Veteran finds strength in community of peers: Learn how Jose Rodriguez overcame substance abuse to reconnect with his family.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ: After I got out of the Marine Corps, coming back home, it was just a mental breakdown for me.
I was on the verge of giving up. And had I given up, I wouldn't have the ability to forgive myself, to turn that new chapter into this new season of life.
I didn't think that boot camp was going to be as mental as it was. It broke me down. I wasn't Jose Rodriguez. I was recruit Rodriguez. I was out in the field, and I was deployed to Iraq for six months. I was a team leader.
After I got out of the Marine Corps, I remember crying leaving the base. That chapter, that season in my life was over. Now what? Who was I? That's what I kept asking myself. And I started drinking heavily. I started abusing it. It felt good to drink. It felt good to be numb.
SHAMMAH RODRIGUEZ: I remember looking into his eyes. It was dark. It was darkness that I saw. And I was just thinking, oh my gosh, like, he's different.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ: The pressure to have it all together, to heal, to quiet down the monsters inside, it was too much. I lost it. I just remember begging to God and praying to him, God, just give me the sign that this life is worth living. Because if not, I'm going to take my life.
I had heard about the Wounded Warrior Project. I had seen the logo and that visual of a warrior carrying another warrior. That's initially why I went to that very first surf camp. The staff that was there, they genuinely love veterans and cared about what they were doing.
The programs that the Wounded Warrior Project offers, there are some that are individual just for men. I've done a Male Odyssey. It was very intentional, mindfulness, breathing exercises. And there's some that my wife and I have attended, a Couple's Odyssey. It's not just the veteran themselves. It's their whole family, and it brings it all together.
SHAMMAH RODRIGUEZ: We hadn't hung out with people in so long. It's different when you hang out with people who understand what you go through. And I miss that so much.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Talking to my therapist, she tells me this story about this Japanese emperor who had a bowl, and it broke. And with lacquer and with actual gold, he made this bowl that was broken into something that was priceless. And so that's where kintsugi, I first heard it. And then a week later, [INAUDIBLE] from the Wounded Warrior Project sends out their weekly emails, and it's an event for families, and it's kintsugi.
The hardest thing was taking a hammer to this mug, the mug that's behind me, and breaking it. It was my unit mug that my wife had made for me. My oldest daughter and I, you know, we just looked at it. I'm like, OK, this is who I was. This is what I held onto. I took a hammer to it, and I broke it.
We have scars that we carry, that we hold onto. And just because the scars are there doesn't mean that we're any less than what we were.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Good job.
Right now, I am the best version that I ever have been of myself. I can embrace the brokenness.
SHAMMAH RODRIGUEZ: I don't think a single day will ever go by that I don't remember the transformation that's happened and that I won't feel grateful that I get to live this out with him.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ: About two years ago is when I was going to take my life. I thank God that I didn't because I can sit here today and look back on that and know that my life has a purpose and that I was created for that purpose, and the mission continues.