Entries by Ryan Berg

I Stopped Smoking Weed and I’ve Never Felt Happier

So I smoked in college, after I graduated, and off an on when I entered professional life.  I would quit because I felt ashamed, and then fire back up again.  It became a vicious cycle.  I realize now that this viciousness was a result of my unconscious desire to avoid difficult emotions – not to mention the fact that the habit was engineered into my brain as an acceptable response to life-difficulties by my mother who provided it to me at an impressionable young age.

I was addicted to numbing, yet I didn’t realize it.  I loved marijuana.  Literally, it was how I felt better about myself, life, my feelings, and everything in between.  Even as I entered psychotherapy a few years ago, I would show up stoned, pretend I wasn’t, and act like I was doing the work I needed to be doing.  Perhaps I was in some way – you know manifesting my issues in front of a therapist – as a way to resolved them. 

Veterans’ Next Mission: Topple Patriarchy, Reduce Suicides

As Veterans, we know all to well what it means to suck it up.  “Embrace the suck” has become so common place that we often live our lives from this place, and even tell our friends in one way or another, to do just that.  But what actually are we embracing here?  Are we embracing ourselves in a manner that leads to our own happiness, or are we simply trying to love what our lives have become, without calling any of it into question?

These Muslims Wanted Me to Live

As I sat up against the wall of the roof with my back towards the street where the car was, I was rocked by the most powerful explosion I’ve ever experienced.  It shook my chest cavity. I passed out for a nanosecond. I then tried standing up as my head spun, and I instinctively strapped the buckle of my helmet’s chinstrap.  Immediately, I heard one of the Marines say, “there were Marines over there”.  In a panicky voice, I replied, “what do you mean there were Marines over there?” As he began to explain, his voice faded, and I popped up over the wall to see what appeared to be two Marines laying on the ground, not far from the vehicle.  I couldn’t believe it.  How did they get there?  The plan to was secure the area and wait for explosives ordinance disposal.  I knew that there were car parts about to come raining down on us. As the larger pieces drifted to the ground, missing us, the debris became dust, and an explosive haze filled the area.

Disobeying Orders: One Man Lives

It was a bright and sunny morning in 2007 at the downtown Fallujah, Iraq, police station where a dozen or so Marines and I were tasked with providing security for a day of police recruiting.  There seemed to be a over a hundred or more local Iraqi men lined up right outside of the front gate eagerly awaiting to get inside and begin the process of becoming police recruits.

Leadership and Healing: Creating Space for Transformation

The first time we took enemy contact was on our first patrol. We had just arrived in country, and we had not yet gained enough experience to conduct a foot patrol that didn’t leave us exhausted.  Despite having trained for the past three months, the sweltering heat, and the weight of carrying a full combat load weighed on us.  We carried around 60 pounds of gear, and some even more with radios and machine guns. We had already walked around 12 miles, we were driving hard, and the patrol was turning out to be too long.  We were over-extended and running out of water.

Do You Ever Feel Like A Part of You Died in Iraq?

Connection after service among Marines can be tricky at times. Our relationships were fostered in an environment where feelings and emotions were mostly suppressed, or at least not acknowledged or talked about much. When we come together, it can feel like we are picking up right where we left off. And where did we leave off? We left off at the end of a combat deployment in an extremely dangerous place. Where sixteen out of a 1000 or so Marines in our battalion tragically lost their lives. And I do mean tragically. For instance, on the Marine Corps Birthday, 2004, as me and my squad leader feasted on steak and lobster, one of our mutual friends, Gino, shook both our hands, wished us a happy birthday, and was shot in the heart the following day. On Veterans Day. Upon hearing the news, the only thing any of us could do was hang a picture of him in our tent. We didn’t talk about it. It was the only way that we knew how to honor him. Truthfully, when I heard the words, “Gino died”, I felt nothing. Those words remained in my head and never made their way to my heart.

Warrior…for Love

I served 7 years in the Marine Corps Reserves, deploying twice to Iraq in some of the most dangerous areas, including the Triangle of Death. This is the same place that the modern day terror group, ISIS, was hiding out and trying to harm my friends and I. My experiences in country, and the training received to become a Marine, helped shape my understanding of what it meant to be a warrior. In this context being a warrior meant being ready to destroy anything that stood in the way of mission accomplishment. Upon returning home, this perspective, coupled with a severe existential anxiety, and an abnormal response to stressful stimuli, led to an unhappy life. I quickly turned my back on relationships that were meaningful to me. My temper was short and everything that I knew about being successful wasn’t working anymore. To this day, there is a part of me, which has struggled with projecting blame onto the world. How could they have sent me to war when it is so terrifyingly ugly?