VETERANS OF WAR
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
The names in this story have been changed for the sole purpose of protecting the identities of the individuals involved
As I approached my street to go home, two blue and white patrol cars with their lights on are attempting to block the entrance to my street. Before the turn I can clearly see my street lined with police officers, paramedic crews, and news reporters – most of them centered around my home. I ignore their attempts to prevent me from entering. I squeeze my car past the patrol cars as I hear the officers yelling for me to “STOP” and telling me that I can’t enter. I don’t care if I am breaking the law. I’m going home.
My heart is racing, blood rushing through every part of my body. I am at an almost sheer state of panic. I think I may have stopped breathing at some point. I see my son standing with officers all around. I have now reached maximum capacity of adrenaline. I almost faint from the terror.
I pull into my driveway catching glimpse of the officer tucked up in the tree across the street, gun drawn. I slam the car into park and jump from my car with my eyes locked on my son. I rush to him with no care as to what is transpiring around me. “What’s happening?”, I yell as I race up on him.
“It’s a stand-off mom. Ron is locked up inside his home threatening to hurt himself. He’s already fired off shots in his home.” The blood racing through my body comes to a near sudden halt and I nearly pass out as he tells me this. A temporary wave of relief crashes over me. My son is safe. But Ron is not. Tears fall down my face as I watch the sea of police officers swarm the home directly across from me in an attempt to resolve this quickly and peacefully. Eventually Ron is brought out on the porch and the stand off is over. But its not for me.
I stand with my son, so many emotions engulfing me. Tears fill his eyes. Mine are filled too. I want to hug him, but I believe I may be in shock. He starts to tell me what happened, how Ron’s PTSD from Vietnam mixed with a long binge of drinking has incited this recent ordeal. This is the worst of the rash of spells for Ron, one of the many that have been escalating at an alarming rate. As my son speaks everything begins to blur for me.
I am somewhere far away. I have transported back in time. I am experiencing my own PTSD from a war with my own demons, once fueled by alcohol as well not so long ago. I shake. Yes, I have trauma that I now know may never go away. Trauma I experienced as a result of my own drinking.
I am there again, seven years ago, waking up to twenty-two missed calls from the Boise Police Department and the beginning of a nightmare that would ultimately scare me straight. That night all those years ago nearly killed me. I was deep in my disease then and what I would later come to understand was the beginning of my bottom. God, and only my higher power, saved me from myself.
Still, the events of those final moments of my drinking demise haunt me deeply. So deep are the wounds, that I had fallen down the rabbit hole of my mind in record breaking speeds within seconds of registering the scene I came upon this afternoon. “I nearly died that day”, I thought to myself as I remembered the chilling events that had changed my life forever, and so did someone I loved very deeply. The scene I witnessed today had triggered me. As I experienced full blown PTSD in that moment, the depth of realization that I am a survivor of alcoholism struck me swiftly. I had survived death and so did the person I loved. So severe was the trauma that in that very moment, I truly understood the gravity of what I had lived through. It was enough to admit, it just might be time to seek outside help.
Flashing back to those last days shook me to my very core. I shiver even as I write this just recalling it all. Here I was today, just coming home for lunch like I always do, not the least bit concerned with drinking or even thinking about my disease. How quickly we forget as life gets going and time settles under our belt. I got caught off guard.
How fast God brought me back to reality. I am a recovered alcoholic, but I have an honest understanding that I will never be cured. I am only in remission. It is imperative that I take my medicine (participate regularly in my recovery) or else just like my neighbor, it will play out in another dramatic ending for me. I don’t believe I’ll be lucky enough to surrender the next time, should I ever play Russian Roulette with the bottle again.
As the officers speak with us regarding our neighbor they share with us what we already know. We love that old man. He has become part of our family for various reasons and my son’s best friend. They explain that he is severely alcoholic and that he is wrestling deeply with his demons from a war that isn’t finished in his mind. I know that war all too well. The officer shares that the Vietnam War is not over for our friend and that they are taking him to get help. I want to tell the officer that it is only part of the war our friend battles with. But it doesn’t matter. Only those of us who have lived through the war can begin to understand. We are veterans of another sort. We share that bond with Ron.
If our neighbor doesn’t find a way out of the bottle soon, the war that he is continuing to wage on himself will likely take him. This is a reality for our friend, for he is one of us. As my son turns to go back inside, he turns and says, “I’m afraid I’ll be burying my best friend soon momma”, tears running down his face. I turn to walk into my home as well, “I’m afraid son you just might” I say to myself. Silently I pray for Ron.
This evening, the cameras are packed up and gone. The tree outside my neighbor’s house has only squirrels on its branches. The street is now empty of brightly colored emergency response vehicles, and across the street the house Is eerily quiet and vacant. Our street tonight looks like any other normal street in America. If you drove down it now, with no knowledge of this afternoon’s events, you would never have any idea that today someone nearly died from the disease of alcoholism.
But our street is only one of many across the world where scenes like this occur, some not as dramatic, some way worse, on a daily basis. People everywhere are dying of the disease of alcoholism and addiction. They are dying in record amounts, sometimes taking innocent lives with them. The war is real - the war they are waging on themselves and others and the war to stop alcoholism and addiction. It almost seems overwhelming, almost crushing me at times when I think of the gravity of it.
As I sit here this evening numb from the experiences of my day, I am dumb-founded on why I was one of the lucky ones. Why did I get to survive this war and others didn’t and won’t? The question is moot. Tonight I am asking my higher power for one more day, attempting through the shock to be grateful, and giving myself permission to begin the healing process from the effects of my own personal war with alcohol. I may never be fully healed, but I’m supposing I shouldn’t be. These scars are reminders of where I’ve been, what I survived, and where I never want to go again. Even though my scars are not visible for the most part, there’s no denying that they are there. Today proved it. The war is still continuing to be battled and I cannot let up on my recovery, lest I will be one of the fallen ones.
To all the recovery warriors out there, soldier on my friends. I am with you in spirit and thought. I am here with you on the front lines, fighting side-by-side with you, remembering the fallen ones, and standing vigilant at the door day and night. Do not let go of those who are MIA from recovery or who are severely injured and need us. Never give up on them or yourselves. It is hard I know, but the alternative is much worse. Gather around other veterans of this terrible war and draw support and strength from each other. United we stand. Divided we fall. Light and love to all of you this eve.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
(Out of respect for those involved today, including myself, I am asking for prayers and a moment of silence for those we have lost and for those who are still suffering.)
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.