Alcohol, PTSD and the Military

“When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.” – Charles Bukowski, Poet and Novelist


One man’s story

Listening to Richard Adams describe the way he steps around ants to avoid crushing them, it’s hard to imagine that for many years he was an alcoholic who couldn’t keep a job, and had a habit of beating people that annoyed him – particularly employers. On his AboutFace video at, Adams describes how his family begged him to get help, and says that while he was in psychiatric units on two occasions and also spent time in rehab, he always stopped treatment soon after leaving – something he now regrets. In 1994, he tried to commit suicide and eventually found the strength to stop drinking. But, his problems didn’t magically disappear when he stopped abusing alcohol. It would be almost another 11 years before Richard would seek help for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and finally get his life together.

Like so many people we hear about that suffer from PTSD, Richard is a veteran who served in Vietnam. When he returned home, he knew something was wrong but, “none of us talked about it,” he says. “We all tried to go on with our lives and some of my friends did good. Other friends of mine took their own lives . . . died of drug overdoses.”

Today, he encourages anyone who is having trouble coping, to seek help.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a devastating mental health issue that affects seven to eight percent of Americans at some point in their lives. In any given year, just over five million people in the US will suffer from PTSD.

People develop PTSD after experiencing a significant trauma, such as:

  • Rape
  • Assault
  • Military combat
  • Witnessing a death
  • Sexual abuse
  • Accident
  • Disaster, and so on.

Veterans and PTSD: numbers don’t lie

There’s no denying the relationship between military service and PTSD. Statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show that:

  • up to 20 percent of men and women who served in Iraq will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • 12 percent of Gulf War Veterans will experience PTSD.
  • an estimated 30 percent of Vietnam Vets have, had, or will have PTSD during their lifetimes.

Sadly, maybe even shockingly, combat isn’t the only connection between PTSD and the armed forces. Sexual trauma is another major cause of PTSD amongst military personnel. Sexual assault or harassment can happen during training, in peacetime, or in war, to men as well as women. In fact, according to the National Center for PTSD, “. . . over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma are men.”

Among veterans who use health care services offered by Veteran’s Affairs:

  • 23 percent of women reported being a victim of sexual assault in the military
  • 55 percent of women report that they have experienced sexual harassment
  • 38 percent of men reported that they have experienced sexual harassment

Treating addicts with PTSD requires a specific approach

Not surprisingly, PTSD is often connected to drug and alcohol abuse. Research has shown that people with PTSD are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol than others who have similar backgrounds, and people who have drinking problems are more likely to develop PTSD.

For this reason, experts advise an addiction recovery program that addresses both issues. Detox alone will not help, because all the problems that led you to drink in the first place will still be there. Even if you do manage to stay sober, PTSD will likely affect other areas of your life, making it difficult to maintain healthy relationships or even hold a job. Everyone is unique and everyone will have the best chance of success with a program that’s customized to accommodate his or her specific issues, personality and life. Fortunately, most states offer many treatment options including, therapists, self-help groups and centers for spiritual support.

Treatment programs come in many forms: there’s out-patient, in-patient, out-patient combined with residential houses and residential programs. If you’re looking for professional help for you or a loved one, you’ll find a comprehensive list of drug rehabs on our site,

To hear more of Richard’s story, and the stories of many other veterans with PTSD, visit the AboutFace website where you can view dozens of video testimonies from men and women of all ages, races and backgrounds.

Do whatever you have to do, to become the best and the strongest you possible.