Tim is a Twenty-year Marine Corps Veteran
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Tara Treatment Center interviewed a Marine named ‘Tim’. Tim served our country from 1991 to 2010. Upon his return home from combat, he found himself battling his own personal demons. Reader discretion advised: this post contains vivid imagery of war’s effect on mental health.
Tim is one of an estimated seven million Americans with PTSD. Among veterans, prevalence is significantly higher. Like many who serve our country and protect our freedoms, Tim returned home to meet an unexpected adversary: Addiction.
We asked Tim…
We asked Tim if it is even possible for most of us (who haven’t served) to understand the trauma involved in war-time service.
Tim humbly answers “Yes, I think it is possible for someone to have gone through a similarly traumatic event. Things can happen here at home that are traumatic enough for a person to feel what we have felt. For example: In the bigger cities, kids today see all kinds of violence. What I witnessed was within the context of war–I feel for those who have seen such violence here at home“. Tim shares our belief that enduring traumatic events in life contributes greatly to problems with substance abuse.
Today, Tim has a beautiful family and fulfilling career–but is quick to point out how lucky he considers himself and how difficult it was to return initially. We sat down with Tim for a conversation on how he got to where he is today.
“Over four tours of duty, there were a few incidents that shook me up.”
Tim’s initial role was as a ‘forward observer‘. It was his job to take out the enemy using bombs and artillary–tracking and eliminating them. On his very first tour, Tim saw a great deal of death. He recognized the toll his service was taking on his mental health, but still wished to serve our country. He trained to become a specialist–partly in hopes of getting out of the crossfire.
“By my fourth tour I was a mechanic repairing vehicles and machinery damaged in battle.
One day, a few buddies of mine took a vehicle out to combat duty. It was hit by an IED. I had to clean and repair the machine in which my friends were killed. It was part of our job to separate mechanical parts from human parts. This was hugely traumatic for me.“
The Long Journey Home
Eventually Tim was injured in the line of duty and returned home. “Transitioning to civilian life was crazy. I was crazy–I had a real bad temper on top of an addiction to alcohol and painkillers“, explains Tim. He felt tremendously guilty for his actions while intoxicated, and it spiraled onwards from there. Tim was admitted to a treatment center after attempting to take his own life.
“I had night terrors and all the symptoms of ptsd. Getting help for a few weeks probably saved my life. It was a major turning point for me. It wasn’t a quick fix, but it allowed me to regain control of my mind and focus on the ‘next-right-thing’. It gave me a glimpse of how I could get better.
More than that, it allowed me to open up and finally let people know what I went through. I hadn’t told anyone about what I saw…about my friends. Keeping all that bottled-up inside was no good.”
Finding Meaningful Employment
Since November is also National Career Development Month, we asked Tim to talk about his experience regaining employment as a re-entering veteran.
“Its a hard process nowadays. Society thinks that a diagnosis of PTSD means you’re gonna ‘snap-out’. As I regained my sobriety, I was able to get a job in the field of mental health–I got the chance to help our community in a special way. My experience in treatment really inspired me to help others the same way I was helped.
Providing this basic service to those suffering from mental illness allowed me to turn my perceived ‘weakness’ into a strength. I was able to take pride in my work, which allowed me to start taking pride in my self again.”
Tim has continued to climb the ranks within the field of healthcare and makes a very healthy living lending his skills as a mechanic to a major local hospital. He credits his success to the basic work-ethic values he learned in the military: work hard, be kind, and be thankful.
Tim continues to set goals for himself and works towards them everyday. Every morning, he records any negative things weighing on his conscience from the previous 24 hours. He then reflects on how to turn any ‘negatives’ into ‘positives’, and begins his day with these goals in mind. Tim has come a long way, but remains humble:
“Don’t get me wrong, when I drive by a gas station I still need to remind myself what alcohol did to me in order to resist the urge. Using what I learned from my experience in the military seems to work–I haven’t had a drink in 4 years.”
Thank you for your service, and congratulations on your accomplishments, Tim! By telling your story, you help countless other veterans know that they aren’t alone in their struggles with mental health and addiction.