Letters From Home – Christian Bagge
I wasn’t going to rehab.
Nope, not me. I was content to live the rest of my days wallowing in my own self-pity; drowning in alcohol and smoking myself into submission. It was the only way that I knew how to cope with all that had gone wrong in my life. Of course, nobody knew that I was struggling. “I’m fine. Doing great,” were common responses to those inquiring about me. I had to keep the smoke and mirrors in place.
12 years ago, I had a major life change. On June 3rd, 2005, I lost both legs to an Improvised Explosive Device in Iraq. I had a positive attitude and made a fast recovery that ultimately led me to the White House running with George W. Bush. He was gracious and friendly and genuinely cared for our nation’s wounded. I was invited back numerous times and enjoyed spending time with the leader of the free world. I started speaking and advocating for the Disabled Veteran’s LIFE Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. and began working with actor Gary Sinise to raise funds for the project. My travels led me all over this great nation and I was proud of what I was doing and how I was impacting veterans.
My wife and I were building a life together, putting our best foot forward (so to speak) and making the best of a tragedy that neither of us foresaw. We had our first child and soon moved from Texas back to our home state of Oregon. I began hounding the police chief of the small town where we lived and ultimately convinced him that I would be a great addition to the police department.
I was hired as a Reserve Police Officer. After the abbreviated academy and one short year and a lot of hard work, I passed a series of exams and attained the highest level within the reserve unit. I was on my own. It was awesome. I was well respected within the community and was living a childhood dream. I served nearly four years with The Dalles Police Department, then moved to a neighboring county and was enticed to transfer to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. I had to start at the bottom again and never regained the independence of working on my own. But, I still enjoyed partnering up with the many deputies that served Hood River County. I served several years as a reserve deputy, but soon began to lose interest and ultimately resigned.
By now we had our second child and I was starting to struggle internally. To add insult to injury, one of our children was diagnosed with autism and was having problems in school. I was no longer a part of the team at the sheriff’s office and I was beginning to become extremely stressed and I didn’t know how to deal with these new challenges. My solution? Marijuana. It was legal in Oregon and I thought it would be a great way to relieve stress. I also started drinking. Heavily.
I had never really stopped moving forward since my injury. I never had the time to twiddle my thumbs and let everything sink in. Very soon, the train would derail.
We moved back to South Texas seeking better opportunities for our son. I began to hate life. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I have a certain distain for extreme heat and humidity. Wearing two prosthetic legs only made matters worse.
I was stuck in a cycle of smoking and drinking and I became so depressed that I didn’t want to do anything. I would only leave the house to take the kids to school in the morning, then start the vicious cycle all over again. I was also struggling with Post Traumatic Stress and my marriage began falling apart. I became angry and would often lash out at my wife when she would make innocent suggestions to try and get me out of the house.
My once picture-perfect life had become unmanageable. My solution and self-medication was now running my life and I had become a slave to the very substances that I thought would make me feel better.
After a series of humbling events, I was given an ultimatum. Go to treatment or face divorce. I wasn’t going to treatment. Not me. I’m SSG Christian Bagge. I’ve got an image to uphold. People know me. I’m kind of a big deal.
Two days later I called Warriors Heart, balling over the phone to some stranger about my problems. I’ll admit, I was scared to go to rehab. I figured the place would be full of losers. My plan was to do my time and get the hell out of there. Within the first hour of arrival I was greeted by people that I am proud to have met: Delta Force Operators, Firefighters, Police Officers, EMS, Special Forces, Rangers, Navy, Marines, Air Force …… These were MY people. People that understood everything I was going through. People with similar stories of loss, tragedy, and unexpected life difficulties. Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, Abuse, and countless other examples of the human condition we call life.
I spent over four months at Warrior’s Heart and return often to join those in their battle with addiction. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known on those 546 acres and I’ve learned a lot about myself. My life will never be perfect and I am sure that I will have many challenges to come. I know what my weaknesses are and that only makes me stronger. If you are struggling with alcohol or substance abuse and you’re too cool for rehab, Warrior’s Heart is the place for you.
Pick up the phone and take your life back!
I hope to meet you soon,