It's okay to ask for help
“I spent about 20 years working in information technology at the same company. It was a great career where I made enough to provide for my family. But it ended. Just like that.”
Patrick joined the Navy in 1988. Like many others, he enlisted when he was 18. He joined for structure, to give his life purpose and direction. He was deployed in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and is very proud of his service. He started as a cook working his way up by learning computer information technology.
“My wife, daughter and I lived on base together in Virginia. Being in the Navy was a time in my life when I worked hard. I had a sense of purpose. My life completely changed.”
Patrick served until 1995 in active duty, and was in the Reserve for the following two years. Over the years he became a highly decorated Navy veteran.
He returned to civilian life and got a full-time job in IT, and was proud to be earning enough to support himself, his wife and daughter.
While serving, Patrick liked to drink with his friends and have a good time. It wasn’t long after Patrick finished his service, he began to start drinking more. And it took a toll on both him and his family.
His drinking caused him to fight with his wife and they soon divorced. But the divorce didn’t stop his drinking.
Patrick married again. He and his second wife had a son together and he also was taking care of his new stepson. His children were his entire world. Yet so was his drinking.
No matter how much he surrounded himself with family and work, he still felt lonely and isolated. And he didn’t know why.
“I would get out of work, go to the bar. Then I would go home for dinner, and right back out to the bar after dinner. I would get up the next day, go to work and do it all over again.”
The pattern repeated until he found himself divorced from his second wife. His drinking then escalated. No matter how much he drank, he still couldn’t ease his feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“I was a functioning alcoholic. I went to work. But I was so lonely. Nothing made it feel better. Both of my ex-wives knew I needed help. And they kept telling me that. And I didn’t listen.”
After some time passed, the alcohol wasn’t enough. Patrick started using heroin. He began living with a friend, who also was using. Isolated from his children and addicted to drugs, he saw less and less of them. He didn’t want them to see him using.
Patrick was unemployed, addicted to alcohol and drugs. He was homeless, broke, and feeling worse than ever. He wished had never left the Navy.
“This time when my ex-wife called, I listened. I knew there were no other choices for me. I was at rock bottom. She took me to the VA and dropped me off. When the VA asked me why I was there, I said, ‘I’m a junkie and an alcoholic. I’m out of money, and getting desperate because I am going to start coming down. If you don’t help me, I don’t know what I will do, but it won’t be good.’”
Eight months later, after a cold-turkey detox, and intensive medical treatment from the VA, Patrick now lives at the Volunteers of America Domiciliary at Wade Park. He is in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs, clean and sober, meets with his therapist several times a week and is in a whole new place.
“I didn’t know I had PTSD. If it wasn’t for the services here, I may not have known the depth of what I have been struggling with mentally.”
“Here, I am surrounded by help. And I’m surrounded by other veterans, like me. When we meet in groups, we all share our stories. I’ve found that we have help in each other and some of our stories are not so very different.”
Patrick is proud of his children and is working on rebuilding his relationships with them every day. His stepson is currently in the Army and he now has a grandson. His children are what he is most proud of.
“When I first got to the Domiciliary, I was hopeful. I must have met 30 people. I told them I may not remember their names, but I know you are here to help me. Today, I am humbled and grateful for everything they have done for me.”
Looking forward, Patrick is ready to rebuild and get back to his life.
“I hope to be in my own place next year. I am going to spend as much time with my kids as possible. I want to sit on the couch with my 11-year old son, eat cereal, and play video games. And I can’t wait.”
Thank you to D. Maynard Photography for photographing Patrick.