The Taylor brothers have always been close, but enduring war, post-traumatic stress, and heroin addiction together brought them closer to each other and closer to Jesus Christ than they ever imagined possible.
“Growing up, we were involved in everything together,” says Chris, Mitch’s older brother. “He pretty much followed me everywhere I went, and he kind of mirrored all of the stuff that I was doing, for good or for bad.”
After Chris decided to serve in the army, Mitch did too. When Chris returned from Afghanistan and Mitch returned from Iraq, they both suffered from post-traumatic stress and became closed off, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Chris self-medicated with OxyContin prescribed to him for a back injury. Then he turned to heroin. Mitch began using as well, eventually becoming homeless. They hid each other’s addictions.
It wasn’t until Chris was hospitalized for complications with heroin that he decided to submit his will to Jesus Christ. When he did, he felt overwhelming peace and comfort.
“He knew what I was going through, and He put His arms around me and lifted my soul. And he took those burdens away from me, almost immediately,” he says.
When Mitch saw his brother begin to change, he realized he had to do something to change too. Like his brother, Mitch couldn’t recover until he turned to Christ.
“I felt like I was in this thing alone my whole life, but I wasn’t. … He cares for me, even when I can’t care for myself. In a world where everything is so dark and everything makes you feel like you’re alone, that’s been my anchor. … The Savior literally saved my life.”
Growing up, we were involved in everything together. He pretty much followed me everywhere I went and kind of mirrored all the stuff I was doing, for good or for bad.
After some of the things I did in Afghanistan, I was really proud of my service. When I got home I wanted to feel like I had done something for the country. I just wanted to be normal, and when I got back it was anything but normal.
Just like my brother said, it was a rough transition. I had a lot of things not going my way when I got back from Iraq. I didn't really understand what was happening to me.
I got home and I started to have repeated memories of some bad days in Afghanistan, and I started to have nightmares of some of the missions I was involved in. And I just couldn't get those images out of my mind. Couldn't go to sleep at night.
I couldn't--[SIGHS]. I couldn't believe that I was involved in stuff like that--killing and war and carnage. It just took me to a place where I just didn't want to be.
Post-traumatic stress attacks everything that's really normal and good in your life. Most oftentimes you don't even recognize it--a loud noise that scares you or a flashback to a memory, smelling something that makes you go back to that time. Your relationships are so strained just because you're always in this inner struggle and you're always so tight and you don't want to let anybody in. It just closes you off, emotionally, physically, spiritually.
Because of a back injury that I suffered in combat, I was prescribed OxyContin. I started to self-medicate with that to hide my emotional pain and to try to feel normal. Quickly that turned into heroin.
Growing up in a good family and seeing a lot of good things in my life--using took away everything. The lowest it took me was being homeless, with no money, with no clothes, staying in an abandoned house. It takes your soul away.
During this whole period of time, we were with each other every day. We were using together. I was hiding his addiction. He was hiding mine. I wanted to be clean, and I wanted to be sober. I wanted to have a life in the church that I was raised in, but at this point I couldn't even make that choice.
I knew that I needed help, and I couldn't do it on my own. I ended up having to be in the emergency room because of a complication that surfaced because of my heroin use. It was in that hospital room I finally submitted my complete will to my Savior, Jesus Christ.
And almost immediately, when I finally did that, I felt a comfort that I can't describe. He knew what I was going through, and He put his arms around me and lifted my soul. And He took those burdens away from me almost immediately.
When he made his transition, that was a big thing for me. That was the moment where I woke up and said, "I have got to do something different. This isn't what I'm supposed to be doing. I was sent here to do something different than this." When I kind of came to and woke up, I followed his example again. I didn't recover until I turned to Christ.
I started to abstain from drugs. That kind of made my post-traumatic stress resurface. There's no way that those memories can just go away. I harbored so much hatred towards the men that killed my friends, shot at me and tried to kill me. Through the grace of Christ I was able to forgive them, actually forgive my enemies.
I was able to come to an understanding that the Savior Jesus Christ makes all of the difference. He suffered for my post-traumatic stress, and once I finally came to that understanding, I knew that every day I could wake up and I could give that to Him.
For me, I felt like I was in this thing alone my whole life. But I wasn't. When I realized that my Savior Jesus Christ was always there--He cares for me, and even when I can't care for myself, in a world where everything is so dark and everything makes you feel like you're alone. That's been my anchor, and that's been the thing that was able to get me from where I was in my past to where I am now. The Savior literally saved my life.