One of my favorite songs of late has been Tim McGraw’s “Better Than I Used To Be” which was released in 2012. The song basically speaks of a wretch who is getting better day by day. He has a lot of demons, has hurt loved ones, and, generally, just has a lot to make up for in his life. I feel like the songs was written for and about me!
Followers of my blog may or may not know that I suffer from PTSD. I was an infantryman who served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq in 2003. I had my share of encounters over there that left me with a certain number of scars and I carry some sense of guilt over leaving “early” and of not being able to help my brothers who have, since, come back and taken their own lives.
I came back mid-cycle to leave active duty and transitioned quickly from a war zone to college life, or so I thought. Years later, I can look back with a little clarity on that period in my life (or at least on the few parts that I remember), but, at the time, I had no idea what a strain it was on me and on my wife. I did (and still do) harbor a lot of anger and frustration and carry both physical and emotional pain. I remain hyper-vigilant, expecting bad things around every corner and I have trouble connecting with the mundane troubles that most people fret over.
I’ve learned a lot about myself since then as I hope anyone would over a decade or more. I’ve learned that there is a hole somewhere in my life. Thankfully, I’ve never tried filling that hole with drugs or alcohol, although the temptation has been present more than a few times. I spent some time just trying to keep myself busy, avoiding the problem and trying to fill that hole with activities like schoolwork and running.
Eventually the schoolwork gets finished and I busted myself up running too much. I’ve found therapy in cooking, photography, and in writing and I’ve started to fill that hole by volunteering in my church and community. It’s almost funny. After all of that time focusing on taking care of myself, I’ve found that I serve myself best when I serve others.
What I’ve learned most over the past few years, is not just how far I have to go, but how far I’ve come. I’m not fixed yet and, to be honest, I may never be. As the song goes, “I’ve still got a few more dances with the devil,” but sometimes the first steps are the most difficult. Being open about your weaknesses and finding those things in your life that fill holes, not mask them, take not only time, but effort.
Believe me when I tell you, though, the effort is well worth it!
Do you have struggles in your life? How do you fill the holes? Leave a comment and share your story!