Lots of Questions

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Lots of Questions

Postby mj2 » Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:13 pm

I am new to this forum, but definitely not new to addiction. I am however hoping to get some insight. My husband has struggled with addiction for most of his life and most of our relationship. I had no idea what that word 'addiction' meant when we met, twenty years later that definition is starting to come together. He went through inpatient treatment several years ago and I completed the family portion as well. It was then I realized just how much damage that one word could do-not just to him but to me too. He has almost 5 years sober and some days it is still a struggle-for him and for me. Avoiding my enabling ways is an awful lot harder than I thought it would be. That role just comes so natural when you're trying to take care of someone you love, but I am working on it day by day just as he works on him day by day. The family week experience at his treatment facility not only allowed us the opportunity to begin to heal as individuals and as a couple but it also put me on a new career path. Now, I am a graduate student studying Clinical Counseling with a focus in Substance Abuse. My hope is to work with families who have been affected by addiction and help them fill their toolbox and find their way back to a healthy self. My husband and I both have military backgrounds (my Dad was in the Navy as were his brothers and his stepfather is a retired Marine. I take a special interest in the military population for a thousand reasons, not just because of the family ties, but mostly because I feel so strongly that they sacrifice so much with little to no expectation of appreciation, and here come the questions. We live in a military town and I presume many of the people I will be working with will be affiliated with the military so I am hoping to get some help, some input, some information that I cannot learn in a classroom that will make me a better counselor to the military families I encounter. Addiction is so hard to handle and compounded with the sacrifices our military families make I feel like this (counseling) is the way I can support them and give back. So, here comes the questions...Do any of you have military affiliation? What suggestions do you have for me as a counselor working with the military? What do I need to know that I won't learn in a class? Is there a support system like these online groups or even AA\Alanon that supports our military families? I know how difficult addiction is first hand and I know everyone's experience is different, would anybody share their experience with me?

At one point (well before the inpatient treatment) my husband and I attempted counseling. The counselor we went to see, I'll be honest, was horrible. It was not a good fit. Although he claimed to have experience in counseling couples affected by addiction, our meetings did not demonstrate that at all. It was a horrible experience that ended with our relationship and his addiction much worse than it started. As I am going through this program THAT is what I think about. I am terrified of being THAT counselor so I am trying to learn as much as I can especially about the military families and experiences in hopes that I won't be THAT counselor.
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby Blue Moon » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:44 pm

mj2 wrote:Do any of you have military affiliation?

Many individuals in AA do. AA itself, and AA Groups, don't have any affiliation with other entities (although we do cooperate with them). So individuals can talk with you 1:1, anecdotally, they just don't speak for AA or the group as a whole.

mj2 wrote: What suggestions do you have for me as a counselor working with the military?

Be aware of conditions which do not necessarily have a causative link. PTSD springs to mind. AA suggests we seek outside help where necessary, so we may be addressing the alcoholism in AA, and the other factors outside.

mj2 wrote: What do I need to know that I won't learn in a class?

Life. Class teaches knowledge. Wisdom comes from putting knowledge into practice.

mj2 wrote:Is there a support system like these online groups or even AA\Alanon that supports our military families?

Maybe ask around the alanon groups in your town, as it's a military one. Or maybe there's a VA hospital nearby.
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby avaneesh912 » Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:39 am

It was a horrible experience that ended with our relationship and his addiction much worse than it started.


I could totally relate to what you said. Though I don't have military background same happened to me too. One good thing I would credit that counselor, she was supportive of AA meetings and was firm on me going to atleast 3-4 meetings.

What I would suggest is that get to understand the key traits of alcoholism. Chapters "There is a Solution", "More about Alcoholism" of book AA is a great resource. You may relate to Bills Story. He was a war veteran too. But it ends there. He came out at 22, so rest of the life was civilian life. You could see how Bill gets started on alcohol. It says he found booze midst of excitement and also turned to booze when lonely. Then the progression. The struggle. Knowledge (of the disease) and fear couldn't sober him up. Only a spiritual experience working the reminder of the steps saved him. Then see how enthusiastic he was to carry the message to other alcoholics. Thats one of the key elements. Of course people have to get well before doing so.

Look around, you will find lot of war veterans in AA meetings, they will help you.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby positrac » Thu Sep 14, 2017 7:37 am

I am not sure were to start because your post has so much of me in the body. I am and have been sober a long time and certain aspects of the desire to drink have long gone and yet I have that healthy respect to always stay on my guard for any urges. Character defects are and will be my life's work because as I grow older I change and tolerances that once were ok, may now spark issues in my character.

I served in the Navy for 13 years and our motto back then was work hard play hard and I was forward deployed and so money was the key for a good time. I was also involved in some other parts of the service that led me into some areas that left some serious scares and I experienced these things with about 3 years sobriety and I didn't drink for fear of my well being.

Enabling is a nasty thing and it is so easy to justify to ourselves and others that we are doing our best.......Yet I believe guilt is a by product of our inability to rid enabling from our lives and thought process.

I hope you are on point to work your personal life long before you start fixing others because education is one aspect and our abilities as people do have influence on others. Best of success with your future endeavors as it sounds most challenging.
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby mj2 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:53 am

Thank you SO very much for your responses and please bear with me as I have no clue how to use the tools in this forum. My family has been fortunate, the closest I have been to a combat vet was my Grandfather, a WWII vet. He never wanted to be in the military and was 'invited' against his personal desire. Needless to say, his experience was not good. He never spoke of the war or his experience. Now that I'm learning the details of PTSD that could explain some things. It is a whole lot more than I ever thought, but it makes sense. I'll be honest, this whole process is a whole lot more than I thought. There is always something else to unpack-just when I think I'm alright, there's that one more piece. At the same time, I think it is good as it keeps me moving and it keeps me growing.

And yes, enabling is a nasty thing-a thing I had NO idea I was doing. I wonder how much of that comes from the 'take care of your own' concept that is an underlying, unspoken theme in most families but I think is especially prominent in the ones like mine with the military background. I know there is a huge difference in how (as a counselor) we are supposed to approach mental wellness and things like PTSD in a military context versus a civilian context and I wonder if there should be a difference in the way enabling is approached in a military context versus a civilian context as well.

One of the first things we're taught (both in class and through experience I think) is that addiction is NOT a defect of character. Do you have any idea how these types of things are viewed from a military (like the system) stand point? I know things like mental health diagnoses can have negative affects on a military career, is addiction considered one of those diagnoses or is it treated more like a defect of character? I guess I'm concerned about the stigma that seems to follow addiction. For civilians, often seeking treatment is a tumultuous process because of things like stigma, is it worse for the military? about the same? In my personal experience, the hardest part of recovery is starting. So now I tend to notice all the barriers in the way whether the system puts them there or we put them there ourselves-like the fear of what people will think, or what will happen missing so much work, and even the cost of treatment (that one is a conversation for another day). One of the things I want to do is work towards removing those barriers, for everybody. Starting is hard enough we really don't need to make it any harder.m Any idea if there are similar barriers that are more specific to a military environment?
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby avaneesh912 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:27 pm

the hardest part of recovery is starting.


Agree. No good alcoholic is going to be forced into recovery. The realization must come within. Thats why its so frustrating to see so many people going in and out. Thats the baffling nature of this disease.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby JohnDaniels » Wed Sep 20, 2017 4:01 am

mj2 wrote:Thank you SO very much for your responses and please bear with me as I have no clue how to use the tools in this forum. My family has been fortunate, the closest I have been to a combat vet was my Grandfather, a WWII vet. He never wanted to be in the military and was 'invited' against his personal desire. Needless to say, his experience was not good. He never spoke of the war or his experience. Now that I'm learning the details of PTSD that could explain some things. It is a whole lot more than I ever thought, but it makes sense. I'll be honest, this whole process is a whole lot more than I thought. There is always something else to unpack-just when I think I'm alright, there's that one more piece. At the same time, I think it is good as it keeps me moving and it keeps me growing.

And yes, enabling is a nasty thing-a thing I had NO idea I was doing. I wonder how much of that comes from the 'take care of your own' concept that is an underlying, unspoken theme in most families but I think is especially prominent in the ones like mine with the military background. I know there is a huge difference in how (as a counselor) we are supposed to approach mental wellness and things like PTSD in a military context versus a civilian context and I wonder if there should be a difference in the way enabling is approached in a military context versus a civilian context as well.

One of the first things we're taught (both in class and through experience I think) is that addiction is NOT a defect of character. Do you have any idea how these types of things are viewed from a military (like the system) stand point? I know things like mental health diagnoses can have negative affects on a military career, is addiction considered one of those diagnoses or is it treated more like a defect of character? I guess I'm concerned about the stigma that seems to follow addiction. For civilians, often seeking treatment is a tumultuous process because of things like stigma, is it worse for the military? about the same? In my personal experience, the hardest part of recovery is starting. So now I tend to notice all the barriers in the way whether the system puts them there or we put them there ourselves-like the fear of what people will think, or what will happen missing so much work, and even the cost of treatment (that one is a conversation for another day). One of the things I want to do is work towards removing those barriers, for everybody. Starting is hard enough we really don't need to make it any harder.m Any idea if there are similar barriers that are more specific to a military environment?


Alcoholism is not a defect of character. It is real disease that people die from. Yes there has been a stigma attached to it by the holy rollers. I do not stay in the drama of the past. I stay in the now of recovery of the damage we have done to our own spirit. I get my help from prayer and meditation, the 12 Steps, others in AA like the folks here on the boards and the folks in my home group an the guys I sponsor. The thing that works for me is getting out of myself by helping those alcoholics who suffer. As I post right now I am manning the telephones from the AA Central Office patched through to my home. At least once a night I get a call where the caller wants a personal 12 Step call to there home. I never go alone. I call one of those guys I sponsor and take him along with me. Those 12 Step calls may last 3 to 5 hours. I go on 6 to 8 12-Step calls a week. I am not forgetting my own problems, I am dealing with the worst of them that is selfishness and self centeredness. This takes ACTIONS that become a habit, then a way of life. Then in order to keep it I have to give it away. That's what I do and it works for me. I've been sober 38 years and 4 months and that has been my experience.

Just as a point of personal interest and understanding to you, I will say this: First of all, my father was a war hero who served on the USS Milwaukee in WWII who saved our country from being attacked by a fleet of German War Ships. I loved/love this man above all things. He was also an alcoholic. His father was a war hero from WWI, one of the first US Fighter pilots back then who modified his airplane to fly at a higher altitude and brought down a Zappelin in the middle of the night on it's way to bomb England.

I have PTSD from one of my men dying in my arms in Iraq at the onset of Desert Storm when we were being fired on in an oil field. I ran to the helicopter with him in my arms. He died right there in the helicopter in my arms.
I also had an explosion set right under me, been shot several times, stabbed many times, paralyzed for 7 years from a pipeline welding accident but am ok now after a few operations, had my ear cut off in a bar fight because the other guy was being a pusscake because I bit his nose off when he bear hugged me. Oh I'm not one to get into my drama. I just wanted to let you know, I understand the trauma that can result in PTSD whether it's caused from war or civilian grief and strife. I've always had the option to recover from it or stay stuck in it. My wife and I have done many things including starting 2 non profit organizations to help those who suffer from our maladies of the past. It's about the recovery. If it ever gets bad please don't hesitate to pm me.
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Re: Lots of Questions

Postby mj2 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:15 am

Wow, what you shared really adds a realness to both sides or 'types' of PTSD. I have no idea what it's like to go through that kind of trauma, but the fact you were able to work through it and use your experiences to help others is pretty phenomenal. This may seem like a silly question, but where did you start or should I say how did you start the recovery process?

For me on the enabling side, I realized there was a problem when I wasn't angry any more. I didn't yell when he didn't come home, I expected it. It wasn't the wrecked cars, the DWIs, the verbal or emotional abuse, the things one would THINK would be red flags. I could not tell you how many nights I spent watching headlights, wondering if it was my husband finally coming home-I think that was part of my ritual. I would stay awake, worrying, wondering, and hoping he was alright. I'd finally get some sleep after he'd drag in. Hours and hours and hours I spent watching headlights. I'd try to distract myself, but sooner or later I'd have to go to bed where the headlights would pass right by my window. I even tried sleeping on the couch. Then I found myself listening for cars. Years, this went on for years. Then one night he left and I went to sleep. I don't know what time he got home. I woke up the next morning and I wasn't angry. I was tired. That was when I started my recovery process. I will never forget the conversation we had that morning. I told him if he wanted to stay, he had to be sober. He said he would never be sober. I gave him 5 days (until the weekend) to move out-calmly. Three days later, he checked himself in to inpatient treatment.

I'm pretty sure he didn't go for the 'right' reasons. He knew he had a problem and he knew it would kill him eventually, but in many ways he was ok with that. His initial reasoning erred more on the side of fulfilling his basic needs of shelter, food, etc. because he had no other options. And that's ok. Whatever got him there, got him there. It wasn't until I went through the family week program at that facility did I realize how much his addiction had affected me but I also realized I had to take care of me first. I knew that all along, but I really UNDERSTOOD it and was ready to put it in action.

Do you think availability of help is enough? How can we make starting this process easier? Or can we?
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