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More to Learn about the Harmful Effects of Alcohol Abuse

By , May 9, 2014 3:29 pm

May is Mental Health Month. In light of that fact, I’m posting a book review I’ve written on a booklet that is very eye-opening about the damaging effects of alcohol abuse. Let’s face it, the problem is all too common and often affects combat vets and their families.

I’ve written before of how much Toby Rice Drews, a well-respected alcoholism expert, has personally helped and enlightened me with her many books on the subject.

It continues to amaze me that most physicians continue to miss the many signs of alcoholism. That’s why it is so important to become educated on the signs and symptoms of this insidious and devastating disease. Most of us will know, and/or care about an alcoholic, sometime in our lives.

The 350 Secondary Diseases/Disorders to Alcoholism-

by Toby Rice Drews  (paperback booklet)

I’ve read most all of Toby Rice Drews books and think she is one of the most knowledgeable alcoholism experts around today.

This booklet provides vital information on the numerous diseases associated with alcoholism, and is part of Drew’s best-selling “Getting Them Sober” series of helpful, practical books that help advise families of alcoholics as well as professionals concerned with the disease of alcoholism.

In the Introduction, written by LeClair Bissell, M.D., it’s noted “When doctor and patient are working together to discover the cause of an illness, both often fail to consider that alcohol may be a major contributor.”

Unfortunately, medical schools are not preparing their students to look for the subtle signs of an early drinking problem.

Bissell warns “Since we can’t trust the professional to be well-informed, it may be left to the patient and the concerned family to question whether or not a problem exists in its own right or whether alcohol is at the root of it.”

Here are some of the listings of diseases/disorders associated with alcoholism:

• Chronic Neuropsychiatric Disorders
• Brain problems resulting from diseased liver function
• Myopathic Disorders (muscle abnormality)
• Liver and Pancreatic Disorders
• Gastrointestinal Disorders
• Respiratory System Disorders

Also noted are the many Psychiatric Disorders associated with alcoholism, such as:

• Depression
• Denial
• Anger
• Guilt
• Shame
• Sociopathy

All of the categories included have listings of the many symptoms that are indicative of said disorder. Continue reading 'More to Learn about the Harmful Effects of Alcohol Abuse'»

Mind Your Health- It’s Mental Health Awareness Month

By , May 2, 2014 2:43 pm

For 65 years, Mental Health America and their affiliates across the country have led the observance of “May is Mental Health Month” by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings.

The 2014 May is Mental Health Month theme is “Mind Your Health.” Their goals are to build public recognition about the importance of mental health to overall health and wellness; inform people of the ways that the mind and body interact with each other; and provide tips and tools for taking positive actions to protect mental health and promote whole health.

Taking a screening test is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

Here are some unsettling facts:

  • 1 in 5 American adults will have a mental health condition in any given year.
  • Only 41 percent of them will receive services.
  • About 10 percent of the American adult population will have a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar.
  • 18 percent have an anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here is more info from their website:

Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. And recovery is possible. But not all of us think about our mental health enough.

If you’ve had trouble sleeping lately, if you’ve been experiencing racing thoughts, or if you’re just curious – the screens offered can help you understand more about your mental health. Take all four and discuss the results with a provider.

To take a free screening test for Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, go to:






Another Great Book for Loved Ones of Alcoholics

By , April 18, 2014 3:01 pm

I like to share the works of experts in their field. In light of April as Alcohol Awareness Month, I’m continuing to post about this subject that affects so many millions of us, and too often our combat vets. This book is a must read for the loved ones of alcoholics in order to better understand their bizarre behavior, and its negative effects on loved ones.


Getting Them Sober- Volume 4 Separations and Healings

– Toby Rice Drews, Recovery Communications,  Inc.


I’m so grateful to have found the education about alcoholism that Toby Rice Drews provides. This book continues her excellent “Getting Them Sober” series.

In the Introduction, Drews writes:

 “If we’re in a relationship with an alcoholic, we think about leaving—for an hour, for a day, or forever. When we do think about leaving, our decision-making powers get “muddied up” by other issues. For instance, we spend hours wondering ‘if we did enough,’ or ‘if we hadn’t done such and such, would it be different?’ We spend even more time obsessing about what they’re doing and how to stop them. Not that it isn’t human to do this, but the problem is, we can’t stop ourselves from obsessing—even when we want to.”

Anyone who has loved an alcoholic can relate to this devastating dilemma. Drews has a name for living with chemical insanity. It’s called “crazymaking.” In other words, if you’re a normal person, living with alcoholism can make you “crazy.” This book explains: Continue reading 'Another Great Book for Loved Ones of Alcoholics'»

April is Alcohol Awareness Month- Myths and Realities of Alcoholism

By , April 11, 2014 10:47 am

It’s a sad, but well-known fact, that many combat veterans abuse alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate their PTSD. Today I’m reposting an article about alcoholism, in hopes that it will help educate my readers:


I believe it’s safe to say—all of us know an alcoholic. They may be a “hidden” alcoholic, while others are obvious. Doug Thorburn, an expert on alcoholism and addiction, has written an eye-opening book titled Alcoholism-Myths and Realities—Removing the Stigma of Society’s Most Destructive Disease.

I’ve mentioned here before that I am a huge fan of Thorburn’s work. I often revisit his books and gain new insights. In Chapter 1, he writes:

Alcoholism is the most misunderstood of all diseases. This is rather surprising, since 1 out of 10 people has this disease and we are all directly or indirectly affected. Yet the doctors and psychologists whom we trust to treat diseases and mental disorders are almost completely untrained in understanding and diagnosing the affliction.

Thorburn also notes that psychologists are schooled in the idea that childhood trauma and other negative environmental factors can cause alcoholism even though the evidence shows that such influences only shape its course.

Facts about alcoholism:

  • Secondary diseases are usually diagnosed long before alcoholism is identified, even though the latter is the root cause and primary contributing factor to at least 300 other illnesses and other disorders.
  • Emergency room medical personnel treat symptoms of addiction, including accidents, in an estimated 50 to 80% of admissions, yet rarely test for alcohol or other drugs in the system.
  • Most people balk at calling someone an alcoholic even if some of their behaviors are bizarre or destructive.
  • Epilepsy, diabetes, leprosy, tuberculosis and other diseases were attributed in past centuries to character defects such as a lack of morals or witchcraft until their true causes were identified.
  • Over one hundred years after the stigma of the last of these diseases was largely removed, those labeled as alcoholics continue to suffer disgrace.
  • Almost all with addicted family members in rehab, are ashamed. Continue reading 'April is Alcohol Awareness Month- Myths and Realities of Alcoholism'»

Some Surprising Facts and Help for Suicidal Combat Vets

By , April 4, 2014 5:33 pm

I’ve just spent well over an hour visiting the AmVets website, and reading their terrific magazine “American Veteran.”

There is an article in the Fall 2013 edition, spotlighting Tom Donwen, who is Chairman of the Suicide Prevention Committee. Donwen served in the United States Navy from 1957 to 1960 as an Air Traffic Control Operator. He was stationed and served in Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands for one year and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.

Donwen joined AMVETS in 2007, because he was retired and wanted to do more than “play golf.” He had several friends who were already members of AMVETS and he’d always had a soft spot for veterans, especially for Vietnam veterans, given the treatment they received coming home.

Donwen holds several titles within the AMVETS organization, but decided to focus primarily on the prevention of veteran suicide.

“We’re losing 22 veterans a day to suicide. In my time in AMVETS, I have talked with hundreds of vets who have no idea help is available.”

He also notes that:

“Around 70 percent of veterans committing suicide are of between the ages of 50-59. I believe they have been dealing with their demons for such a long time and they get tired of having to cope with that. They just can’t handle it anymore. We lost 54,000 veterans in Vietnam and since then over 85,000 have died from suicide. It’s an absolute disgrace!”

He has worked tirelessly to spread the message throughout the veterans community about the assistance available for the men and women who are having a hard time. He uses materials from the Department of Veterans Affairs and bracelets or brochures he and his team have made to spread the message.

The program was started in 2010 and was named Operation Save Just One. Since then there is over 10,000 California AMVETS working together to hand out materials and speak with veterans to let them know they are not alone. Continue reading 'Some Surprising Facts and Help for Suicidal Combat Vets'»

A Great Book to Help Us Make Sense of Suffering and Traumatic Events

By , March 21, 2014 2:46 pm

I like to post reviews of books that have helped me along on my healing journey, living with PTSD. Years ago, someone recommended the book “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood. At the time, I was going through a horrendously difficult time in my personal life. I learned so much from that book. It was, as they say, “a lifesaver.”

Much later, I was drawn to her follow-up book “Letters from Women Who Love Too Much” which opened my eyes even further and saved me from making a huge mistake that would have had life-threatening ramifications. Her last book is for those of us who are asking the deep questions, such as why is there so much suffering in the world and what are we to make of it? I believe it may be especially meaningful for combat vet spouses who are searching for comfort and understanding.


Why Me, Why This, Why Now: A Guide to Answering Life’s Toughest Questions

I’ve been a big fan of Robin Norwood’s work ever since I first read her classic work “Women Who Love Too Much.” That book was instrumental in bringing the topic of relationship addiction into the mainstream.

Her work has been vital to my own healing from dysfunctional relationships. Norwood has been a marriage, family and child therapist, who specialized in the treatment of chemical dependency and codependency.

Her success after her publication of “Women Who Love Too Much” was followed by a series of traumas. She experienced a divorce and a life-threatening illness. While convalescing, Norwood entered into seven years of isolation and reflection. That period of her life gave birth to this book.

She began to read books on astrology, palmistry, tarot, healing and reincarnation. She notes she was finally exploring in earnest what she’d always believed to be the correct focus of psychology: the study (-ology) of the soul (psyche.)

Gradually, her worldview shifted. As she continued to study, she began to realize that our life on earth is about learning, evolving and growing spiritually through our experiences. Continue reading 'A Great Book to Help Us Make Sense of Suffering and Traumatic Events'»

Here’s Another Great Website for Help with Alcohol/Drug Issues

By , March 14, 2014 4:20 pm

In my post of February 28th,  I addressed the “survival roles” that develop when someone in the family becomes addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. We know that too many combat vets self-medicate with substances, some legal and others illegal. The effects on family members can be insidious and devastating. Knowledge is vital when dealing with these situations. 

As noted expert Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse notes, “no one escapes from a chemically dependent family.” I’ve come across an excellent website where you can find numerous articles on this complex subject. Peggy Ferguson, Ph.D. is a licensed Alcohol/Drug Counselor. She has over thirty years experience in chemical dependency and family counseling, and is currently in private practice.

I’m very impressed with the amount of valuable information she provides on her website.

Some of the articles focus on:

  • Marriage
  • Family Dynamics of Addiction
  • Recovery
  • Addiction Recovery
  • Relationships in Recovery
  • Divorce

 To learn more, go to:










Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center- A Place for Returning Veterans to Find Help

By , March 7, 2014 4:27 pm

I’ve just learned of another great place for veterans to find support and assistance. The Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center has been ranked among the 100 top sites for military and veterans assistance by Military Online Colleges.

Based in Little River, South Carolina, the center is a non-profit organization. The center is not affiliated with any government agency, including the Veterans Administration.

The center was established for the sole purpose of providing veterans with much needed assistance in learning about and applying for benefits due to each individual veteran.

The center was founded by veterans and others who support veterans and their rights. The center staff is currently an all-volunteer group (no staff receive any money for any reason).

The board and staff invite all veterans and any other interested parties to stop by and visit the center. Staff will be available to provide information and answer questions regarding the center’s work.

Their phone number is 843-427-4568. Visit their website at:


Understanding Family Roles within a Chemically Dependent or High-Stress Family

By , February 28, 2014 5:04 pm

While sorting papers in my office recently, I came across an excellent pamphlet titled “The Family Trap” by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, an esteemed family therapist and author. She is an expert in understanding the patterns of behavior in the family of a chemically (or otherwise disordered) family member.

Finding it, I had a rush of emotion and was taken back to an important event in my life. I had been in counseling after my divorce from my combat vet. My therapist mentioned an upcoming weekend seminar that focused on grief, codependency, and the effects of living in a “high stress” environment.

The seminar was led by two therapists and was held in a small building that was called “The House of Hope.” It was certainly an apt name for the attendees, as I soon learned that the thirty-so people enrolled there (and myself!) needed hope so desperately. At the beginning of the seminar, we were each given a copy of “The Family Trap.”

It seemed we all could have been classified as “the walking wounded” as stories emerged of family trauma. There were those in the midst of divorce, those battling various addictions (and those who loved them,) those suffering depression, victims of sexual abuse, etc. etc. I’d say PTSD ran pretty rampant in that room.

We broke into small groups where we could share individually. One lovely young woman cried as she spoke of her heartache. Seems her father had been sober for twelve years and had fallen off the wagon. She was grieving the loss of the wonderful father she knew, as he descended once again, into chemical insanity.

The author of “The Family Trap” writes in the foreword: “This booklet was designed with three goals in mind:”

  • To recognize the primary nature of the disease of chemical dependency.
  • To recognize the family dynamics contributing to, contained within, and affected by the progressive nature of the disease.
  • To understand what is needed for recovery of the chemically dependent family.

Cruse writes that chemical dependency is a family disease and a primary disease within each family member. Continue reading 'Understanding Family Roles within a Chemically Dependent or High-Stress Family'»

Check Out This Excellent Book on Drinking and Drug Abuse–by Dr. Joseph A. Pursch

By , February 8, 2014 4:06 pm

There are a number of studies that have found a connection between having PTSD and the use of alcohol in order to self-medicate distressing thoughts or feelings related to traumatic experiences.

While self-medicating with alcohol may be common, it too often brings more problems that it solves. Fortunately, we are living in times where there are great amounts of information available to us, on the insidious effects of the abuse of mind-altering chemicals.

Years ago, I became familiar with the work of Dr. Joseph A. Pursch, M.D. Back in 1968, Dr. Pursch was a luncheon speaker at an overseas officer’s club. He was booked as the Navy’s medical expert on drug abuse. His topic was “Drug Abuse Among Young Soldiers.”

Dr. Pursch found that while he was “enlightening” his audience about young soldiers getting high on marijuana and LSD, the officers themselves were getting loaded on booze. Pursch had a sudden realization. The youngsters were on pot and pills, and their bosses were on booze and beer!

Pursch notes that from that day on it was easy for him to see “the big chemical picture.” This well-known and respected psychiatrist is now one of the most notable addiction specialists around.

His book “Dear Doc” has helped me immensely and I’m posting a review here in order to sing his praises and share his knowledge. It’s a classic and phenomenal work on alcoholism and drug abuse.

Dear Doc…The Noted Authority answers your questions on drinking and drugs

—Dr. Joseph Pursch

This book is an absolute must for anyone needing to understand the complexities of alcoholism. Dr. Joseph A. Pursch, a psychiatrist, is a nationally recognized leader in the field of alcohol and drug abuse.

He has treated many well-known figures such as Betty Ford, Billy Carter, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and thousands of others, both famous and not-so-famous. Dr. Pursch also has achieved an impressive military career, serving as a Navy flight surgeon, as well as becoming the director of the Alcohol Rehabilitation Service at the Navy’s Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

The question and answer format of the book is very effective in helping educate the reader on the many aspects of the disease and how it affects family members, as well as those who come in contact with people suffering from addiction to booze or other chemicals.

In the Introduction, Pursch writes, “What’s a nice person like you doing with a book like this? Chances are you don’t have an alcohol or drug problem yourself, but you know somebody who does. You probably want to learn more about it, or maybe even do something about it.”

This book answers the question “When does “normal” use end and alcohol and drug abuse begin? On p. 10, the author observes our American way of drinking:

 “We drink when we hear good news, when we hear bad news, when we go off to war, to celebrate peace, to commemorate a birth or mourn a death. We drink at birthdays, reunions, Christmas, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve. Drinking goes with courting (“Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker,” said Ogden Nash), with engagements, marriages, anniversaries, and nowadays, even with divorces.”

While the problem is pervasive, Dr. Pursch offers hope and encouragement that with the proper help, recovery is possible . Continue reading 'Check Out This Excellent Book on Drinking and Drug Abuse–by Dr. Joseph A. Pursch'»

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