Bobby’s been through a lot in 32 years — adoption as a kid, brain injuries in the Army, struggles with alcoholism — but he’s not letting anything hold him back.
Originally from Dallas, Bobby joined the Army in 2007 when he was just 18 and completed two tours in Afghanistan during the height of the conflict — he was even in two separate helicopter crashes. Bobby was sent to Fort Carson in 2013 and the Army medically discharged him in 2015 after he sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident. In 2012, after his second tour and the deaths of a few close friends, he began struggling with alcoholism. He entered the New Life Program last year and is now looking forward to a sober and productive future.
“I think losing people like that is the hardest part for me,” he said. “I was functioning while I was still in the military, but when I got out the drinking took precedence over everything. … Now, I want to get things in line to be successful — stay positive, get employment and graduate college. I’m about 30 credits shy of a business management degree. … ’Nothing works if you don’t. I think that’s something a lot of addicts don’t think about. But you can’t get anything without doing the work.”
We recently spoke with Bobby about his upbringing, military years and his new outlook on the future.
Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood and what it was like growing up?
I had a pretty good childhood. We never really wanted or needed for anything. … I don’t remember ever being hungry or being in precarious situations. It was steady. My basic needs were met. But we were adopted — my brother, sister and I — so we didn’t have that normal connection you’d have with birth parents. But they’re good people and they took care of us. I liked to do typical boy stuff: ride bikes, camp, run around in the woods and go to the lake. I never really got into trouble, except for the time I got suspended for skipping school.
When did you join the Army?
In high school, I was ready to start my life. I was tired of following rules and being dependent. I was ready to be out on my own — on my own path. I wanted to do something with my life. … When I was a senior in 2007, an Army recruiter came up to us when we were eating lunch and asked me if I wanted to join the Army. I didn’t even think about it; I just said yes. So I dropped out, got my GED and went to basic.
Tell me about your military career. Were you deployed?
First, I was at Fort Benning, Georgia for my basic training. We got off the bus for basic and the first thing they told us is that there was a pretty good chance we were going to Afghanistan,” he said. “But I didn’t care — I was a kid, and I knew that’s what I signed up for.
After basic, I went to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and then back to Benning for airborne school and Ranger indoctrination. In May 2008, I went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to get ready for my first deployment in Afghanistan in 2009; and then I went back in 2011.
What was your time like in Afghanistan?
It was work — it’s all I knew. The first time I was in Afghanistan, I was a fire support specialist. So, I was attached to an aviation brigade and ran DART (Downed Aircraft Recovery Team) missions and helped them with stuff. … I had a couple of head injuries while I was there and lumped my head up pretty good. I was in a couple of helicopter crashes. The worst one was in Kabul, and I think that’s where I got my first brain injury.
When did drinking really start to take hold of your life?
It really started when I came back from deployment in September 2012. I had never really had a problem with it. But me and my Army buddies started going out to Myrtle Beach and places to party. Next thing I know — full-blown alcoholic. I had gotten drunk, but I don’t remember it being as obsessive and out of control as it started to get in 2012. … Maybe it was my way of rebelling, to do whatever I want. But when you struggle to survive, you’ve got to figure out a way to balance everything out again.
How did you end up in the New Life Program?
Well, I had no idea it was a rehab. I thought it was just sober living. I had just gotten back from collecting my biological mom’s ashes in Texas — she died nine months before and it took them that long to track me down — and I thought I’d just do sober living for a while and get that out of the way. But I got there, they told me about the program, and I just thought I might as well stay. But I completed it, which is the crazy thing. I needed to go to rehab, but I probably wouldn’t have if that hadn’t happened. I figured that it was just what I had to do.
How did your mom’s death affect you?
When I found out she died, I looked for my mom’s profile on Facebook and saw that she was super religious.
I saw lots of stuff about her going to church. I thought that the only way I’d ever know my mom was to have a relationship with God and then see her when I get to heaven. When I ended up at the program and realized it was faith-based, I thought that was pretty crazy. … I came to the program not knowing it was faith-based, after finding out that was an important thing to my mom. The first day I was eligible to graduate was on my biological mother’s birthday. … I was led to the Mission. Everything aligned itself to make that day not just a graduation, but something really important.
What was the program like for you? How did it go?
Communal living for me was the easiest part about it, because of being in the military. … I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole thing. But about a month into it, there was a paradigm shift and I realized that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be sober.
How do you feel now that you’re clean and sober?
I feel a lot more oriented on stuff that actually matters. I actually care about paying my car bill now and living a normal kind of life: having a good job and going to work every day, having good friends who care about me, not wasting my life. About a year and a half ago, I didn’t care. I would have just quit my job to go to a football game or to the bar. That’s not me anymore.
Did you have any big epiphanies while you were in the program?
I think that most if not all people who are addicts aren’t just addicted, they have other things going on to; whether it’s mental, emotional, physical. But you’re already so clouded that you just focus on what went wrong, but you don’t think about why. … And now I have an easier time looking at things and being interested in figuring out what happened – finding the catalyst for my bull crap. Because if I can understand that, I can do something about it and not end up in that same place. … Looking at the cause and effect, rather than just dwelling on the effect and how much it sucks.
Subscribe to our blog to learn more about Springs Rescue Mission and the people we serve — people who have seen tough times but are committed to breaking the cycles of homelessness, hunger and addiction in their lives. We see stories of hope and transformation lived out every day, and we’d love to share them with you.