2 min read
14 Jul

      After years of abuse and being bullied, my life peaked my junior and senior year of high school. With the help of a friend, I was able to reconnect with my faith and mourn the loss of a family member from suicide.  I found gratitude in God, my life and found purpose in the pain. That’s when I first discovered my love for writing and I would keep a journal of everything. I no longer have this journal anymore but it saved my life and the live of another close to me. That pain I felt from my loss found its purpose to reach out into the suffering of another and light the way forward.  I carried that hope with me as I went off into the Army.  

     I left my home a grateful boy, but I returned home a bitter man. It didn’t happen immediately and the bitterness was a slow-creeping poison. It destroys hope, gratitude and rots the soul, but I didn’t know this at the time.  I deployed to Afghanistan July 4th 2013, and I was full of fear. I was well trained but nothing can compare to the real thing. I found myself swept up into a world I didn’t understand, a million miles from home and afraid. That’s enough to put a damper on anyone's faith and spirit I believe. During the initial months I stayed vigilant, hopeful and strong until the day my vehicle in the convoy was hit by an IED. We survived by the grace of God, and looking back it's something I am truly blessed and grateful for. 

     However, I was withholding a terrible secret this entire time. I wanted to die, but I couldn’t bring myself to take my own life. This was the day I felt that bitterness sneak into my soul and begin tearing me apart from the inside. This was the day I chose to once again turn my back on God because he refused to give me the one thing, I thought I wanted in life-to die. I returned home a changed man, and I began to see the discontent of my life coming back into view. We spent the next 4 months in blackout drunk states, and refused to deal with our emotions. It was easier to shove all that fear down into a bottle and numb it with alcohol. That set the tone for the rest of my time in the army. At the age of 21 I found myself in rehab for my alcohol problems and my anger issues. That bitterness had taken deep roots in my soul and festered into a black hole that consumed any and all emotions. In those days I started to take from life everything that I could because I believed God would never give anything to me. Even when I did get what I wanted, it was never enough. It only served to feed that black hole inside me that grew larger and out of control. Nothing would ever be good enough, there wasn’t enough sex booze, drugs, or joy that could satisfy me. I had become fully disconnected from God, and my own self. 

     The walls I had put up that I thought protected me only blinded me and disconnected me from the truth of my life.  My truth is that only God, only my higher power, could fill that hole. More importantly everyday he squishes my ego down to a manageable size and tells me to fill my life with gratitude to keep myself in check. I choose everyday now to find gratitude in my life, the people around me and God's presence in my life. It has not been an easy road, and some days I find myself angry at my circumstances. The one thing that keeps me rooted in reality is my gratitude. It’s a perspective changer, it forces you to look for something outside of your own thoughts and pain. It takes even deeper roots than bitterness ever can, and it provides nutrients to your soul. With this perspective in mind, I stopped taking from life and started giving back. Every day I ask how I can give back to those in my life and in gratitude I have found the freedom to live my life unbound by the shackles of my past. It takes a monumental amount of strength to look at yourself in those shackles and ask for help. It takes even more strength to  reach out to your higher power and accept the key to save yourself. The most beautiful thing happens in that moment and our higher power, God, whatever you believe in gives you the choice once again. To walk away with that key in hand and only save yourself or to go back out and help use that key to free others. I can only hope we choose to heal ourselves and help others heal, and above all find gratitude in our lives.

With Much love,

Mack

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