I returned home from Afghanistan, in 2011. Struggling to cope with what had transpired over the last 365 days, I found my solitude within drinking establishments. Whether a club, a bar, or even just an empty apartment living room with a bottle just for me, I had found my way to cope. My closest friends and I dove head first into medicating away our sorrows. Before long, everything started to seem ok. Things even started to seem great after a while. These were truths I had fully convinced myself of.
The months following deployment were a whirlwind of emotions. Everyone was drinking, no one was talking. Not about things that needed discussing anyway. A few more people took their own lives unable to cope. The drinking got heavier, the sadness deepened, the anger deepened, and the silence grew ever present. Soon, months turned to years.
Every year we celebrate the loss of the fallen. Every year, sadly, that list grows longer. With each passing year however, it becomes easier to truly celebrate the memory of my friends and family. This appears to be true for not only me, but for many of my old friends. I see every day more and more of my military brothers finding help. I see more of them walking away from alcohol in search of happier, healthier alternatives. I notice more people opening their minds to ways of thinking that maybe aren’t considered main stream, from pharmaceutical drugs to therapy, from medicinal marijuana to the love of a great woman. Some, like myself, found yoga.
No matter how they find a way to battle their demons and let go of emotions that haunt them, I am glad. I’m happy to see more people around me finding a way out of the darkness.
I was unaware of the struggle I was facing before yoga. The darkness, the anger, all of those negative emotions had wrapped me up. The problem was, it felt like I was all wrapped up in a nice cozy blanket. The feeling was nice; I was content. My first class at Yoga Innovations felt like something brand new to me. I was flooded with some kind of feeling foreign to me. It was a feeling I enjoyed, so I went back twice the next week, and thrice the week following that. Little did I know then, that the emotion wasn’t new to me at all.
Fast forward a year, and I was getting ready to begin teacher training at Yoga Innovations. The studio that had truly become home. Those four months changed my life dramatically, and shifted my life in an entirely new direction. I had found some peace and happiness surrounded by people I loved. I am not saying it was all sunshine and rainbows; it wasn’t. It was really difficult; it was a lot of long weekends. It was physical and emotional work. Teacher training required me to be present, and it asked me to look inside to find my own inner truths.
For me, those inner truths had been locked away. The truth was, I was carrying around a lot of guilt, and even more hatred. I felt guilt for being alive. Why did I make it home when so many fathers, brothers, and sons did not? Why did I not do more to help? I felt hatred for an entire group of people simply because it was easier to hate than it was to forgive and seek forgiveness.
After discovering these truths, I found confusion. What was I supposed to do with all of that guilt and all of that hatred? The answer was simple, and yet, so difficult. The answer was to let go, the answer was love.
It has now been 5 years since I returned home from Afghanistan. I have found so much space in my heart to love by letting go. I know that life, and love are a journey, and it is an adventure I am excited everyday to experience and share with others.
We are at a particularly interesting place at this time; in this country. Many people feel hurt, or angry at the current political climate. Many people I am sure, will hold on to those negative emotions, and may, like me, even lock them away. I know things seem scary. I understand hurt. It is important to remember that we all have a purpose and a place in this world. Never give up hope and never give up on love. If you are ever feeling lost, take a breath and find yourself. If that doesn’t help, never hesitate to find help. You can find me, or any teacher at Yoga Innovations if you need someone to be there for you. We are all in this together, and if you are reading this right now, know that you are truly loved. Happy Veterans Day everyone.