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Husband, Back from Afghanistan, a Different Guy Altogether

15 Nov

Question:

Do you have any info on helping someone with posttraumatic stress disorder who is overmedicating himself with alcohol? My dearest husband, my best friend since high school, the sweetest man on Earth, came back from Afghanistan not himself at all.  He is angry. He spaces out.  He loses his temper over nothing.  He is plagued with nightmares. Sometimes he sobs and cries tears in his sleep.  He puts away more beer each night (afternoon) than I thought was humanly possible.  This is not the man I married. This is an empty shell.  Is the man I love in there somewhere?  I am so sad, because I feel I have lost him, even though his physical body came back to me.  I am grateful for any suggestions..

Vanessa

Dear Vanessa,

Well, you’ve got it right - your husband has posttraumatic stress and he’s overmedicating himself with alcohol.  And, yes, he’s still in there, although you probably wouldn’t know it to look at him right now.  And he’s capable of a thorough recovery, although you wouldn’t know that to look at him right now either.

He needs to be in a program that specifically addresses both the PTS and the substance abuse.  He may need to be in-patient for a while.  It will be hard for him to address his combat stress while he’s still using, so he needs to dry out first, if at all possible.

Please check with your local V.A. to see if they have a program similar to the Cleveland V.A.’s Transcend program, which included individual counseling, group support, psycho-education about what PTS is; guided imagery; journaling; expressive arts; volunteer service in the community; physical exercise; and EMDR, IRT for nightmares, and other ‘alphabet’ therapies - I describe these components in my last book, Invisible Heroes.

Or your state might have a Wounded Warrior program that deals with this - there’s a tremendous range in what is offered from state to state. There are also several NGO’s that assist with this.  All these vary greatly from base to base, V.A. to V.A., and state to state, not to mention military hospital to hospital, so it’s hard to know what to recommend.  It also depends on what branch of the service he was in and what part of the country you live in.  If you let me know more details, perhaps I can make some good suggestions or find someone who can. 

All best wishes to you and do hang in there. This is a guy worth hanging in for. But he needs to get some quality help. 

All best,

Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award