“It is easier to just say, ‘I don’t drink.’”

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nash Truitt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

“You have to lie.”

“If I told the truth, I could not work.”

Whether or not you have said any of the above phrases yourself, everyone in the military has probably heard someone say something similar about their yearly physical/mental health assessment.

Service members are presented with many opportunities to identify drinking problems. In my experience though, a lot of us are not honest. I wish I had been honest and gotten the help I needed before my problem became bad enough to affect my career.

I would go home every night and drink until I passed out. I knew it was an issue, but I was hiding how bad it was. I thought that if I asked for help, it would affect my job and how people viewed me.

I felt like I was stuck in a situation where I couldn’t get a grasp on my problem, but I also couldn’t speak to anyone about it.

I was wrong.

Eventually, my drinking problem reached a point where the decision to get help was taken out of my hands entirely.

In the military, we work in a culture where drinking can be common, which makes instances of binge drinking more probable.

Over time, I learned that alcohol use disorders are a lot more common than some people may realize.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health an estimated 28 million people ages 18 and above in the United States suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Less than 10% of those individuals will ever receive help.

The military is no different in that we have people who suffer from alcohol use disorders. Depending upon which study is reviewed, there is substantial evidence to support that we have a larger percentage of people who suffer from alcohol use disorders than the general public.

The military has programs in place that are designed to specifically help us with identifying problems such as alcohol use disorders before they become more severe. Even if the problems are severe though, those programs are still there to help any of us that need them.

Like myself, I am sure many other people wish they had spoken up about their problem, and some people are debating whether they should.

Maybe if I had spoken up, I wouldn’t have lost a promotion, my rank, or my job, but more importantly, I would’ve been a better version of myself again sooner.

Even if it does not feel like it is a problem now, you may start to notice the reasons you or your friends give to drink, like “celebrating,” “relieving stress,” or “something to do,” are happening more often.

My advice is to reflect on what is going on. Maybe it would be best to seek help, and there is nothing wrong with that.

More people struggle with alcohol use disorders than what a lot of people realize because it’s easy to write the problem off compared to other substance abuse issues.

It’s important to remember that in the military we work in an organization that does care about our well-being. Otherwise, programs that help us get better wouldn’t be available. If you already have some concerning patterns or have noticed them starting to form, there are people who can help, and they are only a phone call or visit away.

Being honest with yourself or someone else, especially when it means you will have to accept help from others can be hard. It being uncomfortable or hard though, should never be the reason that keeps you from being the best possible version of yourself.   

For substance abuse support and resources, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24/7 National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.