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For close to 40 years, Stan woke up each day feeling as if
he were going to die.
"Mornings were like doomsday," he recalls,
describing his depression, alcoholism, and prescription drug abuse.
"It was like everything was just dead … that you're going to die today,
the kids are going to die … the sun isn't shining."
But now the
58-year-old Vietnam veteran says he wakes up with a zest for life he hasn't
felt since he was a kid.
He’s gotten sober. He kicked addictions
to morphine and methadone, which were prescribed to him for pain. And he’s
coming off the antidepressant medicines he’s been taking for more than 30
Getting there hasn't been easy.
depression began after he came home injured from the Vietnam War. He started
drinking heavily. He had nightmares and hallucinations.
talked about PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] back then, he says. "They
called it something like a psychotic, depressive reaction. It just gradually
got worse and worse."
Surgery for his injuries led to a medical
retirement and the end of a hoped-for military career. The depression,
medicines, and alcohol made it hard to keep a job, he says, which made him more
depressed. And angry.
Alcohol made him dangerous. He was jailed
or hospitalized several times for violence. His body is covered with scars from
vehicle accidents and surgeries. And he’s been through several drug and alcohol
A trip to a hospital in 2006 made him realize what
he was doing to himself and his family.
"I was dying of drugs," he
says. A doctor told Stan he had severe PTSD. "I always thought that was seen as
He went through drug rehab one more time. Six months
later, Stan walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting again. "I'd been to AA
before, but this was the first time I was willing to do anything to recover.
It’s changed my whole life," he says.
Through AA, Stan’s done lots
of soul-searching. He’s made amends with those he’s hurt over the years,
including himself. And for the first time in his life, he’s started down a
He says that talking things out, whether it’s been
with other veterans or at AA meetings, has helped him. But depression can make
"When I'm depressed, I'm so far down that I can't
reach out to people to tell them I'm depressed. It’s literally like a hole I
can't get out of."
Now, he says, the "noise in his head" is
quieting and his nightmares have stopped. Listening to music helps. And for the
first time in years, he can read and focus.
"It’s a miracle that
my life has turned out the way it has."
Stan's story reflects his experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Stan, to protect his privacy.
For more information, see
January 12, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
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