WPAOG Podcast

EP82 Commission Denied: A Story of Resilience

Episode Summary

In this episode, we are joined by Ian Winer, class of 1996 and managing director at Disruptive, who shares his compelling narrative of adversity, change, and recovery. Ian recounts his entry into West Point, facilitated by his ice hockey talents and a profound connection with the Academy's values. He reflects on the rigorous yet rewarding cadet life, enriched by significant mentorships and team camaraderie. Injury shifted Ian's trajectory from military service to finance, where he navigated the challenges of Wall Street. Ian also opens up about his struggles with substance abuse and his journey toward recovery, emphasizing the crucial role of community and support systems in overcoming obstacles and finding a renewed sense of purpose. This episode is a deep dive into the power of resilience and the importance of seeking help in times of crisis. If you or someone you know needs support, help is available, dial or text 988

Episode Notes

Join us as we welcome Ian Winer, class of 1996, managing director of investor relations at Disruptive, as he shares his unique story of commitment, transformation, and resilience. 

Ian recounts his journey to West Point, a path paved thanks to his skills on the rink playing ice hockey and his affinity for the Academy's core values that resonated deeply with his personal aspirations. Ian offers a perspective on the challenges and triumphs of cadet life, reflecting on the enduring mentorship he received from then Major Jim Knowlton and Colonel Jim Blake, and the indelible bonds formed with teammates under his coaches.

Ian opens up about the unforeseen twist in his military career, an injury that rendered him non-commissionable just before his commissioning. This emotional pivot led him to the fast-paced world of finance at Goldman Sachs.  Hear how he navigated the shift from military structure to the frenetic rhythm of Wall Street. 

Ian speaks candidly about his battle with substance abuse and the path to recovery. His story is a testament to the power of support networks and the value of service, demonstrating that even the toughest challenges can be overcome with gratitude, routine, and a helping hand from fellow graduates. As Ian emphasizes the importance of seeking assistance during a crisis and celebrates the support systems available to veterans, we're reminded of the strength found in a community and the transformative journey toward a life of purpose.


Key Quote:

“It's all work. It doesn't necessarily come easily.  But if I get back to kind of what I learned at West Point, if I get back to not making excuses for, for behavior that's not okay,  if I get back into that, um, that is what keeps me sober. And so, and then it's at night. It really is thinking about the day and thinking about like,  What did, how did I act today? What did I do? What did I do right? What did I, you know, kind of,  uh, you know, and it goes back to that quote from Hamlet, you know, to thine own self be true. And that is really what sobriety and my life boils down to now. Am I being true to myself? You know, am I, am I being honest with myself?”


Episode Timestamps:

(00:00) - Life at West Point

(09:40) - West Point to Wall Street Transition

(27:31) -  Ian’s Recovery and Support

Episode Transcription

0:00:01.4 Announcer: Welcome to the WPAOG podcast. In this episode, we welcome Ian Winer, class of 1996, current Managing Director of Investor Relations at Disruptive, which is focused on defense technology investing. He graduated from West Point with a Bachelor's degree in international relations, and is the author of Ubiquitous Relativity, a book about how we can improve our connections with others. Today, he shares the pivotal moments of his life, from overcoming a decommissioning injury, to battling and recovering from substance abuse. Join us as Ian reflects on the power of mentorship, the importance of community support, and the profound impact of seeking help in times of crisis. Please enjoy this episode with our host, Jamie Enos.

0:00:54.5 Jamie Enos: Ian, thanks again for coming on the show today.

0:00:58.1 Ian Winer: Thanks for having me.

0:01:00.0 Jamie Enos: So, you have an article coming out in the summer 2024 West Point magazine, and it's a really great opportunity to have you here so that we can expand the story a little bit more than what we can put in print. So can you just give us a little bit of background of how you got here to West Point? 

0:01:17.9 Ian Winer: So I got to West Point and was introduced to West Point through ice hockey. I had grown up playing ice hockey my entire life. And when I was in high school, the first school that recruited me to play was West Point. And so when I went on my recruiting trip, and an interesting thing back then was that the service academies could recruit athletes in their junior year of high school. No other colleges could do that. They had to wait until you were a senior. So it was the first school that I visited. And when I went up there, they put me with some seniors on the hockey team. So I didn't see all the terrible things that were happening to plebes. But I realized pretty quickly that it was something I was incredibly interested in. I saw, you know, sort of the discipline and I saw clearly the passion that people had for the school and its mission. And that was the kind of person I was. And so I realized that it all sort of fit perfectly into kind of what I wanted to do at that point. And playing Division I ice hockey at West Point was a huge goal of mine. And even when my senior year, I started to get recruited by some of the Ivy League schools to play hockey, I decided that West Point was a place for me.

0:02:36.5 Jamie Enos: Yeah, you played under Brian Riley, Coach Brian Riley.

0:02:40.7 Ian Winer: I played under actually his older brother, Rob, who was the coach. Brian was an assistant coach for a few of the years that I played.

0:02:49.2 Jamie Enos: So you had the the Rob Riley magic of the recruiting season, of not showing you the plebe, what was going on there? 

0:03:00.6 Ian Winer: Yeah, yeah. At one point, I even asked one of the assistant coaches why that some of the cadets were moving so quickly. And the response was that they're probably late for class. So there was definitely some whitewashing of the whole experience, especially plebe year on my recruiting visit.

0:03:16.9 Jamie Enos: But you so you came here, you decided to commit to West Point and you affirmed and you stayed on and you did your whole four years here as a graduate. Did you have a special mentor while you were here as a cadet? 

0:03:29.6 Ian Winer: I had a lot of different mentors that I felt, you know, we had officers who worked with the hockey team. There were cadets who were older, I'd say one of the people who I really looked to for guidance was, I think he was a Major at the time, Jim Knowlton, who was a great hockey player when he played here in, I want to say, the mid '80s, who now is the athletic director at Cal Berkeley, of all places. But he was somebody that I would go and visit their house and get guidance, especially that first year. I would sort of talk through different things and really respected him as a leader. And so from that perspective, he was somebody that clearly made a difference. And then there was a Colonel, Jim Blake, who was in the, actually the AOG at that point. He, too was somebody, especially my plebe year, which was challenging, somebody I would go to get advice from. And he always had some interesting, colorful advice for me that ultimately in life turned out to be quite true. But I couldn't have appreciated it at the time.

0:04:34.9 Jamie Enos: Yeah, that program, that officer representative, that's still a thing, sponsoring and supporting cadets through their academic challenges here at West Point. It is a great program as a, personally, as a former student athlete, we didn't have that at a different college. And here at West Point in supporting our family does that with the hockey team unrelated to this podcast, but I see it with all the other programs as well, the soccer team and the softball team and the baseball team and the volleyball team. And I can go on with every single team of, it does really creates some special connections with cadets and mentorship in both directions. So great program that honors and leads that by example. So still here, still actively going on strong. Cadet life is not easy, as you have referenced a few times. So did you have a favorite memory at West Point besides the hockey rink outside of that? I mean, athletics, I get can be the draw. And that's where your passion was. But outside of the athletic piece of it, did you have a favorite moment while you were a cadet? 

0:05:37.0 Ian Winer: I mean, I would say that there were many moments. I'd say that the most special thing was the bonds you make with your classmates there. And some of that is clearly a trauma bond. But really, it is the ability to forge relationships that I don't think could happen anywhere else. And whether it's at Airborne School or Air Assault School or Camp Buckner or, just getting through a final exam or a different report that you had to do, you just found yourself in situations where you built lifelong friendships. And the kind of friendships where, and I experience them still to this day, where even if you don't talk to somebody for a while, but you hop on the phone and you can catch up and see how people are doing. It's a relationship that there's this immediate connection that I think lasts a lifetime. That at the time when you're 18, 19, 20, it's not easy to see how great those connections are gonna be. But as one gets older, and you see sort of the friendships that stick, the people that you can still call, if something's going on in your life and you need advice or you need help, that those people are there. And that's all forged in the getting covered in mud and rain and training or last second kind of 12:00 o'clock I'm up and trying to finish a paper or whether it's plebe boxing, different things that you go through together with people that really make a difference.

0:07:22.2 Ian Winer: And for me, it was multiple moments along the way where I started to really appreciate that both athletes and core squad sports and those who did it. And it was something that I really, you know, when I graduated, never forgot. And it has paid dividends still to this day.

0:07:42.7 Jamie Enos: Yeah, let's talk about the classroom a little bit what your major here. How did you find yourself there? 

0:07:47.0 Ian Winer: So I majored in International Relations. I'm the first to admit have one side of my brain that works very well. And that's the kind of English and econ and history. And that, you know, military history and stuff is a passion of mine. English was something that I always felt very comfortable writing papers and whatnot. So that's how I gravitated towards that. You know, I only have one class that I really struggled in at West Point, and that was physics. And so I tried to avoid a lot of that and did my engineering track in systems, where I felt like it was the most sort of appropriate for somebody who thinks with the side of the brain that I think with. So that's how I got into that and was always passionate about politics and political science and sort of different systems around the world. And so that's how I landed on International Relations.

0:08:41.4 Jamie Enos: Yeah, pretty challenging, especially when you're coming out of a high school senior, also looking at Ivy leagues and you're here at West point. So what do you think you got here at West point that you wouldn't have gotten somewhere else? 

0:08:53.9 Ian Winer: I mean, I think the biggest thing I got was understanding that there wasn't the ability to make excuses for things that I made a mistake on. That's what I got out of West Point from the discipline required to balance all the different aspects of cadet life and the ability to say no excuse was what ultimately to me is the biggest difference between a West Point graduation and diploma relative to even the top Ivy League schools around the country. And that's, you know, and I've seen it for decades, the difference in, a cadet or a former cadet's ability when they make a mistake to say no excuse, to not point fingers. And when I made mistakes at West Point, that's what I was taught to say. And that was, that response is so alien to others who haven't experienced West Point that they're taken aback and then really appreciate it because they say, that's great, you know, that somebody's actually owning something. And so for me, that lesson at a West Point was a lesson that's really defined the successes that I've had was largely because of that. And so, you know, it's understanding, like, how do I balance the military aspect of what I'm doing, the physical aspect of what I'm doing, core squad hockey, academics, and, taking a very disciplined approach to, life, I think is, really, you know, been a difference maker for me.

0:10:35.8 Jamie Enos: That is the number one resource here, right? It's time for cadets, and it's very valuable. It's taken a lot. There's not a lot of choices because it's so consumed by the mandatory requirements. So balance is very key in having to be successful in all of those areas. Absolutely. So you were, you know, you go through West Point, like a traditional cadet, you're playing core squad athlete, athletics. What were your summers like? What did you do over the summers for West Point and your training? 

0:11:11.9 Ian Winer: So after, doing Camp Buckner between my plebe and yearling year, then the next summer I did Air Assault School and was a squad leader at Camp Buckner. And then the following summer I did Airborne School and I did the CTLT practice lieutenantship in the demilitarized zone in Korea.

0:11:36.8 Jamie Enos: Yeah. So you had all intentions of commissioning and going out into the army and serving your time. And then you get hit with being non-commissionable due to injury.

0:11:49.9 Ian Winer: Yeah. Yeah. I had, you know, full intentions on doing sort of all the things that I thought were high speed as they say, and I had done, the schools I could do while a cadet and fully intended on commissioning and figuring out kind of what would be the most exciting way to serve. And, you know, while I was in CTLT, I came off a rifle range in Korea and had hearing protection in. But when I came off the range, I lost my balance and had really bad ringing in my ears. And noticed that pretty quickly I had an issue, especially in my left ear, as far as what loud noises did to it and that it was ringing all the time. And when I got through my senior year and went to the commissioning physicals that they had at the time, you know, one of the tests is a hearing test.

0:12:52.2 Ian Winer: And they did these tests on my ears and they noticed that I had pretty big issues with hearing. And then they did some more intensive tests on the inside of my ears. And they concluded that because of the damage that I had done over that summer, that any more exposure to rifle fire could result in going totally deaf. And so they basically gave me two options at the time. They said that, you know, you can either go into the finance corps and never fire a rifle again, or you're gonna graduate and you're not commissionable in any other branch. And basically, good luck. And this was in March of my senior year. And so it was devastating. And it was a complete shock. I didn't expect it to be the case. Clearly, the army was downsizing at the time. And I know there were other classmates of mine that were also not commissionable for various reasons. But when faced with that option, I realized that I did not wanna be behind a desk in the military. It just wasn't what I wanted to do. And so I now needed to figure out, okay, what am I gonna do with my life? Because I didn't have any intention of doing anything else. Certainly, not for the first five years after graduation. And so I started to consider what my options were. And it was at that point that I looked and saw that, you know, I started talking to some of those officer representatives about my future.

0:14:40.5 Jamie Enos: Sure.

0:14:42.7 Ian Winer: And one of them, that happened, his name was Bob Pine. And he said, look, he goes, I have a friend who is recruiting guys getting out of the military, West Point guys, to go work for Goldman Sachs. Why don't I connect you with him? And so I said, okay, I didn't know anything about finance. My family wasn't on Wall Street, and, I wound up going into New York City and interviewing for the job and got the offer for the job. And I went back and I talked to this same Major and said, I don't know the first thing about Wall Street. And he said, don't worry, it's effing crazy down there. He goes, but you'll love it.

0:15:31.6 Jamie Enos: Right, right.

0:15:34.0 Ian Winer: And so this was in 1996. And so I took the job and a month and a half after graduating from West Point I was suddenly working on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs.

0:15:46.7 Jamie Enos: Yeah, we here at AOG now are supporting some of those cadets that are uncomissionable, mostly due to health related reasons and supporting them by bringing them to the SAC so they can go through interview processes, whether it's either practice or for the final result of getting a job. Because we do notice that there is a little bit of a drop there. Those cadets that are expecting their whole West Point career are expecting to graduate, and they get to graduation, and they are left out in a way from the feelings. They're unable to do what they signed up to do.

0:16:27.8 Jamie Enos: And so We've had success with doing that and bringing them down to the Service Academy Career conference and supporting them that way here at AOG. So for anyone listening, if that's in your boat and that's what your future looks like, reach out to us here at AOG. We do have some staff that can support with that because through experiences like yours, Ian, we've noticed that there's an opportunity here for us to help. So I'm happy that I can report that on behalf of AOG through your pain that there was a problem that we're trying to address. So you do get down to Wall Street and you're on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and you're not feeling so prepared for this, but it's a grind it out kind of moment and that's what you do, right? So how does that start to work when you're in the mix and the hustle and the bustle? What's going on during your life? '96, right? These are high times in the market. Money is flowing like crazy. What is this young guy that just walks out of West Point feeling? 

0:17:37.6 Ian Winer: I was completely overwhelmed and was completely out of place, had no idea what I was doing.

0:17:47.8 Jamie Enos: You're going from uniform to suits, right? 'Cause this is just a complete shocker, right? You're completely unprepared for this. Not even your wardrobe matches.

0:17:57.0 Ian Winer: Yeah, I had, I think, two suits that I had bought and I had no idea what was going on. It was a whole new language. It was a whole new world. I remember that I was getting paid $35,000 a year for the first year I was on Wall Street, and I thought I was the richest person on the planet compared to cadet life. And then there was, you know, it was the beginning of the dot-com boom and there was money flowing everywhere. I got used to a lifestyle and just benefits and things that were going on. And it was easy. You know, all you had to do is basically just come into work and the money flowed to everybody. And so from that perspective, it was a culture that encouraged the kind of work hard, play hard mentality.

0:18:57.0 Ian Winer: And for me as a young guy, that part was quite easy. And so it was really just getting adjusted to getting yelled at and screamed at by traders and other senior people. But coming from West Point, that part was easy. It was really just getting used to this new life and this new world that, I had no connection to and still dealing with the, just disappointment of not being in the army and trying to figure out where I fit in all of this.

0:19:32.4 Jamie Enos: And all the structure, right? I mean, the structure from your daily life of the academics, the core squad athlete, the fitness that's coming on top of it, the military training, you had all this structure and you just transition almost overnight, a month later, what have you. And it's a free for all in New York City. Yeah.

0:19:50.7 Ian Winer: Yeah. It was a crazy time. It was a time when, there were a lot of people making a lot of money, people that certainly were not qualified to be making that kind of money. And that's just the way it was. And for me, I was more than happy. The markets close at 4:00 PM, so from 4:00 PM on, it was pretty much do whatever you want. There wasn't any academics. There wasn't any military training. There wasn't any structure whatsoever. The only assignment was basically go out with clients of Goldman Sachs and entertain them so that they do more business with Goldman Sachs. And so for me, that entertainment almost always involved going out, drinks, dinner, whatever it was. And the expectation for somebody like myself, who was 22 years old, was that I would stay out with the clients no matter what, whatever they wanted to do.

0:20:53.0 Ian Winer: And that's part of my job description. And so, I quickly morphed from this disciplined, cadet hockey player, captain of the hockey team to, okay, I'm gonna just go out and do whatever I can to succeed and make money. And that was sort of my new mission statement. And it was just a completely different world. And the biggest change was going from a group of people who were motivated by, an ethos motivated by a common mission statement, whether it was defending the country or, a hockey team winning its games or whatever it was, or a company winning. Its little flicker ball, championship, stuff like that to, it's pretty much every person for themselves. And the goal is to make money. There is no common, like, people aren't like, yeah, Goldman Sachs, that's my team.

0:21:49.3 Ian Winer: It was, no, I'm gonna make as much money as I can and I'll do what I have to do to get there. And that's what people concern themselves with. And so it wasn't a, that was the biggest change. And going from being able to trust people almost implicitly, because they were motivated by the same take the hill mission that you were to not being able to trust anybody because everybody was sort of out for themselves. And that was what was encouraged. And so it was a huge adjustment for me, and one that took many, many years to really appreciate.

0:22:25.6 Jamie Enos: Yeah. So, you talk about your struggle with addiction and this kind of that going from West Point, and you saw the behaviors, perhaps that, but you were using athletics and working out and fitness as a way to get the sanity. And then you get into this environment where it's less structured and for lack of better words, lose control. Would that be an appropriate way to describe it, for you? I don't wanna use.

0:22:50.7 Ian Winer: Yeah, I would describe it as a loss of purpose. At West Point, every day I had a purpose. And my intention in going in the Army was to have a purpose. And that purpose was defending the country, defending the constitution, things that I truly believed in, during hockey season. The purpose was win as many games as we could play, as well as I could.

0:23:14.9 Jamie Enos: Be there for.

0:23:16.7 Ian Winer: As a cadet, you know, as a cadet, it was follow the rules, get good grades, didn't always happen, but that was sort of the mission. Suddenly, that was all gone. All of it. And so I didn't have a purpose in life. All I had was things and stuff, and filling that void, trying to find stuff that was gonna make me feel good and feel something suddenly became finding alcohol and drugs.

0:23:50.9 Ian Winer: And, it was certainly to go out and entertain and on Wall Street, a lot of that entertaining involved going out and drinking a lot, which eventually led to doing drugs. And as long as I produced, nobody asked any questions. And I always produced. And so for many years that, sort of act, so to speak, of, I'm the guy who goes out and parties, but I bring in big business and I still can perform at a very high level, was perfectly fine. And on Wall Street, as I said, it wasn't difficult in the late '90s, early 2000s. It was quite easy to, live that life because money was easy. There was just a huge boom going on. And so my, sort of mission and purpose morphed into something that was basically how to go out and bring in business.

0:24:58.9 Ian Winer: And for me, I believe that the way to do that was to party. And, those drugs eased the pain of what I was truly missing, which was, service. And, it eventually led me down a, very dark path. And like many other addicts, eventually it caught up with me and started to take away all those things that I thought I had worked so hard to achieve, and quickly found myself and my life going, a direction that, I didn't want. And I couldn't stop.

0:25:40.8 Jamie Enos: So you realize there's a problem, and what next? Like, what happens after that? What is that moment for you? 

0:25:48.9 Ian Winer: So, for many years I knew that I had a problem, but, I continued to sort of feel that I could solve it through willpower, that with everything else in my life, if I just focused on the mission goal, that I could achieve it. That if it was, taking that hill, sort of metaphorically, whether, as a cadet doing whatever military training or whatever, academics or athletics, if I had a goal, I was, I understood what it was, and I could go after it and achieve it until I tried to stop drinking and doing drugs. And then I realized that I can't stop doing this no matter how much willpower I think I have. And, what happened for me was that I eventually got to a point in my life where one night I had another, really long night of alcohol and drugs and as I was getting home, I had, some referred to it as a moment of clarity, Others referred to it as some higher power.

0:27:06.9 Ian Winer: But for me, it was just, I quit. I gave up, I submitted, I surrendered. Which is totally the opposite of kind of what I was trained to do. Never surrender. But here I was surrendering and saying, I need help. I don't wanna live my life like this anymore. I cannot do this anymore. I'm miserable. I can't stop. And I need help. And I give up. I'm powerless over this disease, this alcoholism and drug addiction. And that was March 13th, 2013. And it was that day that I realized, you know what? I need help. And that was the last day that I had a drink or drugs.

0:28:00.2 Jamie Enos: I should congratulate you for that, 'cause that's a tough challenge. So, congratulations, that's 11 years. And for anyone listening, there are available resources for free dialing 988. And pressing 1, is a veteran specific number for the crisis line that can also be reached at veteranscrisisline.net. Options for active duty members also include, maketheconnection.net. So if anybody may listening, we'll also put those in all of the links that you find whenever you find any texts about this podcast. 988 is the way to go, press 1 for veteran specific crisis line. So Ian, you have this moment and now you're on the road to recovery. What does that look like? What are the steps that you have to take through that, and who do you seek out for support through that process? 

0:28:48.5 Ian Winer: So the steps for me were, first off, reaching out and getting help and talking to other people that had the same issues who had recovered and continue to recover. And understanding, first off, that there is a life without alcohol and drugs. That at first my belief was if I stop doing these things, like there's just nothing to do. I mean, everything in my life was associated with some kind of substance, if without those substances, what's left in life for me? And it took a while to realize that, let me see, let me just have a little bit of faith that if, let me just try and see if my life can get better. And pretty quickly, it started to, the fog started to clear. I was able to get up in the morning and feel good.

0:29:51.6 Ian Winer: I was able to talk to people. I was able to show up, and not embarrass myself, whether it was around my family or friends. And by talking to more and more people who had stopped, had gotten into recovery and spending my time with them, I realized, wow, these people are actually fun. And these people actually have a lot of the same stories I have, and I can relate to them. They can relate to me. And by talking to people. And some of them were, West Point graduates who had gone through similar stuff. Others were people on Wall Street, and there were plenty of them who needed to get into recovery and did. And it stuck. And really spending time with them and asking questions and trying to seek out people that, wow, this person has what I want.

0:30:46.5 Ian Winer: Like this is a person that went from where I was and now is, just a person of character and has a family, has a great job, lives a life of service, helps others. Like all those things suddenly became available to me. They weren't available when I was out there, doing drugs and drinking a lot. And suddenly people sought me out. And, so it was a daily process. It was a process in the beginning of kicking that physical addiction. And that didn't take that long. And then it was, what I consider the much harder part, which is, actually becoming and living emotionally sober, which is, if people, if I say I'm gonna do something, I do it. If somebody needs help, I help them, that I try to do the harder right over the easier wrong.

0:31:47.0 Ian Winer: And try to live a lot of the things I learned at West Point, going back to that kind of duty, honor, country, and realizing like, okay, here are all the different ways I can live my life. And at the end of the day, each night, can I look at myself in the mirror and say, I've been a decent human being today, and if I haven't been, what can I do to fix that? To say I'm sorry to people? And suddenly, if that on itself, and I quickly realized there's a lot of other folks out there, my classmates, others in West Point that are struggling with the same thing. And as I became a little bit more open to telling my story and talking to other people, I realized that, I was able to do that.

0:32:38.2 Ian Winer: And so I went from living a life of, selfishness and everything focused around me to slowly shifting towards how can I try to be of service to people? And maybe this is what my purpose is, and maybe this is all these years later after West Point and losing out on what I thought was the only thing that mattered, that maybe there's a way for me to give back in a different way. And maybe that can be just as important and just as powerful a purpose. And so it was that process that made all the difference for me.

0:33:19.3 Jamie Enos: So how do you create that work-life balance now so that you can stay on track again, celebrating 11 years, not an easy lift there. That's a hard struggle, I imagine. What do you do to make sure that you stay the course? 

0:33:37.1 Ian Winer: So it kind of hearkens back to what you said about the discipline. Like, I have a daily practice now. Like I have a practice that, and, to be clear, this is what works for me. Everybody has different ways of approaching things.

0:33:53.1 Jamie Enos: Great point.

0:33:54.6 Ian Winer: But, I get up in the morning now and I spend a half an hour without my phone writing in a journal. What am I grateful for? And then I write a letter to a higher power that I have and talk about what I'm anxious about, try to turn over stuff that I have no control over, which I've learned over the years is almost everything. And then I work at reaching out to people. That, to me, when I think about what's kept me sober, what's kept me sort of on track, it's that reaching out to people, it's getting on the phone.

0:34:36.4 Ian Winer: It's not texting, it's not emailing, it's picking up the phone and calling people for no particular reason other than, Hey, just wanted to see how you're doing. And it has allowed me to reconnect with so many classmates of mine. And because, we're getting a little older, everybody's doing really interesting things both within the military and out of, in the civilian world. And so to have that ability to now reach out to people, check in, see how they're doing, really have an emotional connection and be willing to be vulnerable and share sort of what's going on in my life. People ask how I'm doing and I'll tell them, there's some good, there's some bad, there's some struggles, there's some this, there's some that. But having that connection and offering myself to people, and I do this with plenty of people who are just friends who never served in the military.

0:35:33.6 Ian Winer: That is, what has made the difference and doing that stuff, being a good husband, it's all work. It doesn't necessarily come easily. But if I get back to what I learned at West Point, if I get back to not making excuses for behavior that's not okay. If I get back into that, that is what keeps me sober. And so, and then it's at night, it really is thinking about the day and thinking about how did I act today? What did I do? What did I do right? What did I, kind of, and it goes back to that quote from Hamlet, to thine own self be true. And that is really what sobriety and my life boils down to now, am I being true to myself? Am I being honest with myself? Because it's easy for me to fall back and think about I can fool people. And that's what I did when I was out there actively using, I lived a lie. I told people I was fine. I told people that I wasn't doing this, I wasn't doing that, I was sneaking around and hiding behind corners. And now I don't have to do that anymore. And that's a great privilege and a great burden lifted off me. But, I've got, now I've got a duty to be of service to others that, is how I view my life these days is, how can I help others? And that's part of sharing kind of my struggles is the help that, hey, I know there's people out there and I know it's hard, but there is something that can help. There is things that work.

0:37:13.7 Jamie Enos: Sure. You mentioned connections and staying connected. I know that recently you were back here up at West Point, you laced up, you got out on the ice with some of our current cadet, hockey players from the team. I bet that felt good. And, but do you have any other.

0:37:28.0 Ian Winer: Well, actually it didn't feel good. I'm still sick. It was three months ago, and I quickly realized that at 50, I'm not what I was at 20.

0:37:39.5 Jamie Enos: The lessons.

0:37:41.8 Ian Winer: Even though my, as I mentioned, my ego and my brain still, can do things that don't make any sense. And one of them was convincing myself that, sure, I can get right back out there with a bunch of young men who are faster, stronger, and still hold my own. And I realized quickly that, maybe, my time has come that I'm not there like I used to be.

0:38:07.7 Jamie Enos: You start a little bit slower this time and kind of work up to it. Yeah.

0:38:11.8 Ian Winer: Yeah. Have lost a gear or two since the days of West Point hockey for me.

0:38:18.7 Jamie Enos: That's okay though. Yeah. It's a high speed program, like you said. Are there any other ways that you stay connected with your classmates in the long gray line or? 

0:38:28.2 Ian Winer: Yeah, I'd say that, the biggest way is I go through classmates on LinkedIn. I will reach out to people who I haven't talked to and ask them to catch up. And every Sunday, I usually work for a few hours. And part of that work is I have a Google sheet and my phone of every one of my contacts. And a lot of them are my classmates. And I invest in defense technology companies. Now that's my job. And so I make a list of people that I either haven't talked to in a while or, haven't talked to in decades, and will call them up and say, Hey, just love to hear how the journey's been. And I think I've been able to connect with probably half of my classmates over the last couple of years.

0:39:26.3 Ian Winer: And the ones that I do, I try to check in and make reminders to myself and, that way I'm able to learn about what they're doing and really connect and hear about their families and hear about what, their plans are and see how I can be helpful in that. There's plenty of people transitioning out of the military at this point, and that's gotta be a really hard thing after retiring. So I try to help them, but it's that discipline of, you know what, I'm gonna reach out and call these people and see how they're doing. And with no other agenda, it's just, Hey, how are you? What's going on? How can I be helpful, if there's a way? And so that's how I stay connected to people. I mean, we have, a great sort of class officer, Kevin Offell, who does a wonderful job of keeping everybody up on what classmates are doing.

0:40:24.2 Ian Winer: And I'm eternally grateful to him for doing that. But it's really the, Hey, let me see how this person's doing. Or hey, this person's coming through Los Angeles, let's grab coffee. And I'm doing that tomorrow with a classmate's coming through. Yesterday I talked to two classmates of mine, hadn't talked to them in, a year, checked in, spent half an hour catching up. So that's what it is. And I would encourage people to do that with everybody, 'cause it's really rewarding and you never know where it's gonna lead. And even if you're thinking about your career, like you don't know where it's gonna lead and who can be helpful to you. And so having those connections, especially in a day and age where it's so easy to fall back into texting and emailing, and I just find that I don't get the same level of connection doing that. And so it's, I'm gonna reach out to people. And so that's how I stay connected to people in my class.

0:41:20.7 Jamie Enos: That aligns with what we're trying to do here at AOG. And remain the most connected alumni body in the world. So that power of the long gray line is, really something there. You're coming up on your 30th, sorry to break the news, do the math for you, but your 30th reunion is coming up in 2026. You got some advice to your younger self that you would give? 

0:41:47.1 Ian Winer: Wow. It's funny. Yes. I mean, the, on the one hand, I would tell myself to be, a lot closer to the people that care for me than I was back then. I really thought I could do everything on my own and that no matter what, I could control certain outcomes if I just wielded. And it just could not be more wrong about that. On the other hand, and I think about this a lot. Oh, I wish I had done this. I wish I had done that, but if I had, I wouldn't be here right now. And so, it's a, there's nothing I can do to change any of that. There's plenty of things that I feel like, Hey, I could have done this differently.

0:42:36.2 Ian Winer: I could have done that differently. I could have saved more money. I could been smarter with. But that to me, I found at least, has not been a productive exercise. And so I look at it and say, all this stuff has led me to this moment right now. And what am I doing? I'm trying to very hard to be of service to people. And if I hadn't made all the mistakes I made, if I hadn't had all the trials and tribulations, then who knows? I might not be here right now. And so, I try very hard to focus on what's happening right now. It's really hard. I've gotta remind myself every day that fretting about the future is not particularly helpful. Focusing on the past, not particularly helpful; as a human being, it's incredibly hard not to do. But that's, my goal, at least what I try to do each day. Yeah.

0:43:31.4 Jamie Enos: I appreciate you being on the podcast today. It's an incredible story. It's a little bit more, or I should say, less traditional than what we've told here, very personal. So thank you for opening it up and giving us that viewpoint into your life. The article is in the summer 2024 edition of the West Point Magazine. It'll also be online and for anyone, again, that feels like they're in crisis and need some support, dialing 988, pressing 1 for the veteran specific number of the crisis line will get you there. You can also find them online at veteranscrisisline.net. Ian, thank you. Appreciate you. Hope to talk to you soon. Hope to see you in two years for that reunion. And go, Army beat Navy.

0:44:17.3 Ian Winer: 100%. Go Army beat Navy. And thank you so much for having me and giving me the opportunity.

0:44:23.8 Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the WPAOG Broadcast Network. Please take a moment to rate and review the show and join us each week for a new episode. A reminder that if you or anyone you know is in crisis, dial 988 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thank you for listening.