I used to tell myself I’m not an alcoholic, I just like to drink. I drank to celebrate things, I drank after a hard day at work, and I drank on the weekends because I don’t have anything to do. Pretty soon I found myself drinking just for that sweet feeling of being tipsy. All my aches and pains and problems started and leave, and that tipsy carefree feeling was slowly making it way in.
After getting shot in Iraq I was at a rock bottom moment in my life. I was 20 years old shot in both legs and now disabled for the rest of my life. To make matters even worse, my best friend was shot and killed in Iraq the day after I was wounded. As soon as I got out of the hospital the first thing I did was stop at the PX to pick up a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka.
Because I had gotten shot in my femoral artery, I was prescribed Coumadin and Lovanox to help thin my blood. While in the hospital I had a DVT in my left knee that they wanted to keep an eye on after I was discharged. Upon testing my Coumadin levels, the doctor came back into the room with a deep look of concern on his face. He knew something was off. I didn’t hesitate to tell him that I was drinking while prescribed a laundry list worth of medication.
He cared if I lived or died…I didn’t. I was already dead inside so I may as well go out drunk off my ass. I was away from my family, I was in pain from my injuries, and my friends in Iraq were dying and I couldn’t do anything about it. So, I drank, and I drank, and I drank some more. Eventually I wasn’t drinking to get drunk. Being drunk and blacking out was my way to escape reality where I didn’t have to deal with life for a couple of hours.
I didn’t have to change the way I acted around people because I only wanted to hang around people who liked to get drunk like me. Looking back, I see how people have problems shaking addiction. When everyone around you is addicted you don’t see any problem with what you are doing. Every time my friends and I got together alcohol had to be involved. So now I found a social circle of soldiers who drank just like me. Things were wonderful.
During this time, I did lose a friend to an accidental death. The exact reason for his death wasn’t revealed to me, but I know that weekend we went out I watched him drink more alcohol than anyone I’ve even seen in my life. There may have been something that I could have done like tell him to slow down. But the sad reality is we were so used to seeing each other messed up that we thought he would be ok.
This moral injury severely impacted me. I felt guilty for not stepping in to stop my friend that night. On the inside I felt like crap. It took a lot of therapy for me to get over that moment in my life. What I learned while in the Army is that addiction is a part of the military life. Alcohol is just another substance that we use to escape reality and deal with combat, and PTSD. For me, this was over 10 years ago. I’m sure alcoholism is still affecting soldiers the same way it did for me back then. Hopefully we will see a change in the future.