Veteran explains how military injuries changed his life in ways all too common for veterans

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Every year, thousands of men and women enlist in our army to fight our enemies and protect our freedoms. But when they return home, these heroes face an enemy that has become too common for veterans: drug addiction.

Richard’s time in the US Navy was short, but the impact of the military changed his life.

“When I got my first orders, I had an accident on the first ship I was on, and injured my leg and mine, and hit my head. And then on the second ship, I did the same. And the second time I fell, they told me my leg was, to the point that I should have six months of physiotherapy, and they wrote in my report that I was at that time unreliable, “se he remembers.

“At that time, I was stationed at Naval Air Station Norfolk. Virginia, where I had, was diagnosed with a hemorrhagic sub-hematoma. I was in the hospital for quite a while. They called my dad and told him they didn’t think I was going to make it. But by the grace of God, I survived, and they sent me on leave. And two days after my leave, I had a serious car accident that severely damaged my left arm and nerve damage, ”Richard continued.

Richard was released and said he needed to follow up with the VA for his medical issues, but his release did not qualify him for benefits.

“I went out, I had no advantage with the VA. I have not had any physical therapy for my left arm. I had no follow-up, ”he said.

It was then that Richard turned to alcohol.

“So I just learned to live with my disability, and the way I got along with it was to drink and, you know, I drank for about 30 years,” said the veteran. headaches and I would say to them while I was on the ward, you know, “Hey, I have these headaches”, and they would just give me, I guess, Moltrin, you know, which didn’t was not, was not helping to relieve headaches. Thus, alcohol would help relieve the pain. “

“Was there a time when you were in the middle of this dark time when you were like, ‘Okay, now I have to go get help and I can’t do it on my own? ? “, Asked 25 News reporter Sydney Isenberg.

“Yes. It was in 2019, when I was speaking with this representative from Workforce Solution,” recalls Richard. “When he saw the signs, you know, he said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to get tested. “And I believe on a couple of questions they asked you for the PTSD deal, we didn’t get past the third question until I ended up going to Baylor Neurology to do an assessment on me for. see that you know exactly what was going on, and what their relationship is, where I have multiple, multiple cases of depression, anxiety.

Richard was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“A friend of mine and former boss always said I wasn’t getting the care I needed,” said the veteran. “Once I found out about the problems I was having with the military, you know, it made sense to me and I haven’t been drinking since.”

The road to recovery has not been easy.

“For a very long time everyone thought I was just the old alcoholic, you know, but that wasn’t it. It was healing myself, ”said Richard.

“I was in a, in a drug and alcohol class at the VA, because I took a mental health addiction training program, and in my group one of the guys was an officer. , and I was explaining how when I first came back, how damaging it was to me of, you know, I had to get my drink, and I was pulling over some cops and even though I knew where I was going, I was asking them for directions, and the instructor asked the other person who was in the class, it was a policeman at one point, he asked him, he said, ” What do you think of his behavior at this time? And he told her he was, that he would see me as one suicidal by cop.

Richard’s story is all too common for members of our military.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about one in 10 returning veterans seen by the VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

Often, veterans and active duty personnel do not seek help.

“People who end up with a substance use disorder usually don’t know this is the path they took until later. You know their, their buddies don’t drink that much, but they still do… and of course if they get through the war or develop PTSD-like symptoms, it causes more problems, ”explained Lisa Grady of Veterans. One. “My brother is, he was a 24 year old Air Force veteran, and he served in Afghanistan and stuff, and one of the things I noticed with him was he said that there was a lot of fear and he was going to anyone to let them know what was going on, and so he saw friends being kicked out of the army, dishonorably, because they didn’t did not show up.

“At first I felt like I didn’t want that label on me, but when I look then and now I’m grateful that I can say I’ve had these experiences, and without God I would. you haven’t been through a lot, and you want to change you can. All you have to do is reach out and ask and someone will be there to help, “said Richard.

Without the support of his family and friends, Richard says he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“They saw when I was, when I was sober, the right person. They knew the right person before I got into the military, and that’s … I have a sister, my older sister, and when she found out, she works for the VA, she’s an occupational therapist, and when she found out that I had had this bleeding sub-bruise, she immediately changed her mind. She said to me, ‘Richard, I never knew you had a brain injury.’ She said, “If I had known when you got home, we would have worked on this right away. And I mean it’s, you know, in itself, you know … it hurt my heart to know that I was going through, I was going through some really, really tough times, physically and mentally, and, and nobody know exactly how to help me.

If you think a loved one has a problem, Grady says it’s important to be kind and understanding.

“I call it planting a seed, and sometimes it’s just something to say, you know, ‘is something going on? I noticed that, you know, you drink a little more, ”or“ I’m a little worried because I’ve noticed that you spend a lot of time outside smoking weed. I mean, not being here with our kids, is there anything I can help you with? And most of the time, people with substance use disorders will get rid of it and deny that they have a problem and then you leave it as family. You have to walk away from it and leave it for a minute, and it just gets the person to think about it and say, “You know, am I drinking too much? Am I using too much? ‘ Because they probably already thought so themselves.

“I think a lot of people hold on to this idea that if you don’t wanna drink just don’t drink, and, and I’ve seen a lot of people that, you know, I care about that. that was said like that, and therefore understand that these people, if they could make the decision not to drink or to use whatever is causing problems in their life, they would, ”Grady continued.

Despite the dark days, there is light on the other side.

“Life is improving, you know I’m grateful for everything I’ve got and grateful for the things I’ve been through. And, you know, I’m happy to have a lot of people in my corner right now, ”said Richard. “Instead of looking at negative things, I can take negative things and look at them and find positive things. I’m learning to be more patient with people in situations. “

Through it all, all the Navy veteran wants to see is change.

“I know it’s millions of veterans who aren’t getting the help they deserve, you know? I’m just praying that the system itself will change, you know, and help those, you know, who are suffering, “he said.

If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder, call the Addiction and Mental Health Administration Help Line at 1-800-662-HELP (4357 ). The hotline is free, confidential and available 24/7.

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of assistance, contact Veterans One Stop at (254) 297-7171. For a list of services offered, click here.

If you would like to help Veterans One Stop and its mission of serving local veterans, click here to donate.

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