May is Military Appreciation Month:
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What Can We Do to Best Honor Our Heroes?
By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
In honor of Military Appreciation Month and the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, I spoke with William Russo, BS, CPRS, RSS who is the Director of Alumni Services at Aware Recovery Care. He is also an Army veteran who served from 2002-2012 and was deployed to Iraq from 2006-2007.
He spoke about the global events of the past several years that have included the pandemic and other foreign affairs. The pandemic in particular, may have been an excuse for many veterans to isolate, avoid, use substances and to decrease self-care. The recent foreign events have been present on many news sources, social media as well as in daily conversations. Will expressed that this could have led some veterans and active duty military who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms to experience many difficult emotions, relive past trauma, have adrenaline rushes and feel as though they cannot escape the topics.
Will also spoke about how PTSD impacts and manifests differently in individuals and can also include lesser known behaviors such as re-enlisting in the military to avoid symptoms, workaholism, engaging in constant distraction, substance use as well as social isolation. He describes many challenges for seeking help in and out of the military that include: stigma, shame, fear of medical records being seen by superiors, being programmed to detach from emotions and to push through pain, not to trust outsiders and to avoid showing weaknesses. He also described the military culture that encourages individuals to “push through, isolate, suck it up, not to trust and repress” emotions. Military training is the opposite of many mental health and recovery recovery strategies that encourage vulnerability, processing emotions and connecting with peers.
For Will, the upcoming Memorial Day holiday symbolizes those who have served and gave their lives for our country, the flag and his fellow troops. He also spoke about how many first responders such as police officers and EMTs may experience some of the same PTSD symptoms from their work and are also in need of support services.
He also spoke about his view of how the In Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model could have benefited him in the past as well as military, veterans and first responders now. He stated that “Having the ability to have a team come to my home would have been the best way to overcome my resistance to treatment and to keep and maintain my routine since I still was in the military at the time. It’s very hard to connect with others in treatment, so having a team that may have veteran or first responder experience, would be a great way to connect in a shared experience.”
Will also emphasized that “discretion is important, and creating a team that could have helped me to transition into the community would have been huge”. Additionally, he expressed that “the family piece could have helped my family to better understand both the mental and physical struggles. Having a care team would have helped me to identify my mental health issues sooner and could have guided me to the right providers”.
Will also spoke specifically about the IHAT teams and that their “humanistic style of coaching and utilization of Motivational interviewing would have been best practices to help vets combat the struggle with vulnerability and control”. He explained that for many veterans, it can be “panic-inducing to try and relinquish some control and show vulnerability” during treatment.
Will spoke about what working in an IHAT team has meant to him throughout his own recovery from mental health and addiction issues and stated that “Working with teams delivering the IHAT model has been a significant influence on my healing process. You form solid bonds and a brother/sisterhood with your fellow soldiers in the military. You also have a strong sense of purpose in the military. That all changed when I left the service and I sank into my mental health and addiction battle. I have made bonds similar to that of the military with the team members I have worked with. This work gives you a strong sense of purpose as we are an influential piece in a client and their ally’s healing journey”
He went on to explain that through his training at the IHAT Institute that “This work is also very humbling and has strengthened my ability to be vulnerable. It has shown me new and out-of-the-box techniques to help others find what works for them and inspire me to explore my own unique pathways. I’ve had the opportunity to grow personally and professionally as I have advanced through different roles. I am grateful for the different recovery lenses I have been exposed to and continue to learn.”
So what better time than today to make a change in your career as a healthcare professional, and get trained by the IHAT Institute in CT, MA, RI, NH, ME, IN, VA, FL or OH!