Soldier credits ASAP for help after suicide attempt
October 3, 2011
(Due to the sensitivity of the issue, the identity of the Soldier in this article is not revealed. During the story, he will be referred to as Soldier Doe.)
On the day he considered taking his life, Soldier Doe faced two choices -- a self-inflicted wound to his head or a future with his daughter.
After moments of realization, he chose his daughter.
Now, making positive, constructive choices are an everyday part of Soldier Doe's life.
A former noncommissioned officer who spent a life-altering deployment in Iraq, Soldier Doe is currently enrolled in Fort Myer's Army Substance Abuse Program which provides information about substance abuse and its negative consequences.
Thoughts of suicide are one of those negative consequences.
"I'm enrolled in ASAP here at Fort Myer, and I'm also seeking help for [post traumatic stress disorder]," said Soldier Doe. "The big help that I've been getting is from the ASAP. Being a drug addict, sometimes there comes a point when you really think there's no other way out.
"The real help I get is with my ASAP counselor," he added. "He's former Army. I trust him. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, I kept that to myself because the stigma is that [PTSD] is a burden on the command. I know other Soldiers see it that way; I don't want to speak for them. That's the way I look at it. I know for a fact, other Soldiers keep PTSD to themselves, but I know I can get my chance to go in there and talk to [my counselor] about the PTSD."
A stretch of professional and personal setbacks sent Doe down the road toward considering suicide. The loss of a Soldier under his command, his witnessing the death of an Iraqi child, drug use after the deployment, eventual demotion and a failed marriage led to his desperation. His initial thoughts of death occurred when Doe used his vehicle as a possible instrument to harm himself.
"There have been many times that I would just let go of the steering wheel and just let my car go. I would drive down the road and let go. I was too afraid to kill myself at that point. I thought if I could just crash my car…" Soldier Doe said as his voice faded while recounting the incidents.
This summer, following rehabilitation and being free of crack cocaine for eight-and-a-half months, his wife delivered some crippling news.
"My ex-wife, who I love more than anything, told me she didn't think that I could be the guy that she wanted me to be. I relapsed that night. I went and found drugs. The very next day, I came up for a urine analysis. I failed that urine analysis. Right after I took the test, I went home, and I grabbed my gun. I loaded a round in the chamber, and put the gun to my head.
"I really wanted to die that day. I put the gun to my head, and I looked over to see the picture of my daughter and me. I sat there and stared. I had the gun right here [pointing to just under his chin], and I had the picture in my other hand. At that moment, I realized everything I worked for in the Army was nothing, and my true accomplishment was her. I put the gun down, and that was it."
Like many of America's youth, the Soldier met a recruiter three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but his Army career reached a turning point in Iraq. As a leader of a 10-man squad, Doe knows the events he witnessed led to his PTSD, drug use and thoughts of suicide.
"Two of the toughest things I have to deal with everyday is that one, I lost a Soldier," he confided. "Did I do everything right? Did I do everything I could have to prevent this Soldier from dying? That's something I have to live with every single day of my life. [Two is] when the little girl was blown up in front of me; we were doing a patrol, and the little girl was waving at us. An [improvised explosive device] went off; they were trying to kill me, but they set it off early. They killed her; she went all over my vehicle. Why was it her? They should have killed me. I have to live with that every single day. She couldn't have been more than 10 years old."
After two failed urine analysis tests, Soldier Doe will now face a separation board which will decide his Army future. That board could determine his type of discharge or whether more rehabilitation is warranted. Whether that discharge is honorable, general or he is subject to additional rehab, Soldier Doe wants one thing to be clearly on the record -- he has gone public in the hope of helping and saving other Soldiers who are seriously considering suicide.
"I think that one thing that other Soldiers need to do is stop blaming other people," he candidly said. "I've taken full responsibility for everything I've done and the poor personal decisions I've made. I'm not going to let this beat me. I look at drug addiction as a battle. Every single day, you have to battle just like in war. You have to suit up, you have to go out and battle it. That day [this summer], I got beat. I got back up. I felt sorry for myself for about 30 minutes when they took my rank, but I got back up. Like I said, when I looked at my daughter, that's what really counts to me."
For help in dealing with substance abuse issues, Soldiers can contact the JBM-HH's ASAP at 703-696-7956. Marines can call the Substance Abuse Combat Center at 703-614-8961.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).