Ask the Chief: getting help with substance abuse

As a veteran, retired Navy Senior Chief, parent, and member of my church community, I have seen friends, shipmates, comrades-in-arms, and family members struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. While the social ignorance and stigma Post-Traumatic Stress sufferers once faced is fading, the number of veterans suffering PTSD, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and ailments from exposure to toxics in the combat theater is a huge problem. In addition, every other condition that veterans encounter from financial issues, divorce, job losses and health problems exacerbated by their service, can compound depression, feelings of isolation and a tendency to substance abuse. Even with a support network of friends, pastoral counseling, and veterans community organizations, professional help in the form of treatment centers and follow-up care, is available for those who are ready to be helped.

One potential source of professional help is found in south Florida. The Recovery Village (844-359-9732) offers a full range of behavioral health treatment and support, for veterans as well as the civilian community. From their website, the following are their core beliefs:

  1. Anyone can recover from addiction
  2. Each client deserves respect and compassion
  3. Addiction is a disease that deserves evidence-based care backed by research
  4. The physical and mental causes of addiction should be addressed simultaneously
  5. Recovery is a lifelong journey that requires daily commitment

Additional information on addiction, substance abuse, questions and help a veteran’s friends and family may wish to provide can be found here.

NOTE: This information is provided without regard to the suitability or efficacy of the programs offered through Advanced Recovery Systems, floridarehab.com or drugrehab.com. No compensation was offered nor sought in providing these resources to veterans or the public through this blog.

true faith and allegiance

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Oath of Enlistment (1960), US Code Title 10, Sect 502

The military oath of enlistment began what might well be my longest relationship. It’s how I identified myself for years. Who am I?  I’m a Sailor. My service in the military was less of what I did, and more of who I was. I spent a total of 26 years in a Navy uniform, in stages between 1977 and 2010.   I enlisted while in high school and, after graduation, went to bootcamp in San Diego. I traveled the world and eventually ended up back in San Diego which is, apparently, where God wanted me.

Navy, San Diego, RTC, recruit
Seaman Recruit, RTC San Diego, 1977

support and defend

The first half of my military career, which encompassed the first twenty years of my adulthood, were spent fighting for recognition, and getting frustrated when I didn’t seem to get any. I had many brushes with greatness that never seemed to pan out: a Congressional nomination to the Naval Academy in the last year of my first enlistment but had some medical issues that disqualified me. Ten years later, enlisting after a break in service, I initially qualified for enrollment to the Defense Intelligence College but they never enrolled a junior enlisted man before. And nearly ten years later, I was THIRD FLEET Sailor Of the Year (SOY) (1997) but I didn’t make the Selection Board for Chief.

Looking back at those days, I was working overtime on me, for me, and making it about me. Selfish, self-centered, and trying to compensate for growing up in a dysfunctional family. I poured myself into working hard and being a people-pleaser. I was becoming a very negative person, with my personal life full of problems.   I lost touch with my family. I rushed into a marriage that quickly ended in divorce. Spending money foolishly, I was bored, very unhappy and very lonely. 

true faith and allegiance

Over the years, people had been inviting me to church and I kept saying no,  or saying yes, but then not going. But things changed in 1997. I was invited to church by not only one of the guys on my ship, but also from a couple of singles on a date at a coffee house.  Within a few months I studied the Bible and was baptized at an afternoon devotional service for church members across the San Diego region, much to the surprise of my shipmate. The day I got baptized, he came up to say, “What do you think I’ve been inviting you to all this time!”

Suddenly, life had more meaning. It wasn’t just about me anymore. It was about finding a gratitude for what I’d been given. God surrounded me with great examples of Godly men to help me live for something besides just myself.  I was able to connect to the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice and realize how much more there was to life, when I was able to look beyond myself.  

Senior Chief and family, USN Retired

My career in the Navy took off and I was picked up for Chief and then Senior Chief. I was a better leader because of being a disciple of Jesus. I listened to, and applied, the advice of Godly men, of military mentors, and friends who told me the truth.  I was able to meet the needs of my unit because I could actually see the needs of my unit, not just my own needs. Jesus gave the ultimate example of giving it all for others. The gratitude that I felt for that gift made it easier to give of myself to those around me that needed help.  It continues to motivate me to this day. 

Life changed dramatically after I was baptized. The woman from that coffee house date who shared Jesus with me became my wife. I took on three unruly preteen boys, a task I never would have been up to without God. I completed my Navy career in 2010. And I recently left my civilian job to work alongside my wife. 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 1 -2 (NIV)

This scripture in ROMANS, speaks to me as a veteran as I do not have to live for recognition,  but model Jesus for others. It’s the same basic system as the military, in modeling servant-leadership to others and helping them rise to their potential.   As a disciple of Jesus, it is helping others to become better service members, employees, better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers or children, and better people by being more like the example of JESUS. 

so help me God

Being a Veteran is still a large part of who I am.  I’m proud of my military service and everything I learned in the Navy.  I’m grateful, however, that God found me while I was still in the service. The military gave me opportunity. Jesus gave me the example of selfless service. God gave me the gift of bringing both of those things together to enable me to have a great second half of my military career. 

Click here to watch/listen to veterans of the Gulf War, combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a military spouse share about challenges during deployment and offer encouragement during our Veterans Day service. Ed. note: there was some recording noise that periodically interferes with the YouTube video quality.

getting back in the game

Finishing races is important, but racing is more important. Dale Earnhardt
https://www.brainyquote.com

In the sports world,  professional athletes sometimes get injured or sick.  For some, surgery for torn ligaments, broken bones or other issues requires an extended absence.  In the MLB, baseball players can be put on the DL (Disabled List).  In the NFL, football players have injury categories including the Injured Reserve (IR) list.   For the guy or gal whose career does not have millions of adoring fans, bright lights and cameras or sponsor endorsements,  she can be hospitalized at the worst time where work or family are concerned.  For compulsive, “Type A” people – and I am a recovering compulsive worker –  time away from the office is being away from my team and from the battle. I certainly felt that way when I had to retire from the Navy eight years ago.   It took years to lose that compulsion to be involved  and to simply enjoy being “retired”.

the home stretch

Many know in the game of baseball,  between the “top” and “bottom” of the seventh inning, is a time for the fans to “stretch”.  And then the game resumes.  For a month of recovery from abdominal surgery,  my work life feels it has had that “stretch”.   While I did not plan to be away so long, after a few weeks at home,  the light housework, cooking, and a few other chores seem preferable to the whole regular job thing.

What am I thinking!

Of course, I have been working almost forty years,  so this is as close to “retirement” as I’ve gotten.  My youngest adult son still questions my work ethic, “are you STILL off work? When are you going back?”, he says.   I remind myself he’s only held a real job for two years.  Forty more to go (unless he eventually learns to save a dollar or two).   As a  Baby Boomer I know taking time off only leaves a bigger headache to return to.  What is time off worth to you?

To get a week at home, a few might trade work for a hospital bed.  Fewer still might trade,  for two weeks away,  surgery, staples, hospital food and daily changing bandages.   Maybe for three weeks, one or two might volunteer for a hospital stay, including an operation; a persistent cough that racked your body with pain each time;  use or not use painkillers which alleviate pain but slow down healing; bedrest,  antibiotics, itching  and requiring help to pack medicated strips into the surgical incisions twice daily to properly heal.

sporting legs, backs, sight, and wind

The last leg.  On the back nine. The finish line is in sight.  A second wind has kicked in.  Athletes want to be in the race.  With apologies to Dale Earnhardt, the sooner restarted the sooner I reach my finish line.

After four weeks,   going back to the “job” is preferable.  A discussion I had with a blogger concluded that suffering is needed for great art, drama, and writing.  Is my blogging getting BORING?  I am not suffering!  Where do I get inspired?  Suffering at work.  I am not used to working like this!

With my return to work,  there’s going to be an adjustment. Others are going to suffer.  Dogs won’t have my company during the day.  Barbecuing and making dinner for my wife coming from work are going to be a weekend-only thing.  Coming off the DL is an adjustment.  Work is going to expect that I will return to my suffering program and knock a homer out of the park.  Perhaps my dogs will be inspired to blog.