I woke up nauseous, with a splitting headache again for the third morning in a row. I couldn’t blame it on being sick or anything else because only my bad decision-making was responsible for the state I was in. You see, I was a functioning alcoholic.
I was in a high-stress military job where the standard was perfection. As a female officer, I was scrutinized constantly for my behavior and performance, and as a person of color, I was marginalized. I was objectified constantly and fought sexism and misogyny on a daily basis. The alcohol had become my coping mechanism for the daily barrage of unwanted attention or judgment I received at others’ whims.
This was ten years ago. My drinking problem came to its crescendo after my leadership failed to handle a case of military sexual trauma which turned into moral injury. I was broken, lost, and full of shame and regret. Something had to change for me. I took the only route I knew at the time and visited the mental health clinic on base—on the down-low of course because no one wants that in their record—and I cried a lot that day while I recounted to the counselor the stress I had been under for months. She finally imparted some wisdom to me that I will never forget: “Perfection is not a standard” and “You are not your job.” I was shocked. What did she mean I was not my job? All I had ever dedicated myself to was my military service.
I started contemplating that statement over and over. I knew people had issues when they left the military, trying to find a purpose once they took off the uniform. I realized then that I needed to find a purpose fast. I needed to find myself amidst the crazy of my life if I wanted things to change. I began cultivating relationships outside the military for friendship and support. I read more and picked up hobbies and things that made me feel happy, like hiking and cooking. I had to develop a relationship with my body that didn’t involve punishing it to prepare for a physical fitness assessment but rather celebrated it for what it could do. My life started to improve slowly. And then I stopped drinking.
When I finally separated from the military after the birth of my son, I did it with a sense of hope about my future. There was a little bit of sadness about what I was saying goodbye to, but no grand sense of loss or the looming feeling of dread and listlessness that so many veterans feel when they leave active duty. I had finally found myself. And that is the greatest gift I could have ever asked for.
About the Author: Tiffany Andes is a full-time wife, mother, and life coach. She is the owner of Indomitus Life Coaching, a company focused on helping veterans suffering from trauma and PTSD to take back control of their lives and set goals for their future.
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National Alcohol Awareness Month
April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). This yearly public awareness campaign is “aimed at educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among our youth, and the important role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.”
Alcohol is the most misused substance by teens and adults in the United States.
Are you concerned about your use of alcohol? Take this free screening to see if you are at-risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
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