Addiction touches anyone and everyone. The people more likely to suffer from addiction are those who put their lives on the line — think police officers, firefighters, and men and women in the military. Being in the service comes with heavy responsibilities, particularly if you are serving in combat. But the military is also rife with drinking culture. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does become a dangerous lifestyle — one that can affect careers and personal lives.
“At 19 years old, I was on a suicide mission. I was using heroin and saw on TV that soldiers were dying from heroin in Vietnam. So I enlisted to get the killer dope … I figured I would get shot up with dope or bullets to end the madness. I did not go to Vietnam because they found heroin in my system; I completed my military time in addiction treatment, went home and continued my use.” – Joe, a veteran who is 30 years sober
The other side of the coin is that service members are less likely to seek help. The military is so ingrained with not showing weakness that veterans are wary of exposing a vulnerability, particularly if it touches on mental health issues. There is a deep-rooted fear of professional or social repercussions if someone “admits” to having a problem. Rather than seeking treatment or help, many veterans suffer silently, often turning to drugs and alcohol, or worse, taking their own lives.
For veterans, it’s so important to shine a light on the benefits of treatment. These two brave men sought help when they needed it most, and now they are both in a better place.
Coming out of the Navy after an eight-year stint, Ryan already had addiction issues, but the transition seemed to exacerbate his substance abuse.
“Things were going really good for a while,” Ryan said, “and then they just got really bad. I went on kind of a drinking and Xanax binge. I had to call my mom and explain what was happening. I went to different ERs. I wasn’t in the right state of mind.”
Knowing her son needed help, Ryan’s mother found a treatment center that changed everything.
Now sober and happy, Ryan feels more comfortable in his skin, and he now has the tools to work through his substance abuse disorder.
“It was pretty freeing to wake up [in treatment] after my near drug-induced coma, and I realized that I didn’t need any sort of crutch all. I just needed some time, and they reinforced that a lot [in treatment]. It’s hard at first to really get through because it doesn’t really feel possible in the moment, but they work with you and allow you to find yourself in your own way. And I don’t know if I can be any happier than that,” Ryan said.
Drinking since he was 12, Corey easily slipped into drinking for hobby while serving in the Navy. But after leaving the service, his drinking increased, and then Corey turned to meth.
“Getting out of the Navy, I came to be an alcoholic. … The meth has really broken out [where I’m from]. So I started using meth about two years before going to treatment. I just got to the point where I had enough of it. I was going down a bad path and I needed to go to rehab,” Corey said.
He said finding God was the extra push he needed to seek help.
“A year before treatment, I found God, and I found myself turning my back on Him — the guilt of turning my back on God really made me go [to treatment] to seek help.”
Corey said rehab was a great experience. “I’m the type of person that used to doubt myself, and I didn’t think I was good enough. So when I failed a little bit, I would just give up. My treatment helped me fix that, and I’m now aware that when that occurs, I can prevent it from furthering.”
Perhaps hearing the stories of these men can provide inspiration to other veterans who know they need help but require an extra push. Remember, our veterans deserve all of the support they can get and more. It’s the least we can do to honor their sacrifices.