Name: Zachary ...
From: Fort Smith, AR
School: University of Arkansas Fort Smith
Since I was a little kid all I ever wanted to be was a Marine. I used to run around the back yard with a broom stick marching with my grandpa pretending I was in the Marines. It came to no one’s surprise that when I turned eighteen, I immediately ran off to the recruiter’s office to join up. Little did I know that I was asking for more than I could handle.
After completing bootcamp and being sent to my duty station in Camp Pendleton, California, I immediately received the news that my unit was being deployed overseas. I could probably write an entire book on my time overseas and still not cover everything that had happened there. To make things short, when I came home, I was not the same person I was when I left.
I remember not wanting to scare my family about being overseas, so I never told them where I actually was and what I was actually doing. I was going to tell them when I came back home for leave, but to this day I have never told them the truth and I do not think I ever will. Instead, I started to find comfort from Jack Daniels.
Every day after work I would go to the store to buy a bottle and bring it back with me to the barracks. I would finish the bottle with my friends and somehow find a way to work every morning hungover. I believe that almost everybody in my unit knew what I was doing but did not do anything about it because I was still good at doing my job. By the time I became dependent on alcohol most of the people I went on deployment with had either been discharged or sent to other units. Most of the people in my unit had either no overseas experience or were fresh out of bootcamp. In the military, people tend to leave people alone who have been there and done that.
Initially, I was able to control myself while drinking. I thought that I had became a functioning alcoholic. But what I learned quickly was that there was no such thing. Every day when I came home from work, I would start getting violent with my peers. One day me and some fellow marines decided that we were going to give some newcomers a little initiation into the brotherhood. It started off at first with just making them drink a little bit. But then I had the brilliant idea of burning them on the arm with cigarettes. I was so intoxicated that I started doing it to myself to show them that it was not a big deal. To this day I have four massive cigarette burns on my arm that I carry with me for life.
My behavior got so bad that eventually my commander had to step in and punish me. I received a reduce in pay and had to go to addiction counseling. I did not take my punishment seriously unfortunately, and I continued my struggle all throughout my time in the military. Fortunate or unfortunately depending on who you ask, I was never caught drinking again.
I did not know exactly how I was able to overcome my addiction I can only really guess. If I had to give an answer, I believe it was my ability to overcome my shame. I had developed a lot of shame during my time in the military and I found comfort in drinking it away. But shortly after I got out and enrolled in college, I realized that drinking made me do even more shameful things. I would drink, I would do stupid things, and I would drink again to cover my shame. It was a vicious cycle that I knew I had to break.
I am proud to say that I have not had a drink of alcohol in four years and to this day have no desire to. I instead find comfort in using my experiences to encourage other veterans on campus to live a clean lifestyle. I have devoted my time to school and have maintained above a 3.5 GPA. I will be graduating a year from now and plan on being a high school teacher. I love the idea of mentoring young adults and hope to be a positive influence on their lives.