Episode 164 Allen Simmons Forging a Path of Purpose After a TBI and PTSD Transcript
This transcript is from episode 164 with guest Allen Simmons.
Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everyone, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Allen Simmons. Allen is a Marine Corps veteran who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and he wrestled with PTSD from a traumatic brain injury that he sustained while serving in Afghanistan, In his healing journey. He battled depression and suicidal thoughts as he set on a new path of purpose. He’s also the host of the Purpose Podcast and author of the book. Can I speak? He’s here today to talk about his experiences and how he overcame the obstacles that stood in his way. Welcome to the show, Allen. I’m glad to have you on, and I’m looking forward to getting to talk with you.
Allen Simmons 00:01:04 Thank you, Scott. I appreciate it. Thank you for introducing me to your audience.
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:09 I’m glad to do it. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background, how you got into the Marines.
Allen Simmons 00:01:19 Okay, great. What’s up everybody? This is your boy. Mr. Never stopped, never quit. Repeat himself. Allah Levi’s seventh and I’m on the Drive On Podcast. Thank you, Scott, for having me. I just want to do that. I’m from some of those South Carolina towns near Charleston. I went into the Marine Corps in 2007. I played football, wrestling, and ran track hurdles in high school. Funny story about joining the Marine Corps that I’ll share. During this interview, when you asked me, why did you join the Marine Corps? It’s a very odd, funny story. I joined the Marine Corps 2007 deployed, twice Iraq, Afghanistan. From there wrestle with PTSD, suicide, alcohol addiction, marijuana addiction, just a loss of identity and finding purpose at the trauma, was my story,for the most part, which led me to write in poetry, writing my book, which we’ll dive into some more, but that’s just the overall thing. Then I went to UNC, Charlotte graduated with an electrical engineering technology degree, which was a struggle. I’m married to my beautiful wife and I have a lovely newborn daughter. She’s Lola Rose. She was born in November. I’m taking on this journey as a father, which is the biggest war. That’s where I’m at right now.
Scott DeLuzio 00:02:51 You got that, right. It definitely is, but what, it’s one that’s worth fighting and, it pays off so much down the road, as you see them grow into their own personalities and their own interests. It really does pay off down the line. All those sleepless nights you look back on and you’re like,It wasn’t all that bad. It definitely was worth it, but I love the energy that starts off with this. I really do appreciate that. You said you had a kind of funny story about getting into the Marine Corps. Why don’t you go ahead and talk about that a little bit.
Allen Simmons 00:03:33 Okay. It was odd, funny. If you don’t think it’s funny, it might not be funny, but it is really fun. When I was in high school, I never wanted to be in the military. My dad was in the army, grandfather was a World War II veteran. I just didn’t even know who I wanted to be in high school, as a young guy in high school, you’re in a dating scene and you’re having sex pretty much. We’re doing stuff. I was doing stuff like that and ended up in a situation where this young lady I was off and on with was pregnant. She comes to me, she says, Allen, I’m pregnant. That was like the end of the world for me, because I’m young, don’t know where I’m going in life and my dad’s going to put his fist through my chest.
Allen Simmons 00:04:22 I did not know what I was going to do at that point in time. Lo and behold, a couple of buddies of mine from my track and restaurant came up to me and was like Simmons. We’re in the Marine Corps. You should, you should come in with us. I’m like, what? Forget that the Marine Corps, they’re going to send me to war. I’m not trying to go to no war and that’s where I was at that time. Next thing I’m in bootcamp, and I’m in bootcamp. Like I said, I’m a first-time father. In bootcamp I get a letter in the mail and it’s from somebody I went to highschool with. He’s just tormented with this information that the baby wasn’t mine and that it was a plan the whole time to pretty much take off, take the heat off of one guy and put it on me because I’m a good guy. I’m a good old uncle. I’m in bootcamp and I read this letter and I’m flipping out because I’m in hell and bootcamp. I like going through hell and bootcamp. And, I call him my dad and my dad, I’m ready to get outta here. I don’t want to be here anymore. He’s like, son, you gotta stay. I was like, ah, but a little did. I know it was the best decision for me at that time. That’s how I joined.
Scott DeLuzio 00:05:44 Everyone has a slightly different story in terms of how they got into the military. Some people like you said, you had a military near your family, your father, your grandfather and everything. The other people, they never had anyone in their family serve in the military. Then all of a sudden that just seems like the best option for them. They’re on a dead end path. They’re not great in school. They don’t have any career prospects or anything like that. They’re like,what the hell? I’ll just join the military. Everyone’s path is a little bit different, but a lot of times people come out of it saying it was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.
Scott DeLuzio 00:06:28 It sucks while you’re going through it. Like we all get that. Why am I doing this? You’re out in the cold or the rain or the, carrying all this heavy weight and all this other stuff. You’re like, why am I doing this? This is so dumb. Why I wish I didn’t do this, but then looking back on it, it’s just like being a father. You’re looking back on it all these years later. I’m glad I did that. It might’ve sucked at the time, but it’s definitely worthwhile. It changed who I am, but for the better. I totally get that. I’m glad that you shared that story with us.
Scott DeLuzio 00:07:08 You ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan as well. You wound up with a TBI during your deployment. Obviously medical conditions and their symptoms can vary from one person to the next. But for those who aren’t familiar with the traumatic brain injuries or TBIs, could you explain what caused it in your case? Like what the circumstances were around that, and what symptoms you were experiencing, in the aftermath of that.
Allen Simmons 00:07:41 That’s a good question. Because people don’t usually ask about the symptoms that you use. They’re like, oh, you went to war. Oh, that happened. That’s cool, but they don’t think about what everybody wrestles with afterwards. When I went to Afghanistan, Iraq was in like 2008. I left Okinawa, Japan, my first duty station, to Iraq to support, multinational unit out there. I was in a joint operation center. It was pretty cool. I was an electrician in the Marine Corps. Here I am as an intelligence and I’m going and filling radios and crypting them and doing different missions and different things. That was pretty cool. At an Iraq I’m back, I’m backtracking and now we’ll get to Afghanistan, but Iraq was a totally different war because you had these people blowing themselves up, like they’re putting bombs on their bodies bombs in the vehicle.
Allen Simmons 00:08:39 They’re driving into a loaded area, packed air to driving into the security state, the security guards and just different things, the ministry of interior, the driving truck, loads of bombs and explosives into buildings. It was just crazy. we would get IDF, indirect fire attacks while in Baghdad. It was crazy being there because I was so young. You heard the gunfire, you heard the motor’s landing, you heard all of that. You felt the building shake from the explosions, you saw the dust debris fall from the building. It still didn’t really hit me, and it’s so crazy when I stand here. Now I’m thinking about being at war, like, it was just like the fact that I was there.
Allen Simmons 00:09:26 It’s just crazy. I made it through Iraq. I actually had a pretty decent time in Iraq, even though there were traumatic experiences like, and IDF attacks and stuff. Just the culture of being there with the air force army, the Navy was just amazing as a Marine. So I leave from Iraq, go back to Japan, PCs over to California. I knew like I had this bad luck thing, Scott. The bad luck is like,, oh, you got a baby, join the Marine Corps, do something drastic. I couldn’t have gotten a job or something.I could’ve joined the Marine Corps. Then bam, you joined the Marine Corps and then bam, you’re in Iraq. I go to California, I’m having the time of my life going to LA living it up.
Allen Simmons 00:10:18 It’s just like the bad luck thing happens again, where it was like Simmons, you’re going to be supported for the first DOD. I was like, what, EOD is explosive ordnance disposal.I’m like electrician support and EOD. Here I go again on another mission. and that was an experience. I have all the respect in the world for it, EOD, because of the hazard of the job that they have and the lives that were lost, even just throughout all deployments when you find bombs, you call ELD, when I was attached to EOD, it wasn’t fun because I was like paperwork pushing, nobody respects the paperwork pusher, the guy that’s answering the front desk. I’m answering the call for the front desk for everybody.
Allen Simmons 00:11:09 I’m a Marine and I’m an electrician, but now I’m just somebody in a support role and they treat you a little differently in support roles. But it was cool. I built a bond with a couple of guys and the other support personnel. We’re getting ready for Afghanistan and there’s funerals happening. There’s bodies being sent back. There are guys coming back with no legs. There’s that feeling of man, this might be it. That was the feeling I felt like, man, this might be it. We’re deploying in October and my birthday is October 15th. We’re leaving October 16th. I’m just like, okay, I’m in California. I’m about to party with my life. How it is when you are in the military, I went out there and I lived it up, bro got so wasted.
Allen Simmons 00:11:59 I’m talking about, I’ve never had beer goggles before until that moment. And I realized that I was looking through some liquor, beer and Bibles, like I was walking into the bar, just stumbling. I really was just trying to suppress my emotions and just build through the motions. Lo and behold, crazy other stories that I was, I almost missed the move. I almost missed my deployment to Afghanistan, because I was forty-five minutes away from base, and woke up in some lady’s house. Now this girl I was talking to, she picked me up and got me some McDonald’s and I fell asleep when she got me to McDonald’s. I woke up the next morning and it was, the birds were chirping. The sun was out. When we were making that move to Afghanistan, we’re supposed to be at the armory at zero dark 30.
Allen Simmons 00:12:47 It’s supposed to be dark outside four o’clock in the morning. Here I am waking up and the sun’s out and I’m like, oh, snap, I’m yelling at a girl. Why are you waking me up? Why didn’t you wake me up? I look at my phone Scott, and there’s like, Simmons, you’re screwed your hair, all the curse words in the world, you’re done page 11 and JPS coming up, I’m afraid for my lifestyle. I was not about to return. I get to the base. I still have to pack up my bare room. I got to go to the armory and I’m not supposed to carry my weapon and my vehicle, but I’m doing it anyway. So I get there the first ELD and pretty much everybody’s looking at me like a dirtbag.
Allen Simmons 00:13:36 I got the dirt bag look. Everybody’s looking at the dirt bag. Just goes out to the people who were dirt bags in their military career. So I got there, they slapped me with page 11. Right. I get a page 11 and they’re like, Simmons, we could NJ. Pretty much court martial you. But this is just a shock to us. Like it was like, what the F, another gun it gave me, hell, I gave him hell back. They didn’t like it. I don’t like people talking down on this, I’m like F you gutting. So, we get to Afghanistan and you get the Leatherneck first. I’m thinking that I was going to be in the green zone, the safe springs.
Allen Simmons 00:14:24 They’re telling all the support personnel you’re there Simmons, you’re on Mars.I’d never even Googled that before. Whereas Marsha, so they’re sending me to, or Taliban central pretty much. I go there and I’m a support personnel. Fast forward a couple of months in December. I was asked if I wanted to be on a patrol. Simmons the attrition support personnel guy. I want to go on a patrol at that time. Scott, I had already been in charge of the IED lane. Whenever people came into the country, I would actually be the guy in the tower helping set up the ID core setting deck that chords and stuff like that. Making them go, boom, boom. Right. Whenever people were by IDs and assimilation, trail.
Allen Simmons 00:15:17 I had some knowledge about how the Taliban would put pressure cookers or either, some, some plates on the ground. I was okay with that. I was well versed. I was like, I’ll go on a patrol. The next morning I woke up, ready to go. We’re doing a presence patrol. We’re letting them know like, Hey, we’re just here for your sake. Catherine’s going over the formation and stuff. He’s like, Simmons, you’re going to be upfront in a V formation. Right? Like here goes the bad luck thing again. Here’s the bad luck thing. I’m like, you guys want me as a point and this formation, all these infantry guys, I’m the black guy. I will die first. I said that, literally, I said, I would die first.
Allen Simmons 00:16:05 Everybody knows that. Like, why would you do that? Everybody laughs. I went up front anyway. Right. we’re walking, and, we get to this house and this guy’s in the back and I’m like watching him. He’s like on his phone doing some weird stuff. I’m like, Hey man, I see a guy back there. It was like, Simmons, this is your first patrol out here. Just chill, calm down. Everything’s okay. Everybody’s not a Taliban. I was like, whatever. I think he’s scheduled. Next thing some guys come by and a moped, they wave inshallah, inshallah.Hello. They drive by, we leave this house and I’m pointing to V formation, which is like a V. I’m the point guy over here on the right side.
Allen Simmons 00:16:50 You got an infantry guy over here on the other side. My Sergeant was in the middle of the deformation with a metal detector. He’s EOD. Right. We had a metal detector and we had a radio jammer, the Thor pack. I’m upfront and I’m just walking, walking, walking. I say, this kid comes out and he’s like, oh, that he was speaking his language. And the interpreter was like, he says, the Taliban has placed the IED in the road. Everybody could go in the house. I said, this is just my bad luck. Here we go. Again, bad luck out like I’m walking. I’m taking little baby steps and I’m looking at the earth and we’re walking, I’m walking through these gardens.
Allen Simmons 00:17:36 There’s like little mounds of dirt, and everything’s disturbed already. I get to this intersection and I’m looking through my rifle scope, seeing if I see anything everybody’s in the house nobody’s outside. I hear something and say, look by your foot. This is where I get my, all my little spiritual side. I feel like God spoke to me that day and said, look by your foot. Nobody else was there to say that. I looked at Scott, and there’s a haystack. It’s about knee-high right. The voice said, look, under the haystack could have been my boys. I don’t know. I don’t know what it was, but I looked at it as a haystack. There was this propane tank with 12, nine volt batteries, a cell phone strapped on top of the wires coming out of the, the batteries to the cell phone.
Allen Simmons 00:18:25 Like it was all like, oh my God, IED I’m like I D I E D. I’m there in a spotlight stuck standing next to this IED. I don’t know what I was thinking. My whole life flashes before my eyes pretty much. I’m just like, I’m dead. I’m gone.That’s it. My Sergeant, he had, he had the Thor pack, right. The radio jammer. It was actually jamming radio signals. I was thankfully within the bandwidth or within the air, the radius of that, that Thor jammed our radio jammer. He puts the pack down and he’s like, seven minutes. Get over there. I go over there. I go in the ditch and I’m shaking. I’m in a ditch. No know out like this. I’m like, oh my God.
Allen Simmons 00:19:10 Oh my God. Oh my God. All right. It’s the EverTrue guy. He’s like he’s on, Hey, Simmons. We got to go clear this house. Like, bro, I just, just, I just saw, I just thought IED. Right? So he’s like, we got to go clear his house. He popped some smoke in the road and we just smoked, going over to this field. We get to this house, just get in the house. There’s a man and his kid is playing, planting some clay and they’re looking up at us and we’re like, stay there, stay, stay there. Then of course they knew that because they were inside, they already knew what was happening out there. I stared there, got outside, and looked around there’s kids running from house to house. Like people were running over here and I see this guy taken off sky he’s running.
Allen Simmons 00:19:55 In the opposite direction towards some tree lines. A whole line of trees. I have him in my scope. I’m just in training mode. I put them in my stuff. I’m tracking this guy. I don’t want to say the guy’s name. But another Marine was with me and he called in and commanded a possible Taliban, can we engage? They’re like, does he have a weapon? This is my first time being in a place where those rules, rules of engagement are taking place right before my eyes. He’s like, does he have a weapon? We’re like, I don’t know. He has a blue vest on, he has a device in his hand. Can we engage if we can’t confirm that it’s a weapon, don’t engage. We don’t engage.
Allen Simmons 00:20:38 This guy disappears into the tree line. Next thing is just AK 47. I was just being shot at, you could see the muzzle flash from the tree line. I’m like, I hit the deck. I’m over here. Just put up, I put my weapon, I put my rifle, my bursts. I was just straight up just like, oh, commando burst, I’m shooting in the tree line. The guy was like, SIM it’s get your echo, get your effort, rebel off, burst it, put it on. <redacted> shot a– cause I’m about to make, I’m about to run my rifle high. It probably jammed up my rifle and just pretty much wasted bullets and stuff. I do that. We’re just returning fire back in the tree line. Here I am. Another funny moment in the midst of all of this stuff is like, I’m next to another haystack.
Allen Simmons 00:21:29 I was like, all right. I just had to God anyway, I was like, <redacted> nobody knows who he is. I switched with me and I was like, I’m next to a haystack. He’s like, are you seriously switching with him? Then he’s like, we got a bound back. The moment we started going back to the rest of the platoon, I’m dodging, we’re dodging bullets and there’s this RPG blast about like seven, eight feet in front of me. I just remember getting flown back and landed on the ground. My ears are ringing like a smoke detector. My heart beats singing loudly, slowly fading into a whisper. Like it was just like my life just flashed before my eyes again. I could hear the loud ringing in my ears and I could hear my heartbeat,
Allen Simmons 00:22:19 It starts to slow down and then the noise just fades away and I’m like out, right. While I’m out? I’m like in this other place, I don’t know where I was, but I remember sitting Indian style, like I’m dead. I was in his salad, a dark room, like mom laying on the ground and I’ve got it. Then I’m sitting in some dark room. Like I am dead. I thought that was it. Just two people were on top of me, shaking me as soon as I got up. I wake up, grabbing my legs, grabbing my arms, trying to make sure I’ve got all my limbs. we get into a firefight for a little while and get air support and make our way back. I know that was a long story. I just had a sheer high how it was
Scott DeLuzio 00:23:11 The explosion goes off, right. You’re basically knocked out for a period of time. The ears ringing that your heart’s pumping, all these things are happening. Now fast forward a little bit. Were you sent home because of this injury or was this something that you were able to continue on in your deployment while you’re over there?
Allen Simmons 00:23:49 I wish they would have sent me home then I would have taken it more seriously. I stayed for the whole deployment.I didn’t see a doc after that. You’re supposed to see the doc. They said, don’t go to sleep. I didn’t go to sleep for a little while. The next day you talked about symptoms, right? The next day, I was narcoleptic, I was falling asleep while I was talking to my chief warrant officer. I was talking to him and I fell asleep and it took a picture of me sleeping and they showed it to me when I came back and started talking again, they’re like Simmons what? The F like, I was like, what? They’re like, when was this, there was like, just now.
Allen Simmons 00:24:32 I was like, no way, like I’m sitting here talking to <redacted> And then, it was like going to the chow hall. I would forget my cover. I forget my rifle. In the middle of the night, people are trying to get off of their racks to go, we’re sleeping in these cottages. They’re trying to get off their racks to go make a head call. I think my<redacted>, he was, his rack was right next to me, my chief warrant officer. He had a rack right next to me. I remember one night he was moving and I just hopped up like I was still dead asleep. I’m aware of what I’m doing, but I just, I’m not controlling myself. I was like, what are you doing?
Allen Simmons 00:25:10 He looked up at me and then he got right back in his rack and he just like, goes back, back asleep. It was like the next day there was like seven days. We got to put a radio by your head because it’s just like,you’re scared of like, so fast forward, it didn’t really hit me because now I’m like, I’m processing out the military, I’m EAs. I’m trying to prepare for my next, and I’m not able to actually address what I had just gone through. After that it was anxiety. It was feeling like somebody was trying to kill me, in Virginia searching for my apartment where my pistol I’m searching behind my shower. Curtain is on, I’m putting chairs in the middle of my hallway so that when I leave, if somebody comes in and I’ll know, somebody moves something, I’m very paranoid. I’m drinking a lot. I’m taking these medications from the VA. I’m feeling suicidal. I’m feeling crazy. I’m feeling out of myself, but then the whole time as us military people can do, we can put on a smile. We can put on that. I’m okay. But then we’re struggling on the inside. That’s what I was facing there.
Scott DeLuzio 00:26:24 I was saying earlier that a lot of these symptoms could could be things that affect people differently, not everyone’s going to experience the same exact thing that you experienced, but I think it’s great that you mentioned because anyone who may have experienced some sort of traumatic brain injury through a deployment or some other part of their service, they may not realize that the way they’re behaving the paranoia that all this other stuff that they may be experiencing could be a result of that. By sharing that information that hopefully will open up some people’s eyes to that possibility. That way they can then get the help that they need. and speaking of getting the help that people might need, how are you doing now? Or how are you coping with this TBI? Is it something that gets better over time? Or is this something that’s like a lifelong thing that you’re going to just have to live with?
Allen Simmons 00:27:31 That’s a good question, Scott. I don’t think it gets better over time. I think you, as a, get better over time. but it still lingers,like I fought like hell to get through college, at the dropping out and going back after like eight years of dropping out I couldn’t retain information. I couldn’t sit down and read in a classroom, bro. Like you put, you take us from Afghanistan and Iraq and you put us in a classroom or even just anybody who, even if they never served, never went overseas, but they serve your own is fast paced, intensity speed. Ah, and then you go get, put up, you get put in a classroom and it’s like, well, I can’t even focus. I think that PTSD and a TBI just increased that even more to where I try sitting in front of the class, I’m like taking notes and I’m doing everything I need to do. I’m going crazy because I felt like I just sat in a classroom for no reason.
Allen Simmons 00:28:41 I didn’t retain anything. It was really offered to me to finish college. As we speak right now, I’m an engineer now. I work at IBM. I do software support and it’s crazy that I’m saying these things because I’m still in shock every day I go to work. They must be going crazy cause they make me. I say that because it’s still a struggle for me. People see me, they see me being motivated. They see me inspiring people. They see me telling people don’t commit suicide, but my wife sees me, man. I don’t know what I need to do. I’m trying to focus. I can’t focus. I’m trying to retain stuff. I can’t retain stuff. Like it’s a struggle stil.I’m going to the VA now and getting therapy and memory therapy, all that stuff. Trying to work on it, I’m very transparent with my boss. I let them know what I’m going through.That side versus the suicide side. There’s that side that I overcame the suicide side. Then there’s the side of dealing with the repercussions of a traumatic brain injury and more
Scott DeLuzio 00:30:02 I’m glad that they, there are services available that are going to help with your memory, hopefully, and get you to a point where you don’t need that type of service anymore but there is stuff available there and that that’s something that for me personally it’s not something that I’ve experienced. I didn’t have any TBIs or anything like that. It’s just not something I’m aware of, but I can imagine other people who might have gone through something similar to you, if they don’t reach out and ask what’s available, they may not know that that’s something that’s even available. That’s another great thing that you mentioned there because, it’s just another tool for people to hopefully, get themselves better if they’re struggling with that on their own.
Scott DeLuzio 00:30:53 I did the math earlier, and I interviewed over somewhere around 140 people, different people on this podcast. One of the common themes that I found in the people who overcome adverse adversity of one sort or another, whether it’s a TBI, whether it’s PTSD, whether it’s anything that they’re overcoming, is that they made a choice to not let those circumstances that they find themselves define them. They find the good in life and, and live a life of purpose. They find something to serve that’s bigger than themselves. They devote themselves to their family or to ,something that they’re passionate about. I have to imagine that you probably had a similar moment where you decided to make the choice to find your purpose. I’m thinking that that’s probably something similar that you have with all these other people. What was that like for you? Did you come to that conclusion that you needed to get the step out of your own way and find that purpose?
Allen Simmons 00:32:07 Another good question, Scott, you’re doing a great job superstar you. When I was in Virginia, this was probably like 2013, 2012, 13. So I got back from my diploma 2011, got out 2011. I think around 2012, things were catching up with me, I could no longer avoid them anymore. There was one night in my apartment and I’m just kinda done. I just got finished staring at myself in the mirror, like literally,, in my poetry, I talk about a lot, but like the mirror facing the person in the mirror, I used to go to the mirror in my bathroom and put my nose against the mirror like this. I’m like eye to eye with the mirror and I’m looking at myself and I would ask myself, “Who are you?”
Allen Simmons 00:33:06 Who are you? Who are you? I kept saying it over and over and over. I’m just like, if somebody was looking at me right now, they’d be like losing it. But like, for me, I felt like a part of me died. I felt like this person that was being mobile was this artificial Allen.I was stuck inside of me. I’m asking this person right in the front of the mirror, who are you? Because you’re fooling everybody, you’re fooling yourself. I couldn’t find it, I couldn’t find the answer, Scott. You talk about finding the purpose, right? I couldn’t find the answer. I’m all my bed pills on my bed. My Bible on my nightstand, paranoia, tiptoeing through the hallway of my home. I have my gun in my hand.
Allen Simmons 00:33:59 I have my finger on the trigger.I put the gun to my mouth and,I’m just like, okay, like, I don’t want to take the pills. I’ll just kill myself with a gun. Here I am having this out-of-body experience. Like, who am I? Like? I’ve never wanted to be in a split disposition. I never thought that I would be in this place. Right, I’m all the way at the bottom. I said, there’s no one to stop. My name is Scott. I’m in my house by myself. There was nobody to stop me. I’m crying now. I’m crying. I’m not, I don’t want to, the inner Allen did not want to do it, but this person is shell is done with it. He’s done with it.
Allen Simmons 00:34:46 I’m crying. I’m just like weeping then. When I said, like, I heard somebody, something speaking to me, I heard God speak to me and I understand there’s this. I have my little nightstand by my bed. There was this little streetlight, shining through my window that night. And there’s this Bible that my grandmother gave me a long time ago. I just kept it with me because it reminded me of her. Didn’t really open it a lot, but when the light hit the Bible, I felt like breaking happened inside of me. I can’t even explain it. It’s like something broke inside of me. It wasn’t like a heartbreak. It was like a love break. When you love somebody and it just, your heart just changes. When I felt that break, I heard this voice again, going crazy.
Allen Simmons 00:35:42 I don’t know, but I heard the voice again. The voice says in my spirit and my mind, I hear this voice. Like I hear my own self thinking. It was another voice that said, who are you to take your own life? When I brought you from the land of your enemy? Literally that voice said that, and I could hear it to this day. Who are you to take your own life? When I brought you from the land of your enemies, I broke down crying. I’m in a fetal position. My guns beside me, I woke up the next morning, Scott and I felt light as a feather. I felt like that was a dream. I felt like I wasn’t. I felt like Allen and I walked to the pawn shop that was down the street from me. I just gave them my gun. I was like, take it. I don’t want it.I went on and I struggle here and there, I drunk, I smoke weed and I was out there having sex, just throwing myself out there in the world. But I was still at this point, like asking God, like, God, what do you want me to do? Like help me, like whatever you need. That’s where my life started making changes right there.
Scott DeLuzio 00:36:54 Wow. That there’s a lot going on there. and it’s, well, first off, I’m glad that,whatever it was, whatever that voice was inside of that breaking, I’m glad that you went through the route that you, you did go as opposed to going the other direction. I think that this story is powerful and it shows just how, how quickly someone’s life can go from one direction,to complete 180 going in a totally different direction. Like you said, you never thought you’d be in this situation. You never thought you’d be here, but then here you are. My gosh I can’t imagine, being at that point and, just, just through circumstances that you really didn’t have much control over, it was just things that happened to you.
Scott DeLuzio 00:37:59 Then here you are now you do have control over things and you’re debating about how you’re going to get through this. Butyou didn’t quit on yourself. You didn’t stop living. You did the opposite. You kept going and you found this sense of purpose and you’re out there motivating people. I can see your shirt, but this quote that you have has never stopped, never quit, repeat, repeat. I read that quote on your website, when I was doing a little stocking, like I do for all these episodes and trying to figure out who these people I’m talking to you. I saw that quote and at first, when I read it, I stopped.
Scott DeLuzio 00:38:57 I had to read it again. I was like what? That’s a great mindset to have. I’m paraphrasing,this may not be exactly what you’re doing here, but don’t stop what you’re doing, just because it gets hard, don’t quit on yourself or whatever it is, because it’s a struggle. Keep going, like the title is podcast Drive On, just keep going. And then repeat it, do it again just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing. I was talking to somebody else the other day. They’re saying that just because you face some struggles, some adversity, some trials in your life, something that is hard it can be good.
Scott DeLuzio 00:39:51 You’re supposed to think that’s part of life. I’m not saying that it’s good that what happened to you happened. If you’re not struggling at some point in life, you’re not really living, you’re not growing as a person and. Sometimes you’re going to be dealt a bad hand. You’re going to get a bad situation thrown at you. You have to learn how to adapt to it and overcome it, right.I mean, that’s, we can talk about that in the military all the time, adapting for come. Right. if you can do that you’re going to come out stronger on the other side of it, and you’ll be able to not only face that, that thing, whatever that thing is for you, but, you’ll be able to face the next thing, head on and be able to just push your way right through it, right.
Allen Simmons 00:40:42 Man, you print your ride down. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s so powerful. It’s so real. So I call it the valley experience because I’m a spiritual guy. I’m a Christian, but I’m not like the everyday Christian that you see on TV or something. I’m like the Christian who, I love people, you because God made them, I love people, all people, because God made them, I love people who are in the pit, in the, in the bottom of hell. I love them because that’s where I was. I loved them because they don’t think that other people love them that much. God has given me a mission. I say it. For people who are out and they don’t have the same views as me, I say with all respect, like not trying to convince anybody to believe what I believe.
Allen Simmons 00:41:39 I feel like God has proposed to me, to go into the world and to find people who are lost. When I say lost, they could be fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, they could be engineers, doctors, veterans, whatever. There’s people out there who are lost because their inner self is trying to connect with their outer self. I was looking for the reflection, who are you? when they’re in the valley it is so hard to see over the mounts. It’s so hard to see the bright side of life, it’s so hard to see, oh, one day you’ll have children. One day, you’ll get married one day, you’ll write a book one day, you’ll start a podcast one day, one day, one day. It’s so hard to think about one day when you’re trying to live for today.
Allen Simmons 00:42:29 I go out there being this motivational guy, because it’s a life or death matter. It’s a life or death matter when somebody walks past me, this guy was gone coming out to Jim. He was like, he walked past me and he turned around. He’s like, I liked that shirt, because you never know what people are going through, especially now, but people could be stopping what they believe themselves to do. They could be quitting on their family, quitting on their job, most importantly, quitting on themselves. They never stop, never quit, repeat. It’s a formula that is so simple that it just talks about a daily life of persistence, day by day.
Scott DeLuzio 00:43:15 Persistence is the key, I think, to all of this, right? you can’t put in one day of hard work and trying to overcome some of these things and then would just expect the next morning you magically wake up everything, rainbows and unicorns, right., it’s not going to be that way necessarily. but if you’re persistent, you put in the work and the effort to, move yourself in the right direction, move your family in the right direction, move your, your career, whatever it is,move that thing in the right direction. Then you’re going to see the benefits of it. We look at anybody who’s ever been successful in anything and athletes or businessmen, people like that. Look at any of them.
Scott DeLuzio 00:44:06 None of them are successful because they quit after the first hard day that they had. They all have had hard days. You may not see those hard days sitting on the sidelines, not knowing what their day to day is like. But, they all had hard days at one point or another, and they persevered. They kept going. They showed up and they did the work they put in the effort and,here they are. They’re successful because of those things. I think that’s kind of a key there, right? I wanted to get a chance to mention your poetry at the beginning of this episode. I want to give you a chance to talk about your poetry. How you got into poetry. Is that part of your healing process, or was it just something that you’ve always done? You kind of write poetry, and then tell us what the book is all about and what prompted you to not only write it, but, but to publish it out there for the world to read.
Allen Simmons 00:45:12 Well, thank you. Thank you. This book right here has some blue lines across it because I wrote it to somebody and I just drew a bunch of a big blue square. That’s what’s inside, I wrote this book. It was over time. I joined a writer’s workshop in Charlotte and they sparked my creativity again, because I had died.I was always a writer, like when I was younger, people were like, oh, you should, you should write a book because I was writing girls poems. Like, Hey, baby, I love you. I was always good with words and, but I never believed that I could write a book because I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t the guy with the big vocabulary.
Allen Simmons 00:45:56 I never believed in that. After Afghanistan and after, the suicidal thoughts, I started doing poetry and I was like 2012. I like talking about the reflection and I’m doing a poem with a mirror right beside me. I raised my right hand as he raised his left. I looked to my right as he looked to the left. I’m talking about myself, the reflection of myself, but he’s, he’s doing something different every time that I’m doing something. I started seeing that. I started talking about darkness. I started talking about death. I started talking about suicide. I started talking about all of these things and I was like, wow, this is inside of me.I started writing more Scott and I was, I wrote more because I wanted to see what was inside of me, the pain, the hurt, the damage, the pre-war, the Allen who grew up with his father and his mom and dad split the Allen who watched his friend get hit by a car at the age of 12.
Allen Simmons 00:46:55 He died, Allen, the washes, my grandmother died. All of this traumatic stuff and everything inside of me, I was like, no, let me write something. It’s a book that is aiming to evoke empathy out of people. I make up some stories about a guy named Charles Thompson who loses his wife, and he becomes an alcoholic. No one seems to worry about why he, Charles, is a drunker, and that his children are just falling to the wayside. They’re just worried because he’s an alcoholic. They talk about him. Then one day Charles Townsend tastes his life. I talk about the pain of his love being buried in the earth because his wife died.These stories came out of nowhere and I was like, how can I put them in a poem? It’s a compilation of my pain, my story, I got some victorious stuff. Don’t let failure in prison. Your mind brings scoliosis to your spine and leaves you bent. You were born to be great and set aside to be great. Your every breath is more precious than diamonds and pearls. Step out from this world and take a leap into your destiny. I wrote Victorious poems. I just try to mix everything that was inside of me in that book. That’s what you have right there.
Scott DeLuzio 00:48:19 I mean, those poems definitely show a little insight into the struggles that you’ve gone through. I know, as an author myself, and I know I’ve talked to a lot of other authors, when you put your story out there, you’ve put your heart and your soul into the words that you’re putting down on a paper. It can be kind of scary sometimes too, when you actually release it out into the world to have other people. That’s a reflection on yourself. You don’t know what you’re going to get, as far as feedback goes, when you put that stuff out there, it’s going to be rave reviews or is it going to be all criticism and things like that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:49:18 You don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s a hard thing to do. I found myself after releasing things. My story out there, it was very freeing too, because now it’s like what, everyone knows my story. Everyone who picks up a copy of that book is going to know my story and know what I’ve been going through for the last however many years now. It’s encouraging too. I think getting that story out there and sharing it helps people to like you said, have empathy and things like that too. Then you also have your podcasts. The Purpose Pod. I want to give you an opportunity to talk about that and, what kind of content do you have on there and what kind of guests and topics do you talk about there?
Allen Simmons 00:50:19 Thank you. Once again. I’m getting into season three, come March 8th, I’m going into season three of the purpose. I started the purpose pie when COVID hit, two years ago. I interviewed 30 people in 30 days, like 30 days back to back to back to back. I interviewed 30 people, different people, and different stories. I went on their page websites like you, do what other websites are looking up? I interviewed one person an hour each day. 30 hours in a month, I started a podcast. I said, if I’m still going afterwards, then that means that I really want to do this. I went from 30 people in 30 days to interviewing every Tuesday and to season two, interviewing the first and fourth, Tuesday of the month. That’s what I’m at now.
Allen Simmons 00:51:07 I’ve interviewed NFL players, Cincinnati Bengals, Kareem Kalid, our collective dream. He was on my podcast. He just played in the Super Bowl. James Bradberry, He played for the Panthers, he’s New York giants cornerback now, Maya Stoli. She’s an actress. I interviewed professional authors, podcasters, singers, rappers, musicians, kidpreneurs people overall it’s highlighting people who are living with a purpose. People who have found a purpose and are living it. I bring them on a purpose pod because I want people who tune in. Maybe they don’t want to be a musician, but wow, like this person overcame X, Y, Z, and they found their purpose. I want to provide a space where people can pull from other people in order to create their own story and live their own purposeful life.
Scott DeLuzio 00:52:06 That is, I think, another great thing that you’re doing. It’s a great purpose that you have to share these stories. I really do look forward to hearing more of these stories that come out on your podcast. Because they’re inspiring, right? Then you get these people to come and share their story, what. How they discover their purpose. It’s inspiring to hear these types of things. I encourage everyone who’s listening to this right now to stop what you’re doing, go check out the Purpose Pod. Where can you tell people where they can find your podcast and your book as well? I want to make sure that people know where to get that.
Allen Simmons 00:52:51 YouTube right now, I do a Facebook live at YouTube, live at the purpose spot. I did a live interview there. I do YouTube live. I’m working on getting all my stuff on like the other platforms, audio platforms and stuff, but it’s, I’m a one band, a one man band right now. I’m taking my time with that, but mainly on YouTube. Then,can I speak to book.com? You type that in and it’ll take you to Amazon. I created a little domain for it. People could just get straight to it, Can I speak book.com? You’ll get it right there on Amazon. When you read it, man, just, take your time. Some people say like, Allen, I read this and then I went back and I read it again, went back and read it again sometimes because it’s poetry. With poetry, there’s certain things people know about. I talk about Nipsey Hussle, he’s a rapper that died. A couple of years ago, he got a shot in front of his store. I use him and I create a poem. I talk about killing and stuff like that. there’s different things in there and all poems might not be for everybody, but something in there will speak to you and motivate you.
Scott DeLuzio 00:54:11 Absolutely. Well, I could tell just from talking to you right now that there’s definitely something in there for me that that’s going to be motivating. I’m looking forward to grabbing a copy of that and diving into it. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. I really do appreciate you coming on sharing your story, your energy level, your, your passion for what you’re doing and everything just, it really comes, through your voice and through this conversation. I really, really see it there. I’m hopeful that, that other people who listen to this,let that energy be infectious to them and have that, that transfer over and drive on drive, drive them towards their purpose and that their goals in life
Allen Simmons 00:55:01 Drive On. That’s what I’ve done. I might write it. I might write a poem called Drive On my favorite, my failure poem that I kinda, I did a snippet of. Can I just do it real quick?
Allen Simmons 00:55:17 You’re good. It’s really quick. Here it goes. It’s about fit. Don’t let failure in prison. Your mind brings scoliosis to your spine and leaves you bent. You were born to be great and set aside to be great. Your every breath is more precious than diamonds and pearls. Step out from this world and take a leap into your destiny. Look into the mirror and see what others cannot. You are all royalty. Your loyalty should be shown by how much you have grown seeds of failure and success have both been sown, but please don’t step down from your throne. Keep marching, keep moving. You are almost home. I’ll start right there, but drive on. Make sure you guys drive on with the spirit of resilience. Make sure you stay tuned in with Scott. He’s a great man. I can already tell I’m going to definitely buy your book. Scott. I just got to throw that out there and I’m going to promote your podcast and promote your book on my platform. I appreciate you brother.
Scott DeLuzio 00:56:11 I appreciate it. I really do. Thank you very much. And thank you for joining me. Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.
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