Without going into the judgmental specifics, I was ‘required’ to go into the military because my parents used the thousands of dollars I had saved for college by working summer farm labors jobs, as well as a factory job one summer. By my logic at the time, I figured at the very least I would have a trade (x-ray technician) plus have the availability of the G.I. Bill for college. And, that’s what I got.
I got more of course. We all have great stories about the camaraderie, the drinking, the drugging, the spit-shined shoes, and all that shit you learned in basic. Something today reminded me we had a class in topography; that’s not something I often remember. When I enlisted the Vietnam War had just been declared ‘over.’ It officially ended two years after my enlistment. I had ‘call’ the day Nixon resigned. We watched it on TV in the ER with a set we’d taken from an empty room off the Surgery floor. It was the middle of the night where we were. We didn’t care; we still cheered.
The military I was part of it was very diverse. Many were drafted, some were volunteers, as were the women most certainly where we got stuck in something called the WAC, an extension of those women afore us – WAAC; it assimilated into the regular Army in 1978. There didn’t seem to be any paucity of opinions. There was the gamut from gung-ho, taps on their heels to people who barely knew which insignia went where. I just figured it was a reflection of life elsewhere.
All in all after leaving the military except for the using the G.I. Bill to get through college, I spent little time thinking or paying attention to what was going in the military. In the mid-1990s I got a job with the VA hospital here. While employed there in the process of dealing with others who were coming to the hospital for the drug/alcohol treatment program, I realized that I was certainly drinking as much as if not more than those entering treatment. Which meant – if they were considered alcoholic, fucking druggies – thennn…..
I inquired about entering the program at our VA. As it was geared primarily for male veterans I was referred to a woman at the Vets Center in town. She was wonderful. She knew of a specific program for women at a VA hospital in Ohio. Once I was accepted, then all I had to do was come up with transportation to and from Ohio. How much of a coincidence was it that my income tax refund would be enough to cover a plane ticket to & from Ohio? And – when it looked as though my refund may not get to me in time, the senator’s office who helped was none other than Mr. Wide Stance himself.
The night before I reported to the hospital, I smoked a joint that I had managed to smuggle cross country on the airplane and drank a 6-pack of some Ohio beer with a cool name for ole’ times sake and as a fitting send-off.
The women’s program was 30 days. It entailed a place to stay with three meals a day. We attended group therapy twice daily, individual sessions once or twice a week. There were others types of therapy – occupational, physical, and art therapies. We learned about ourselves and each other, our addictions, and what it was going to take to stay sober. Some folks focused on memorizing the Big Book; I focused on worrying over how the fuck I was going to live without being bored since I couldn’t drink or drug any longer. However, I also knew that nothing would get any better or change if I didn’t change it. I also knew I couldn’t return to home after a mere 30 days (it was closer to 45) because I knew the first time I walked into an Albertson’s I’d head straight for the beer freezer.
On the referral of the those who ran women’s program, I applied to another program – ‘Recovery Skills Program’ (RSP) – which was co-ed.’ It was a 3-month program of initially more of the same for me. Group therapy twice daily, individual therapy once or twice a week; and other kinds of therapy to fill in the time. Due to some time lag with the next cycle starting . . . . yadda ya – I ended up waiting another three months before the next cycle of RSP. In the interim, I lived in a homeless shelter for women (for 2-1/2 months) and spent my days at the VA, attending outpatient group therapy, etc. Finally into RSP for 3 months and more therapy. Then RSP concluded and as I was essentially homeless I stayed at the Domiciliary at the VA for a few months. And again I continued to attend group therapy, individual therapy, and other stuff. All in all from the time I entered the women’s program until the time I left the Domiciliary, 11 months had elapsed. Eleven months of fucking therapy!
While at the Dom, I got a job at a local hospital, part-time. I eventually managed to get into a three-quarter house for women, eventually got an apartment, and eventually started college again to finish my degree while employed full-time. All the while I continued to attend outpatient group therapy twice a week with an individual session thrown in on one of those days. It all concluded just over three years from the time I had entered the women’s program.
That was 12 years ago. I’m still sober.
When I talk about my sobriety, I never fail to start out how very fortunate I am in being a veteran because as a result of that, I was able to get the therapy I needed, truly – truly.
I wish the same for every veteran as well. I really do.