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Healing What Screams in Silence

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Written by Guest Writer

Lauren Fagan


This year, on June 29th, I turn 40 years old. I can say with certainty that it has taken me all of those 40 years to be pleased with the person that I have built and become. Most of the negative occurrences in my adult life were fueled by alcohol and bad decisions, so it became easy to look in the mirror and see those “fuels” as my identity. Time and many monumental changes have finally allowed me to wipe those destructive labels from my reflection and see who I truly am. 

Right Person, Wrong Direction

In 2009, I met my now-husband—a Marine Special Operations sniper—at a bar, and we hit it off immediately.  Looking back, I realize how awful we were for each other at that time in our lives.  Both coming out of terrible relationships, both with addiction issues, we fueled each other in the wrong direction. 

We got married the day after he returned from a rough deployment.  It was also conveniently his birthdate, which we joke around about now. A traumatic brain injury, (a diagnosis my husband would eventually get), can make you forget a lot of things, but the chances of you forgetting your birthday are slim. Doubling up on the date made our anniversary a whole lot easier to remember!

The Spiral…

While my husband was deployed, I bartended to bring in some extra income. This job obviously made alcohol even more accessible, and my heavy drinking continued through those deployments. I was not a supportive spouse; I made poor choices—even got a DUI that cost me my license—but nothing stopped me. Things always picked right back up when he returned home. 

In 2014, however, our lives would take a drastic turn.  After my husband failed to show up for work and committed many infractions, some of my husband’s Marine Corps brothers showed up at our house, and, at that point, the road to sobriety started for us both. He went to treatment; I stayed at home.  While he was in treatment, he repeatedly let me know that if I didn’t stop drinking, we would be separating.  The night before he came home, I drank an entire box of wine.  I didn’t drink again for almost 7 years. 

Retirement & New Beginnings

Two years following that intervention and after seventeen years serving in the Special Operations community, my husband was being forced to choose another life. He was formally diagnosed with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and several other combat-related injuries. Retirement from the Marine Corps was inevitable, and our life as retirees officially began in August of 2016.

Life was getting better. We were healing our marriage and were ready to grow our family. Through these exciting beginnings, however, I can now recognize that I was still a very “unhealed” version of myself. Only now can I look back and see how carrying on through that unaddressed trauma would lead to a very rocky start to this new chapter of life.

My Husband’s Wife

I had already lived a big bulk of my life as my husband’s wife, in his shadows.  His career eclipsed most things and canceled out a lot of what was important to me.  Even after he left active duty, this continued.  The year after my husband retired, he was inspired to help other veterans battling addiction, PTSD, or marital or familial struggles, so we decided to start a non-profit in Florida geared specifically for veterans and their families. While the work was incredibly rewarding, oftentimes, the demands of helping others came at a huge cost.  The neglect that I felt as his wife crushed me. His absence wasn’t much different than our time on active duty…only now it was a choice.  Our family was truly suffering.  I was angry again—this time not only an angry wife but an angry mom. 

"I didn't make the time that I needed to heal the parts of me that screamed in silence." @iwillwaitvsp Share on X

How Can I Overcome This?

Today, we are blessed with four amazing children who are all different and yet so similar.  They are, by far, my greatest accomplishment, and I am indescribably grateful to be so present in their lives.  Shouldn’t that have been enough?

Since I never took the time to heal, in those years following my husband’s retirement from the Marine Corps, the “old me” began to reappear more fiercely.  Since I had managed to stay sober for so long, around 2020, I decided that I could be like the other moms and have a glass of wine from time to time.  For a while, I managed to keep my drinking “occasional.”  And then, I didn’t.  A glass of wine turned into a hidden handle of vodka and cans of Mike’s Hard stashed all over the house. 

I could blame this on a lot of things, but, at the end of the day, the only person to blame is me.  I didn’t make the time that I needed to heal the parts of me that screamed in silence.  I had felt them, but I was so busy taking care of everything else that I neglected myself in the process. I dug a deep, deep hole and had myself fooled. I had put a Band-Aid on anxiety and manic depression that didn’t even come close to covering the wound. I started drinking from the time that I woke up until the time that I passed out. I was now incapable of taking care of anyone else, myself, my home, and my animals. I once again became a horrible wife, mother, daughter, friend, and sister.

Admittance & Recovery

My life changed for the better in June of 2022.  I have wanted to lie so many times about my sobriety date; it is still so disappointing to me. I struggle with being kind to myself about how weak I was, how I knew better, and how I should have just dealt with it. Despite this, June 2, 2022 is when my new beginning started. I unwillingly found myself in treatment, which was a big blessing. I stayed there and made the best of my time. The amount of alcohol that I had been consuming made me violently ill. I hallucinated, my blood pressure and heart rate were through the roof, and I had to be medicated to safely detox from the alcohol. 

In the face of one of the hardest uphill battles I would ever fight, I committed to putting myself back together. When you are admitted to detox, they don’t give you much, but they do give you a pen and paper. I found myself drawing and writing again. This was something that I loved to do and hadn’t picked up in years. I hope to publish that notebook one day. I open it from time to time, and it still speaks to me.

While in treatment, I spoke with counselors who helped me to line up the appropriate aftercare for when I completed the program. I committed myself not only to sobriety but to bettering myself in any way that I could for myself and my children. In a society where we can allow the world to raise our children, I had to make different choices to make sure that didn’t happen. I spent a lot of time in Alcoholics Anonymous and a lot of time in outpatient therapy. I was prescribed medication to help me stay sober, an anxiety medication, and an antidepressant. I replaced bad habits with good habits through exercise and proper nutrition. 

For the first time in a long time, I found value in myself.  I wanted to take care of myself and my body. I started to cherish her. I loved the titles that I had earned over the years, but I knew that I had lost myself in those titles, and I refused to accept that loss. I found Lauren again and put her to work in the right areas to make life as great as it could have been all along. In turn, the improved version of myself worked hard to strengthen those other titles as well.

Replacing the Spiral with Healing

There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful that my husband and I stuck it out after making those marriage vows. Four kids later, a beautiful home, and what seems like one thousand lives together, we have countless things to thank God for. 

I think the thing that I am still most upset with myself about, though, is letting my oldest daughter down and disappointing her again. She is now eighteen and has had more disappointment in her young life than any one person deserves. I see bits of myself in her, and I am so thankful that those bits are the pieces of me that I strive to put together daily in order to be a better person. I see now how beautiful life is, and I pray all the time that she will see the beauty in it, too, despite the chaos and my failures.

  

I now know that there are so many resources* available to both active duty and retiree spouses that can help with healing, recovery, and therapy. I should have taken advantage of those resources and taken the time that I needed to heal. I should have slowed down and paid more attention to myself, to my feelings, to the traumas that I had experienced in my life. 

Reflecting on the way that I handle certain situations even now, I can see how my behavior is rooted in that unaddressed trauma. My healing journey will be life-long, and the realization that I don’t have much control over that past suffering, (much of which was self-inflicted), can be so difficult to accept.

Looking back, I realize that when I fulfilled my purpose and started living out my passions, I was less resentful of my husband and was able to step out of his shadow and find my way to the light. I also recognized that I can only control myself, and there is peace with that understanding. Now, I can speak about my story to a large audience. People who are really in the grips of battling their struggles need to hear stories of recovery. I want to be as transparent as possible in my journey so I can help anyone that God puts in my path. God continues to open doors of opportunity for me to tell my story, to embrace other people in their personal trials and triumphs, and to be an example of purpose instead of a statistic. My life is centered, and the healing continues. 


*Resources for Active Duty and Veteran Families

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Lauren Fagan is a Veteran spouse, mother, Christian, classical school teacher, personal trainer, and psychology student. She and her husband have four wonderful children and are enjoying “retired” life on the coast of eastern North Carolina. Lauren writes blogs from the heart that help Veterans and their families by walking them through her personal experiences as a military spouse.

Lauren and her husband founded two non-profits that continue to assist the Veteran community: Operation Barnabas which operates in NE Florida and SpearIT Veteran Fishing Project which operates in eastern North Carolina.  


Are you an active duty or veteran milspouse interested in being a guest writer for VSP? Get in touch with your details and topic interests on our contact page!

Tags :
Marine Corps,Military Family,Military Life,Military Spouse,Milspouse,Recovery,Veteran Spouse
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