MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- (The military member’s name has been changed to honor the privacy of the individual.)
Staff Sgt. Brandon was in bad shape. He drank every day and had withdrawals while at work. He looked for reasons to justify why he earned that drink at the end of the day. Brandon is a recovering alcoholic.
Brandon, a military member stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base, is now in a much better place, but he says it wouldn’t have been possible without the Maxwell Air Force Base’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program.
The program provides preventative avenues to active duty members and Guard and Reserve members on active duty status who may be struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, said Capt. Mary Anne Dueitt, 42nd Medical Operations Squadron program manager for ADAPT.
Maxwell's ADAPT program strives to help individuals receive treatment and prevention services for substance abuse, as well as decrease any stigma associated with it.
“I've always known about ADAPT,” Brandon said. “It was the program that people got sent to for alcohol-related incidents. I used to believe it was a program that leadership sent their Airmen to so they could check a box and say they got help.”
He, too, went just to “check” that same box in 2010, but didn't believe in the program at the time. Brandon’s problems only declined from there.
“If I worked hard then I deserved to go home and drink, and if I had a bad day then I deserved to go home and drink,” Brandon added. “I constantly thought about how much [alcohol] I had at home, and if I needed more.”
His obsession with alcohol haunted him every day. Eventually, his problem made him self-conscious.
Brandon said he would plan out which gas stations he would go to due to visiting them constantly throughout the week.
“I didn't want the [cashiers] thinking I had a problem,” he said.
He went so far as to change his trash bag color to conceal how many empty alcohol containers were inside.
After a conversation with his mother in 2016, Brandon knew he had a problem. She told him alcoholism was prevalent in his family. It was then that he decided to change his life.
“The next day, I walked up to mental health and asked for help,” Brandon said. “I was finally honest with them, and more importantly, with myself.”
Military members with alcohol or drug problems have the opportunity to self-refer to the program before they are referred by their leadership, primary care physician or the periodic health assessment clinic.
After a thorough assessment, the Maxwell ADAPT team highly recommended that Brandon go to rehab for his addiction, and so he did that same day.
“I was in rehab with surgeons, lawyers, nurses, CEOs, businessmen…,” he said. “This is not just for homeless people or people with less fortunate circumstances.”
Brandon’s first 30 days on his road to recovery was spent going to rehab, as part of his yearlong enrollment in the ADAPT program.
Through the program, Brandon learned that addiction is a disease, just like cancer.
“Unlike cancer, though, my disease tells me I'm fine,” he added. “My disease changes my brain chemistry and makes me want or crave the thing that is killing me. I learned to accept my disease after realizing it’s not just me; this could and does happen to anyone.”
The program educated him on how to respond and think, not react.
“They don't just address the substance abuse, they look at the whole person,” Brandon said. “I learned that this is a lifelong battle; it doesn't just stop. You have to change your whole lifestyle, change your friends and in some circumstances, cut your family off. I'm an American Airman who fights multi-dimensional wars on terror: one is ISIS and the other, alcohol.”
Today, Brandon is living one day at a time and says he couldn’t have gotten through his addiction without the support of his leadership and the ADAPT staff. His experience has inspired him to share his story with others.
“If one person can relate and get help, then that’s what it's all about,” he said. “There are millions out there just like me, and my goal, as well as ADAPT’s, is to remove the stigma on addiction. ADAPT and mental health provides an environment where people feel comfortable in getting the help they need. I never could have done this alone; people try but eventually fail.”