On the Road to Recovery Self-Discovery: The Crown Jewel of Psychotherapy: Traumatic Brain Injury/post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Series: Part Seven

By Cancro, Lorraine | The Exceptional Parent, August 2009 | Go to article overview

On the Road to Recovery Self-Discovery: The Crown Jewel of Psychotherapy: Traumatic Brain Injury/post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Series: Part Seven


Cancro, Lorraine, The Exceptional Parent


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Below are the words of a serviceman the author interviewed regarding previous excessive drinking and drug use, the origins of which sprang from his suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When asked, "What made you pursue both individual psychotherapy and Alcoholics Anonymous?," he responded with the following:

I was drinking to forget. I was drinking and using cocaine to get away from my feelings of anxiety and guilt. I knew somewhere within me that I had killed the enemy in Iraq out of duty to my country, but I still could not escape the look of terror in the eyes of my enemy right before I shot him. I don't remember much after having shot him but there isn't a day that passed that I did not relive the moment I killed that man. I cannot escape the horror of being so close to someone who was very much alive and in one shot, mine, he was gone. I did that. I destroyed a person. His family, his loved ones, his friends--will never be the same. He was the only man whose eyes and terror I faced as I shot him. Any other acts of destruction did not impact me as this one did.

I drowned my feelings of remorse in liquor, not to mention drugs. I didn't feel worthy to live. I should not have survived my enemy. Why should I be alive and he dead? It was seconds that separated his death from my own. As I rushed towards him I wondered, "Would I be predator or prey?" My saddest realization was when--on one long, cold night sitting in my home indulging in drugs and alcohol--I recognized not only was I the predator, but prey. Seeing this, I was now on a path of self-destruction...a mile wide.

Thanks to God and my brother's intervention, I met with an incredible therapist who recognized the pain that I was enduring. He insisted that to continue working with him, I'd have to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). I felt ashamed to have to resort to that. He told me that I would not heal from what ailed me without a two pronged approach. I needed both individual therapy as well as group work, which he said can offer miraculous results. I have to tell you, without both forms of treatment, I would not be alive today.

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Group Support Through Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)

Returning veterans who suffer from PTSD may develop issues of chemical dependency. Many suffering with PTSD self-medicate using alcohol or drugs to relieve excessive feelings of anxiety and depression. Treatment should include individual psychotherapy but for long-term sobriety, Alcoholics' Anonymous' Twelve Step Program is also of value to many. A.A. offers a safe haven for individuals who are afflicted with alcoholism and drug addiction. Those who join and remain in the Twelve Step Program find the support to reclaim their "self" and rebuild their lives. The program "works if you work it," according to an old A.A. adage. I attended an A.A. "open meeting" (in which someone who is not alcoholic but would like to learn more is welcome to attend; "closed meetings" are only for those who are working on recovering from alcoholism) in an effort to learn more about the program. It was an incredible experience.

From the start of the open discussion, the members introduced themselves and then spoke about their efforts to do the right thing. One by one, they volunteered their stories of struggle and strength acquired from their participation in the A.A. group. Many echoed the sentiment that they felt most at home at their A.A. meetings and that they knew they were always one arms length away from a drink. A.A. gave them the support not to reach for it.

Alcoholics and drug abusers come to A.A. when their lives have "become unmanageable," a phrase found in Step One of the Twelve Steps. At the root of Step One is acceptance of ones' powerlessness over alcohol and drugs. In A.A., the members share their trials and tribulations, which stem from their addiction, within a safe forum.

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