My name is Mike, an active-duty Green Beret pictured above completing the 2022 Hellbender 100-mile trail race. Allow me to tell you my story of surviving addiction…
In the summer of 2020, I put my pistol in my mouth with the intentions of ending my life. I didn’t actually want to die, I wanted to stop suffering but couldn’t find another way. I was abusing alcohol to numb pain caused by life. Most readily available and easiest to blame was Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), but my wounds ran deeper. They were complex. I didn’t know what to do, so I did what no one wants to do. I asked for help, which forever altered the trajectory of my life and reputation.
It was this decision that led me to meet Teddy Lanier. Teddy worked in the same building as me, but there was something underneath the surface I did not know. Teddy too suffered a great deal with PTS, alcohol and drug abuse in his past, but no longer. Four years prior, Teddy hit rock bottom and asked for help. He found Warriors Heart, a treatment facility in Bandera, Texas who specializes in treating military, veterans, police, firefighters, and first responders. Through Warriors Heart, Teddy was able to heal and find hope. A hope that he bestowed upon me by looking me in the eyes and telling me I was worth it. As the Executive Director of the Warriors Heart Foundation, now Frontline Healing Foundation, Teddy made the first call to get me help.
I spent 10 weeks at Warriors Heart, feverishly training to discover not only why I was hurting so bad but how to start healing. Through their proven treatment plan, alongside their world class team, I was able to re-discover hope as Teddy did. I used this hope to heal and re-discover purpose. I gave my past a voice and exhausted the pain that existed there. I found spirituality and my own framework to bring God into my life eliminating any anxiety for my future. I learned the significance of core beliefs and started to believe in myself again. It was through all of that I was able to surmount the need to drink. I had made it out and survived, because I chose to and because I was believed in.
Living has taught me that it’s different from existing, and surviving this has taught me that I owe it to the next person to pay it forward. I have 2 years sobriety now and want nothing more than to pass this gift of peace to everyone still suffering. If there is one thing I know of Green Berets, its that we are the most capable problem-solving force multipliers on the planet. It’s in this regard I offer a proposal.
I am the unofficial team leader for an unofficial running group. On May 19th 2023, five members of this group will travel to the mountains of northern Georgia. Myself and Aaron, both Warriors Heart Alumni, and Mark will toe the line to start the Cruel Jewel 100-mile trail race at 12:00p on Friday, the other two will start the Cruel Jewel 50-mile trail race at 8:00a on Saturday. I already know what you’re thinking…why?
We have a mission of course. Some might think it’s to win or place well, others would think it’s just to finish. For us, it’s to reach new heights personally and continually challenge what is possible for us in recovery. There is an underlying mission though, and it’s the one that matters. Teddy and another friend started this running group. The first race Teddy ever did he carried the above pictured Warriors Heart flag with him the entire way. Since then, we have been passing that flag between us, carrying it from start to finish on every race we run. But why?
That flag is more than a flag. It’s a symbol. An obvious symbol of Warriors Heart and the amazing organization they have become, but to us…there is something else. To us, that flag represents the Warrior’s Burden. The one we all carry inside, the one no one can see, and the one we suffer over. We carry it from start to finish of every race not just to raise awareness, but to say to those still suffering that we understand what you’re feeling because we have felt it too. To shoulder some of the burden for them and to show them there is another way, to show them there is a reason for hope. To say we are here, we are sober, we are healing, and we are living.
I have no idea what is going to happen during those 100 miles but I can guarantee you that flag will make it from start to finish. A promise made and a demonstration of the product Warriors Heart can produce. There is such a demand for Warriors Heart services that they lean on the Frontline Healing Foundation to help fund those struggling, so they can get the help they need. This foundation is what made it possible for me to attend Warriors Heart.
My running team and I will do the hard work, so I ask of you if you’re able, please donate what you can to the Frontline Healing Foundation so they can continue to help more and more Warriors like me come home. Warriors that someday, will continue to pay it forward and pass this torch. I can think of no better cause than to help save those who have been giving everything to save others! Thank you and God bless!
On the donation page, please pay tribute to “Cruel Jewel 2023.” Our goal is to raise $25,000.
Live tracking will be available online closer to race day to track Mike, Aaron, and Mark during the race.