Written by Chief Warrant Officer Terry Reese
Arriving at home on the evening of March 3, 2015 I was still energized over the day’s events. If you had told me when my substance use was in its acute stage 13 years earlier that my future would include being a guest in the Coast Guard Headquarters Flag Mess with the Coast Guard Surgeon General and the Director of National Drug Control Policy…well, I would have thought you were crazy. But there I stood. The lunch served as a round table discussion focused on Coast Guard prevention and treatment initiatives for substance use disorders. Sitting with my wife on the couch later that evening, we looked at the photograph and she noted my blank stare. ”Why weren’t you smiling,” she asked? “Well”, I replied ”I feared a smile would have appeared faked because I was nervous.”
In November, 2014, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters first 12 step support group was established. Understanding the importance of these types of recovery activities, the Health, Safety, and Work-Life staff initiated discussions on establishing Coast Guard-wide policy supporting such initiatives. Knowing Mr. Botticelli’s outspoken stance on the importance of prevention and treatment options for substance use disorders, Rear Adm. Maura Dollymore extended an invitation to him to visit Coast Guard Headquarters and discuss the direction of Coast Guard recovery and prevention efforts. While the Office of National Drug Control Policy director has longed maintained a strong relationship with the Coast Guard due to our illegal drug supply reduction efforts, this marked a unique opportunity to highlight newly implemented prevention and treatment activities. During the discussion, it was noted that the work taking place at ONDCP to change the national conversation on substance use disorders is vital to highlighting the importance of prevention and treatment.
In the Coast Guard, alcohol related misconduct is the leading cause of discharges – accounting for 35% of total discharges in the last eight years. At the meeting, it was noted that the groundwork laid that led to the approval of the support group meeting at Base National Capital Region could be captured in policy to clear the way for other units within the service to form support groups. If not for 12-step support groups, my career would have surely ended prematurely. According to ALCOAST 251/10, attendance at support groups “has proven to be an effective intervention and reduces the isolation that members feel while working on their recovery. Support group meetings can mean the difference between a successful career and a less than honorable discharge from the Coast Guard.”
Currently, the Coast Guard Headquarters 12-step support group meets every Tuesday in the Heath Safety and Work-Life conference room at Coast Guard Headquarters on Lower Level 5, in room 5P24-00. The meeting is open to all individuals in recovery or not. If you are dealing with someone who has substance abuse issues, you are welcome. We are a small group, but we continue to grow as the word gets around. “Recovery Happens”, and our stories are a testimony to that fact.