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NEWS | April 3, 2014

'Help for today, hope for tomorrow'

By Senior Airman Aubrey White 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

More than 18 million Americans suffer from alcohol-use disorders, not including the family members, children and colleagues who are affected. In an attempt to spread awareness and understanding about alcoholism, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence proclaimed this year's Alcohol Awareness Month theme "Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow."

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol mistreatment is a prevalent problem among U.S. Service members due to multiple deployments with combat exposure, physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Alcohol dependence can have very pervasive and all-encompassing effects on military members," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jerry Walker, 633rd Medical Group Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program manager. "[Alcohol] affects them in every domain of their lives. It can hurt them physically, mess up their relationships, impair job [performance] and can affect their spiritual relationships.

"It can destroy someone's life if taken to the extreme."

Should Joint Base Langley-Eustis active-duty Service members and reservists on active orders seek assistance for alcohol rehabilitation, the ADAPT and the Army Substance Abuse programs are available to support them.

Walker said he always encourages people to self-refer to ADAPT, especially if they're having difficulty controlling the amount of alcohol they drink or the frequency with which they consume it.

"It's always better for [Airmen] to come in and get assessed with us because we can set them up for treatment and offer them limited protection," Walker said. "In all situations where somebody's involved in our program, we notify their command and that's to allow the command to support them and be influential in their treatment. Our focus is on getting the member well using all the resources we have at our disposal."

Also helping U.S. Service members in recovering is Walter Gaines, Fort Eustis Drug Demand Reduction program prevention coordinator.

"As a part of the ASAP, I conduct substance and alcohol abuse training for our Soldiers," Gaines explained. "Sitting in a monthly class, learning about the effects alcohol and drugs have on military members is better than the possibility of them being admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning or harming someone while driving under the influence."

The effect this type of abuse has on Service members' is not limited to a potential stay at the hospital, Gaines said. In addition to medical problems, military members can face legal consequences, loss of pay or even their career.

"There's a portion of the class we call 'What my arrest cost me,' where Soldiers share how much money they've spent on a substance abuse or alcohol-related apprehension," Gaines said. "One Soldier's DUI cost him $10,000."

With money being spent on health problems and legal issues as fast as it comes in, the strain being put on families can also be a factor.

Walker said talking to their family member before and during the recovery process is the best way to provide support.

"Communication is so important, and sometimes the people closest to us care about us so much, they're afraid of potential harm that could come to the relationship if they say something," he explained. "That's where you need to be brave and say 'I'm concerned about you. I feel like you need to see somebody or need to seek help.'"

Although both ADAPT and ASAP only treat active-duty Service members, Walker said the behavioral health clinic can assess dependent family members and recommend other services like military family life counselors, Military OneSource and programs in the local area.

For non-emergency assistance with alcohol and drug abuse-related concerns, call the 633rd MDG Mental Health Clinic at 764-6840 or the ASAP at 878-1674.