Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

I've come to believe that everything happens for a reason.  It took a lot of pain and a lot of soul searching for me to truly come to understand this.  Events in my childhood, my introduction to drugs and alcohol, enlisting in the Army, my combat experience, they have all led me to this very moment in my life.  When I take a close look at it, all I really have is this moment, and I have to remember that because I spend a lot of time projecting possibilities of the future.  That causes a lot of stress and anxiety, so I have to work on staying in the moment.  Can I handle what is going on this very second?  If I can manage this moment in my life, I will be OK.

When I try to manage everything that is going on with me, I have to rely on my faith.  I was never religious, and I'm still not.  What I have found is spirituality, I've found something greater than myself to rely on to get me through the difficult times.  Do I always remember that?  Definitely not, but when I do, my life is manageable.  It took 30 years to be able to recognize this, it took months of going to recovery meetings, but I have one definitive experience that I fall back on, and remember that I am capable of having absolute faith.

We were staged outside of Fallujah, guarding an Ammo Supply Point (ASP).  The unit that we replaced told us they had killed a few people the day before, and told us to be safe.  Part of my section was on guard closest to the ASP, and all through the night there was quite a bit of noise, and we could see people in one of the buildings.  We were not able to engage because we were told that they were not a threat.  The next day we continued to, "observe and report."  That became a running joke in our section after what happened.  Over the course of the next few hours, we saw several individuals making trips to a specific location in the ASP.  Our Battery needed some individuals to go into Fallujah to provide security for the Mayor's building, protests and riots were breaking out in the city, and they needed more soldiers for security.  I wanted to go, but they sent someone else from my section instead, so I moved from the FAASV (Field Artillery Ammo Supply Vehicle) to the gun in case we needed to fire. 

Shortly after I got to the gun, all hell broke loose.  One of the insurgents in the ASP started a fire, and it set off ammunition.  After 2 years in Iraq, I never saw an explosion as big as the one at this ASP.  The whole place erupted, you couldn't hear anything except for people screaming and all the rockets, mortars, and small arms that was going off.  The ground was shaking, rounds were hitting all over our perimeter.  We got in the gun and prepared to get out of there, there wasn't anything we could do except leave, we couldn't fire back because there was no one to kill.  We saw them go up when the first explosion went off.  I was terrified, I could hear the world falling apart around me.  The radios were going crazy with people trying to get accountability of everyone.  Half of our section was missing and not responding to the radio, this was the group that I was with before going to the gun.

Our Platoon Sergeant dove into the back of the gun just as a round hit behind us.  At that time, something very strange happened.  In the midst of all this chaos, I became perfectly calm.  I was no longer worried, no longer scared, I thought that this was because I was going to die, and I knew that I was.  Then it shifted to where I felt like I wasn't going to die, I wasn't even going to get hurt.  No one was going to die or get hurt that afternoon.  It was almost like time had stopped, and that I was outside of myself observing everything happening around me.

We eventually made it out of there, they found the guys that were missing, and we just carried on like nothing had happened.  The next morning I wrote a letter home, telling them about what had happened.  Not about my experience, because at the time I wasn't aware of what had happened, but about the events leading up to us leaving.

It wasn't til I got into recovery and started going to meetings that I finally had an explanation of what had happened.  "We came to believe that a power greater than our self could restore us to sanity."  I thought long and hard about this step.  Could I really believe that?  Could I find a power greater than myself?  After talking this over with my sponsor, I realized what had happened that afternoon.  God had shown himself to me.  That afternoon I experienced complete and total faith in something that I couldn't identify.  I had discovered that I had the capacity to believe in something greater than myself, even though I couldn't see it or touch it, I could feel it.

That experience is something that I turn to often.  Whether it be to help keep me sober for one more hour, or to make it through one more counseling session.  I keep searching for that unconditional faith, I want to feel that calm again, that serenity.  That is what keeps me going no matter how difficult a day I might be having, whether I have 8 migraines in a two week period.  I know deep down that I am going to make it, I am going to be OK.  When I don't stay in the moment, that is when things become unmanageable.  I have to think of that afternoon outside of Fallujah, and remember I have the capacity to make it through anything.