nightmares and every thing else that comes with it. I can appreciate the heartfelt and raw honesty that comes with putting yourself out there, but how are any of us going to move forward without taking the advice of those that have been there? When I quit drinking back in 2011, I was blessed with a shoulder injury. I shit you not, I tore my shoulder out choking my chicken. Seriously, I had a rooster that had to go and while I raised him up to snap his neck, he twisted on me and that minor adjustment made me yank my right shoulder out of socket momentarily. I can’t make this up. Every doctor and specialist I saw made me retell the story like they couldn’t see it right there on the chart.

Regardless, I had to make some adjustments. I drive a stick shift pick up truck and a motorcycle, so I couldn’t even drive myself around for about a month. I had to walk three miles from my house to the train station every morning and every afternoon to get to work, and while it was a pain in the ass, it taught me a tremendous amount of self awareness. I looked at my body as a project car. I had to go through physical therapy in order to get myself back to where I was before. I say this was a blessing because at the same time I was rehabilitating my body, I was also rehabilitating my mind and spirit. While I was used to hiding my emotions from others with alcohol, I now had to take a very serious and personal look into what caused this behavior. Like my shoulder, I couldn’t do all the things I previously felt so comfortable doing with my lifestyle. I basically had to relearn how to function in society.

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This understanding was instrumental for me when I transitioned out of the military and into the civilian sector. No denying that I was different from everyone else, but that didn’t excuse me from my responsibilities as a member of a civilized society. Just like when I was injured, I couldn’t drive, but I still had to get to work. Do you think my Company First Sergeant gave a damn that I had to adjust my commute? Do you think my section was going to excuse me from my responsibilities because I had a hardship? We all know the answers to these questions, so what makes us any different now?

We pride ourselves in our service and display our scars, both seen and unseen with honor, but often times we are too chicken shit to own up to the fact that the excuses we use are bullshit. We paint ourselves into this image of a broken and tormented being that is desperate to find a place among the living, but how desperate are we really?

For me, desperation is a beautiful thing. Desperation is the last stop. It’s when you’re up at zero dark thirty in the morning going over your budget for the tenth time, trying to find a way to pay the bills. It’s when you’ve pulled the bags out of the closet and you’re ready to pack your things and leave. It’s when you come to the conclusion that everyone would be better off without you here. When there is nothing left. That is when you are truly desperate.

Now the reason I bring all of this up is because as I was looking for a couple places to share my website and blog this morning, I came across a Facebook group where a man had posted about feeling alone in a crowded room. I watched all day as this man’s post garnered hundreds of likes and dozens of comments. Not one person, besides myself, offered any suggestions on how to overcome this debilitating feeling. Not one. Instead it seemed like everyone else was looking for a place to dump their own similar story. By the way, this was a “Veterans Only” Facebook page.

Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of me writing this blog, I will say it time and again that yes, you are different because of your time in service but you are only broken if you choose to be. That’s a pretty tall order being as that some of us are missing arms and legs and maybe have burns over our body. Maybe some of us are drastically disfigured. Yet the friends that I have that fit into that category are not the ones that I see posting this kind of rhetoric. I do understand that there are some of us that have some very real psychological problems, but let’s be honest, those cases are not as common as we make them out to be.

What I see when I see posts like this is nothing more than a cry for attention. Not a cry for help, because if you wanted help, you’d go get it. This is something else entirely. Now I wasted your time talking about how I tore my shoulder strangling a rooster, but the purpose behind it was that I learned that in order for my body to recover I had to put in the work. It was a blessing for me at the time because it gave me a living analogy for my subsequent and current recovery from alcoholism. Just like I would have to work myself up to doing pull ups again by lifting five pound weights over and over again, I had to work myself up to being socially active without alcohol by slowly getting back into society. I volunteered, I went to meetings, I talked about the source of my problems, not just focusing on the symptoms. It took a lot of work, and eventually I dug myself out of a self hating, and abusive mental attitude. I couldn’t have done that without first finding desperation.

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To me desperation is when you’ve had enough. When you just can’t take it anymore. Only then are you really faced with one of three options. You can throw in the towel, because that’s not the most selfish thing you could do toyour loved ones. You can be lazy and sit in your own filth and do nothing but talk to your like minded and weak willed friends that are just as comfortable as you, but that’s not desperation. If you’re truly desperate you can do something entirely different, and that’s take a good hard look at who you’ve allowed yourself to become and make a choice to change everything about yourself to overcome whatever is in your way and be successful. You’ll get up early, and stay up late doing everything in your power to turn the ship around. In that desperation you will find the strength you didn’t know you had and you will move fucking mountains.

If you’re a veteran and you can relate to this, God bless you for your service. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the sacrifices that you made but here is the reality. You’re not going back to those golden days of late night patrols along the moonlit banks of the Euphrates or Helmand Rivers. Those days are behind you now, It’s not going to happen. If you’re lucky you might get taken care of by the VA and maybe your compensation and pension is enough to get by, but more than likely it’s not going to be enough.

Are your pitiful posts going to pay your electric bill? Your mortgage? Is your self depreciating Facebook posts going to make your car payment, or buy the next Play Station game? The answer is a big, fat, ugly no. You’ve got to pick yourself up, be honest about what’s bothering you and move forward. Make something where there is nothing. Take that first step to be something greater than your past.

I’ll end with this, and if you’ve known me for a long time you’ve heard me say this before. When I came back from my second deployment to Iraq I brought some demons back with me. I had seen something so vile and evil that I will forever be haunted by it. I came home to my dad’s bedside while he waited patiently for the cancer to finish the job and he saw the raw emotion that was hiding below the surface. I asked him if he still dealt with demons from Vietnam and in his true fashion he answered me with a story. He said that he had recently watched a special where they interviewed World War I veterans and asked them the same question, more than 75 years after their war ended. He told me that they all answered no. That those horrors and experiences, trials and tribulations never left them. That they had to overcome them and find a way to find peace in their lives despite of it.

What we fail to realize is that for each of us, there is someone weaker that’s watching us like a hawk. And if they see you falter, they might take that as an excuse for them to follow you down the rabbit hole. Your words and actions have consequences. Don’t be the reason others feel it’s OK to quit. Be the bright guiding light that’s going to lead your brothers and sisters to safety.

As always,please feel free to share and leave a comment. The main purpose of this blog is to promote positive conversations and relationships among the group.

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11 thoughts on “The Gift of Desperation

  1. Wonderful read and its awesome for you to put these words out there. I will share a little about what i have found helpfull with my struggle.

    When you are battleing through PTSD you need to accept the help of others but you dont have to accept that you are broken. I feel that too many people might subconsciously want to stay in their own torment because their ptsd is a badge of pride for the hell they went through or healing would lessen the sacrifice made by their brothers who never came home.

    I found that I needed emotional healing before I could focus on the psychological. Learning about PTSD is an important step, you should read about symptoms and how the brain works through it, but I remember that the last thing I wanted to hear from someone trying to help me was that I just had some disorder that needed curing. Especially when it came from some fat therapist who never saw a lick of combat. I found that speaking to a female therapist openly about what happened more helpful. I think as men we can be more guarded around other men with our feelings.

    I’m a little all over the place so i just want to wrap this up by saying that going to the gym everyday, building my Relationship with God and just allowing time to mend wounds helped me grow so much. There are a million other factors I could talk about but this is what I got for now.

    Read: “man’s search for meaning – victor frankl”

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  2. All very good points. Especially the last paragraph. I often wonder who’s watching me, if anyone. You know, the really shorty part about making a change is when after you’ve done it, it still doesn’t make the difference you wanted it to do. For example going to therapy. Maybe I did it partially for the wrong reasons, but in the end I backfired on me career wise. However, like you mentioned your company 1st sergeant and section, no one gives a shit if you have a problem and know the capable solution to that problem. You just do work, and find something else. I think a key thing I’ve learned since being home is your main happiness cannot come from work. I didn’t truely understand that until about 2 years ago. Peace and happiness in something outside of work will bring true joy.

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  3. Very well said. No one would know you were a hard charging Marine by the way you write. Some folks should let these words sink in, it may do them some good. I see it all the time at the VA.

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  4. Well said Donnie I think there is some guys out there that just let things build and build and social media has given them an outlet and instant gratification with fast responses to further solidify their pitty party. Although I think there are people out there with real issues who need medical help most just need to pull them selves up and stop making excuses. Your article says it better though.

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  5. Great read Donnie! There where times while on active duty and after I retired that I wanted to throw in the towel and just say F it. This past Father’s Day, my oldest Son told me I was his hero. I asked him why. He went on to say, “Dad you never give up no matter what happens to you and you never let anything beat you.” I think we forget at times who is watching us, whether it be our children, co-workers, Jr/Sr Marines, and significant others. There is a song by Casting Crowns, a Christian Band, in the song it talks about we are all broken but it’s how we manage the brokenness. Thanks for sharing Brother!

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  6. It’s been 8 years since you were my Senior Drill Instructor and you still know how to motivate me. Oorah Gunny I wish you all the success in the world!

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  7. Brother,

    Great post. The strength and courage that you show not only as a Marine – but as a man, is inspirational. I know we don’t talk often, but I hope you know if you – or any veteran – needs anything, we are here for you.

    Continue the Fight!

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    1. Thank you. Let’s talk soon. Read the last blog about video chatting and share it with your Marines. Especially being on recruiting duty, away from their normal group, it’s a great way to reconnect and stay in touch. I’ve got a group of 5 or 6 guys that I deployed with that practically take showers together on messenger.

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