As the wife of an Army Ranger and First Gulf War Veteran, I’ve always been proud of my husband and the sacrifices he has made for our country, but I never really understood the toll it would have on him. When we got married, I knew he had nightmares and other symptoms related to his military experiences, but it wasn’t until later that I realized he had what is known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
When his anxiety grew to be uncontrollable and it was affecting our family, I insisted he get help. He turned to the VA, who provided him with some therapy off and on as well as medication to help with his depression, anxiety, and inability to sleep. Over the years I thought this regimen was helping him as we were having only occasional spells of anxiety that seemed more manageable to me than before. I figured this was just something we were going to have to deal with as a family. He started to sleep a lot even dozing off while in conversation and always coming down with a stomach bug. He would often isolate himself when he wasn’t sleeping and I’d find him watching TV in the dark. I knew something wasn’t right, but since he was 48 years old, I suspected his age and stressful workload might have something to do with it. With him being a war hero, I would never suspect anything else. So, I insisted he get blood work done to check his thyroid and testosterone. When the doctor provided no answers, I was left scratching my head. What was going on? It just didn’t seem normal.
About two years ago, my four daughters and I found out he had been keeping a big secret from us. He had been self-medicating with Oxycontin for about two years because he said it was the only thing that took away his anxiety and made him feel normal again. After that stopped working, he moved to heroin. Everything fell apart – and quickly. Who was this person? He had been lying to us for so long and about everything. This explained the missing money, the sleepiness and all of the stomach viruses that never got anyone else in the family sick. It really turned my family’s life upside down. We didn’t know what to do. First, we had to get him out of the house because our four daughters couldn’t see him like this anymore. He went to stay at his mom’s until we could get him into treatment. She took him to a doctor who treated him with Suboxone for a while, which was fine by him, but to us, he still wasn’t himself. It wasn’t the answer to this problem.
We turned to the VA once again, but after waiting on their list to go to a VA facility for 30 days, we were left having to find an outside alternative. We were fortunate to be able to get him into Transformations. They were so helpful from the beginning. I started by asking questions through their online chat and soon felt like this was the best place for my husband to go. I was able to get him to agree to talk to them about being admitted there. By the next day, his Mom was driving him to Delray Beach to go to a detox facility. It was hard on me and my girls because we couldn’t talk to him for many days. We had never been away from him without at least talking on the phone before. What was going through his head? Was he sorry? Was he embarrassed? Would he try to hurt himself? These were all things I wondered, but I had to trust the process and soon I was able to speak with his therapist who reassured me he was ok. I felt confident he was being taken care of.
Once he had detoxed and was able to participate in groups, he received treatment from multiple specialists who really cared about his recovery. He was put in a group with other veterans and first responders because they could relate to his PTSD. He received chiropractic care and other holistic therapies which I think were better than medicating him. He went to anger management counseling which he found very helpful for his PTSD symptoms.
We as the family also received the support we needed to heal and move forward. The family weekends at Transformations are set up to help the family process what is going on and how to move forward once the loved one returns home. In addition, since my husband left Transformations, we have gotten calls, every week in the beginning and now every month, from Kevin Craner, the family support specialist at Transformations, to check in on us.
Within the first few months after leaving Transformations, my husband felt a need to help some of the younger guys in his step-down program. He started driving them to meetings because they didn’t have cars and spending time with the head of their halfway house. He felt a need to be a “father” figure to them, not realizing the jeopardy he was putting himself in. I didn’t think he was ready. Well, he wasn’t ready. He put himself in a situation that risked his sobriety and had a relapse right before he was expected to start back to work. I thought it was over for us. I had given up hope on our marriage and I wanted to protect my kids from seeing their father self-destruct once again. Since my husband was denying that he had used drugs I didn’t know what to do so I text messaged Kevin Craner and asked for guidance. He immediately got back to me. Even though my husband wasn’t able to return to Transformations the second time because of our insurance, Kevin helped me every step of the way. Kevin was instrumental in not only getting my husband immediately into a detox and a facility where he could get treatment, but he also convinced him to go. I am so grateful to Kevin and Transformations because without them, we would not have our family back.
Since my husband left the second facility around a year ago, he has been clean and has been a different person. He is back to work. He is rebuilding his relationships with our daughters, and we are rebuilding our relationship as a couple. In fact, we just returned from a week-long family vacation and it feels so good to have him back. His PTSD is under control, and he no longer needs the anxiety medication and sleeping pills to function. We decided as a couple that the traditional step-down treatment program was not right for him and along with our therapist, we have come up with a plan for his sobriety that works better for us. We all still see a therapist because we are all damaged from this experience, but we are better. Some aspects of our life are better than they were before my husband’s addiction. Yes, our perspective on life is different; he will never be the same. I will never be the same. My daughters will never be the same, and even though my husband had a relapse, it was what he had to go through to get to where he is now. Obviously, every situation is different, but it is possible to have a future after addiction if the person wants to change.