Imagine an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. People sit in a group. My name is _________. I’ve been sober for three years. . . . I’ve been sober for six months. . . . I’ve been sober for ten years.
Then one stands and says, “I’ve been coming to these meetings and I’d been sober for two years, but this week I fell. I got drunk two days ago.”
Further, imagine that the other members tell this person he has to leave. He can no longer receive the help and encouragement of the group because he failed–once.
And because of this failure, he becomes homeless.
That’s not how AA works. But that’s what happens to people in addiction programs for US veterans. Vets who are homeless often must leave rehab programs for stumbling once more into the habit that has dogged them and shattered their lives.
And there is a connection between being a vet and being an addict, especially if the vet has served in combat. Becoming an addict is more likely for those who served with bullets flying around them.
Patrick Condrin writes: “Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and addiction have higher rates of substance-related relapses and related hospital admissions, more severe PTSD symptoms, shorter periods of being clean or sober (abstinence), and poor adherence to follow-up treatment.”
So how does putting an addicted vet who’s relapsed out on the streets help him? Or help us as a society with a big drug problem? It doesn’t. It prolongs the problem.
Can we not find a treatment option besides the streets for someone yearning to erase the horrible images of combat from their minds without drugs?
Jesus told us to forgive seven times seventy times. A no-tolerance approach to those who acquired addiction in the service of our country is not serving us well.
And if there’s one thing our nation should do well it is to serve those who’ve shaken up their lives to serve us.
It may be difficult and costly–but it is already costly. And it seems the least we can do even if we do it seven times seventy.
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