Nothing Changes if I Don’t Change

mhgov_badge_logo_200x200_o1_v1Editor’s note: This blog is cross-posted from mentalhealth.gov. Find the original post here.

What does being a Veteran mean to me?

It brings me a great sense of pride and accomplishment unlike nothing before. When that initial “calling” reached out to me – someone who wanted to serve his country – my reaction was one of uncertainty. That feeling of facing the unknown, of, “What you have gotten yourself into?” was with me while on the quiet bus ride late at night heading to boot camp.

As a Marine you learn to function as part of a team under strenuous conditions, some you wonder if they would make it through, and very few men and women I have talked to want to forget what they have experienced while in the military, no matter what it was.

But post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can stem from any number of difficult experiences that come with serving in a conflict zone or other hazardous situation: trauma, rape, murder, stress; all things most don’t want to discuss.

When you experience traumatic situations, it’s hard to bring those feelings home and discuss them with others because you feel like your friends and family just don’t get it.

In October of 1979 while my unit was taking part in in cold weather training at the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan, a terrible typhoon struck our base. A flash flood resulting from the typhoon came down the mountain toward the 5,000-gallon bladders of jet fuel stored above our camp. One of the bladders burst and the fuel was carried into our camp on the water. It ignited, forming a wall of fire which spread to our Quonset hut quarters. Thirteen brave Marines were killed in the fire, and many others were seriously injured.

I was one of the lucky Veterans to have survived serious injury, but the unseen scars caused havoc on my life in the form of nightmares and alcohol abuse.

After many years of trying to deal with these problems a friend suggested I seek professional help via the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system and private therapy. I also attended a 12-step program which has greatly helped me in building a sober support network, and motivated me to get involved with and to help others.

I am now a credentialed substance abuse counselor, helping Veterans living with traumatic brain injury and PTSD, and their families. I also conduct peer-to-peer support with individual Veterans.

VCL-Hoz-CMYK[1]Today, Veteran Treatment Courts are available to help Veterans deal with mental health problems or substance use disorders. This program gives me the opportunity to work as a mentor for Veterans who may be in trouble with the law or have struggles with their mental health. In this role, I also provide support to Veterans in the program – a shoulder to lean on, and someone to explain what type of help is available.

Talking about mental health problems with another Veteran can be very helpful in the recovery process.

Helping others who went through the same things I did, helps my mental state, and it feels great. Staying focused on and in recovery, staying connected and living in the solution keeps me moving forward.

I still have bad days, but I now know that help is always there; I just have to ask for it! Nothing changes if I don’t change.

Move a muscle, change a thought, and try not to wallow in the pain each and every day. Think about all of the great things in your life, not the things you don’t have. And if you need help, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or colleague.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still serve my country. The only change would be to immediately seek help and ask for it when I needed it.

As a Veteran in recovery, I encourage you and your loved ones to seek out professional help when thoughts of hopelessness arise.

Tim Gang is a former U.S. Marine and disabled veteran, working today as an addictions therapist.

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8 Comments to “Nothing Changes if I Don’t Change”

  1. Norman says:

    I give up. Your site is too hard.

  2. Tommy Thompson says:

    Tim’s post reminded that me of my own loss in the Gander crash, where a single event killed 200 + solders. It gives me insight about how move past the pain I feel for my lost friends. Something I have carried since that horrific event.

    Tommy

  3. Ana Cuebas says:

    Yes. One goes through the trauma and doesn’t start shivering until the quietness of home gives you some time to take a look at the inferno you went thru. It is then that one goes back in time and your body is there and you are out of control. One never forgets. One just entertains, one looks forward and forward and forward and one day one hits a brick wall. You break down and come to your senses, after all, you never lost your intelligence, only thing you lost was your heart…. So you ask for help and everybody was there all the time for you, you just hadn’t asked until then, a new story begins.

  4. David says:

    my mother received a call from phily department of veteran affairs and was told her late husband died of a service related death. however in 1986 my father had a heart attack and he and the dr applied for disability benefits and was denied. In 1996 my father died from his now service related desiese. My mother applied for military benefits in 1996 and was denied. On march 17, 2014 when my mother received the call from vet affairs and was told that it was proven her husbands death was service related and that she will be getting a app in the mail. Three days later she received a letter from vet affairs and it said her app was accepted.Witch she never revieved the app. And on April 7,2014 she received a check.. I believe the sum is wrong. she has never received any money for the reason that her and her late husband was denied many times. my question is can she appeal the amount and can she deposit the check and still appeal the amount

  5. Dr. Kenneth Tennant says:

    NOTHING will change in the VA’s constipated claims process unless VARO’s are held accountable with REAL PENALTIES for delaying our claims, which is, according to a ruling by the Ninth Cir Ct of Appls, UNCONSTITUIONAL! Nearly two (2) YEARS ago a BVA judge determined I made my case on my appeal for an Earlier Effective date. I presented evidence and service records that demonstrated the nexus. The Judge agreed. Where is the award ? This is unfair to have to wait five YEARS to get a hearing and then this obstruction of justice. Another one of many Gov’t Sponsored Criminal Activities. Google: Kenneth Tennant (Domestic Terrorism: USA vs Veterans and the First Amendment) & You Tube: AMERICAN VETERAN: Discarded and Forgotten. KTennantDC@Gmail.com The VARO in DesMoines IOWA sent DHS AGENTS TO ARREST ME AT GUN POINT, on trumped up charges that were eventually dismissed, but not before the damages were done. This Gov’t Sponsored Criminal Activity TERRORIZED my wife and children….KTennantDC@Gmail.com

  6. Its very right that nothing changes if we don’t change.Take a example of smoking if smokers change there habit then the death rate would become low.And people can then start living a healthy life.