I’m still in recovery from PTSD and there are still times in my life when I don’t consider how my actions will impact others around me. The only difference is now I have tools to use and a moral compass to guide my actions. But still if I’m not self-aware, I can focus in on myself; making it all about me; how I’m feeling and what I’m going through. Before coming to this point in my recovery. I didn’t care how my actions were affecting those around me. Nor was I concerned with what effect my actions were having on those I love and who love me. It was after all, all about me.
Recovery is a Process
In 1984 I was the Executive Director of the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program. I was also drinking way too much. Suffice it to say I came very close to having some very serious problems personally and professionally. Finally, after a couple of very close calls because of drinking too much I went on the wagon. I decided that I would not drink any alcohol for six months. I needed to see if I was an alcoholic or a problem drinker. If I was a problem drinker I could adjust my behavior however, if I was an alcoholic I would need to quit permanently. Going on the wagon for six months was the test.
I told Susie that I was not going to drink for six months. I also made a promise that she could count on me. She gave me the “sure you are” look. Over the next several weeks of keeping my word I regained Susie’s trust. This turned our relationship around and gained me “good will” with the most important person in my life, my wife. It also helped my relationship with my children, other family members and those with whom I worked. It didn’t however, help my relationships with my drinking buddies. I soon found out their friendship was a mile wide and an inch deep. It was very hard to come to that realization. But, knowing that my real friends didn’t care if I drank or not made losing some of my “friends” less hurtful.
In the early 90s I started having problems again. I started drinking a little too much not like the early 80s but enough to be of concern. I was depressed and angry, guilt again started to eat me up. I got help, for the first time in my life I realized I needed real professional help. I got it at the local Vet Center. I refused medications with the condition I would work and work hard on myself. Betsy, my therapist, started seeing me once a week. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done on myself, nothing worthwhile comes easy. My relationships started rebuilding. But the best thing was that I started on a life’s journey of staying in recovery. I still have bouts with PTSD symptoms. But now after going through therapy I have the tools to fight the dragon of PTSD. It is my enemy and I will not let it win.
Building Good Will and Better Friendships
I’ve found that considering my actions and being aware of how my actions impacts others creates good will builds better friendships. When I catch myself starting to behave selfishly I finger my challenge coin and it reminds me of my moral compass: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Is it beneficial to all concerned? Then I think of my motto “Others not self” that usually knocks me back in line. But, if it doesn’t, I have friends, real friends who will.
Sgt. Allen Lynch
Allen Lynch is a former United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Vietnam War.Find the healing support you need.