Updated: Oct 19
As I sit here reflecting on our recent retreat trying to put my thoughts into words I am watching my phone light up as participants from the weekend are still texting back and forth in a group chat. They are talking about how the weekend was life changing and how they feel lighter having been able to let go of a lot of things that have been bothering them. Text after text I am reminded of why we do what we do and why it is so important in the lives of the men we serve.
My name is Alan, I’m a current board member, volunteer, and combat wounded veteran of the war in Iraq. My mental health journey started in October 2004 after I sustained severe injuries while out on a mission. My injuries are both non-visible and visible. Not only do I struggle with physical pain, I also struggle with PTSD. Anxiety, depression, and insomnia are a few issues that I try to manage on a daily basis. But, I learned long ago that fishing and nature can be a fantastic way to disconnect from what's been bothering us and recharge our minds and bodies. This is why I think Fishing the Good Fight is so extremely important and it’s also why I stay so heavily involved.
As men it’s not easy for us to talk about what’s been bothering us. This is especially true when it comes to sharing our feelings to a room full of strangers. But, without fail, every retreat men continue to show up leaving their apprehensions at home and from the first group they are open and honest, not only with themselves, but with our therapist and other participants. You can see that come Sunday they have formed a bond that will last long after a retreat weekend. There are many men that I met on my first retreat as a participant a few years ago that I consider very close friends, and we will be there for each other whenever asked.
I had the opportunity to be Retreat Lead this past weekend at Budges Wilderness Lodge. Being the retreat lead is a unique experience and one that I took extremely seriously. I was responsible for not only volunteers, but the participants as well. I made sure everything was running as smoothly as they possibly could. This also afforded me the opportunity to spend more time with each participant than I would normally have when I would be guiding a different person each day. I was able to get to know them better and learn their stories. The incredible thing I kept hearing was how life changing the weekend was for them. How they couldn't wait to get home and tell their family and friends about what they experienced, not only with fishing, but most importantly how to be better men. A lot of folks also were making mental lists of friends they knew would benefit from a retreat weekend with us. Hearing these men tell me these things and the look on their faces is the reason I continue to put as much effort into the organization as I do.
I firmly believe we are changing lives. I know my life has been changed and I am a better man because of Fishing the Good Fight.