Like just about everyone else, after five and a half years, I was ready to go to the house. Or as we more affectionately called it, Fort Living Room (the slang used to describe the transition from military to civilian living). There was a difference between me and most upon getting out; I intended on going to college, and returning to the infantry as an officer.
At first, leaving the army felt great. No more deployments, long stays away from my family, or things of the such. Thinking back as I first joined the military, I was ready as hell to get away. Now, transitioning back to civilian life, I had the same anxiousness to get back to them. Before school started, I began working for my brother as a general laborer building roads. I soon realized my body missed the rhythm of the daily drill. I’d wake up mornings, look at the clock and say to myself, “oh shit, I’m late for PT.” Fully dressed in my PT gear, I’d run out the door as my brother would watch from the kitchen table chuckling. I’d finally realize where I was when I’d hit the porch.
I missed the brotherhood and comradery of being one of the guys. I missed my friends. Being in ROTC in college didn’t help. These were college kids, not battle hardened soldiers who I had experienced combat with. Civilian living was lethargic. I had learned to embrace active duty and its relentless invasion of my free time. Non military life is nothing like that, and I hated it. When I was medically released from ROTC and from OCS in the same year, I began to self-medicate heavily. I was hiding.
By the start of spring semester of my senior year I was drinking heavily and in pain. The injuries I had sustained from being in active duty came furiously. I was lying to the VA because I was ashamed of the state I was in. Nightmares, flashbacks and even crying spells would come over me, they would paralyze me. I needed help, I needed someone to talk to, and I needed more medication. I transitioned quickly from drinking and popping pills to working out. I would deprive my body pushing in it to the brink. My mantra became: With the body and mind busy, it doesn’t have time to think about the past. I was running from my ghosts, unwilling to confront them. But the ghosts caught up, they always do.