Destroying The Spirit. Substance Abuse and the Veteran.
As with seemingly everything in the world nowadays, the intensity of living and the corruption of humanity is at an all time accelerated pace. I have been working a new gig as a counselor with my fellow veterans at a facility specifically designed to treat returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A symptom a majority of the veterans suffer from is insomnia. In conversation and observation of the younger veterans, I began to compare and contrast my era of service (84-93) to the recent veterans experiences.
A big difference and a major contributor to the current returning veterans symptoms of insomnia and anxiety and my era of service is the internet and the instant access to entertainment, communication, and escapism. While I was deployed or even in garrison, I wrote letters and in an emergency (in garrison ) was able to telephone home (at great expense.) The modern internet age has provided military personnel the ability to communicate with family and loved ones instantaneously as well as watch pornography and play video games. I have interviewed veterans that have been in firefights while playing video games or watching pornography. The combination of anti-anxiety drugs prescribed with the viewing of pornography, deployment, and video gaming has created a very real and horrible inability for many veterans to have compassion/empathy and view people other than objects to be either destroyed or used and discarded.
As convenient as the internet age is it is very debilitating as well, especially to military personnel. The instant access to pornography, gaming and communication I believe has damaged the veteran’s ability to process “down time” to think critically, and be satisfied with self and or surroundings/environment. The veteran returning from duty is constantly awake needing some sort of stimulation to keep occupied. I have observed veterans awake for up to 5 days with only several hours of sleep “catnapping” while playing video games to exhaustion. Many veterans return from active duty addicted to gaming/pornography, alcohol and prescription drugs. Alcohol abuse is the most common form of substance abuse people tend to relate to when addressing substance abuse, however the other process addictions and prescription drug abuse is an enormous underlying issue that is only now being examined and researched.
Viewing pornography has been accepted in the military for decades and perhaps centuries. It is as much ingrained into the military culture as alcohol use (abuse). In my era of military service, magazines were looked during deployment and in garrison video VCR tapes were watched with unabashed acceptability and common place. Accomplishing military mission’s objectives unfortunately require destroying people. The combination of deployment, online virtual reality,prescription (anti depressant/anxiety/psychotropic) and viewing pornography adds particularly to the dehumanizing factor veterans suffer from, as well as overall re-entry problems veterans have upon return to civilian life.
I urge Veterans and loved ones to seek out help. The B3 unit in Los Angeles is a great peer support unit and the VA is getting better at addressing these very debilitating issues affecting OIF OEF Veterans. Click on the links for those seeking help and assistance in veteran’s treatment. This being said enough is not done to treat and help veterans. We have to step up assistance to our veterans as a nation, and civillian should take an active role as well.