We have received many emails and calls asking as to what happened to the website and the support group but we felt it was important to take some time to care for ourselves, each other and our family before reconnecting to others or talking about what was almost a tragedy for our family.
In June 2011 my husband attempted suicide by taking an overdose of his PTSD prescription medications. The attempt was serious and it was either some seriously good luck or the intervention of a higher power that saved him. The reasons for the suicide attempt are probably not as important as what lead up to it and what we have learned from it. My husband spent the next few months recovering, relocating to another state with the family and in a residential PTSD treatment program. We still have a long way to go, but he has come a long way and we are very proud of him!
This incident is one of the "main" reasons we have decided to not only redo the website, but we are making some major changes in our lives and with the support group itself that would not have happened if not for the suicide attempt. Hate to say out of the bad comes some good, but everything happens for a reason I suspect.
Probably the biggest thing we have discovered in all this is that many times what you see is not actually what is and if something within you says things are not right you need to trust that inner voice. I had no idea that my husband was depressed, nor did I have a clue he was abusing his PTSD medication, in fact even taking any. He hid this and other things from not only me but others. I never saw any of this coming except that I had noticed changes that he would deny or minimize and my inner voice I did not listen to.
My husband and I both have learned about something that played a huge role in his suicide attempt called addiction, something I had no real understanding of or clue about. My husband is what is termed as a "dry drunk". I had never seen my husband drink in the 16 plus years I have known him, he mentioned he had a problem with drinking before I met him back in 1996, ( he was a binge drinker in the USMC) but what did that mean to me because I never saw him drink?
What I did not realize is that to cope with his PTSD symptoms my husband coped in unhealthy ways, with addictive behaviors being one way. Addictive behaviors that seemed minor at first but seemed to be getting worse and worse. Believe me who would ever think that behaviors, things like work, reading, exercise, the internet, eating, sex, lottery tickets, playing XBox or other things of that nature would become a huge problem for someone, especially when they are things most people do everyday without a problem? My limited understanding of addiction or addictive behaviors though was one of the reason's I did not understand this issue and how PTSD or TBI can increase the risk. Addiction was the last thing I expected, but yet I suspected it, only because I could see the excessive time spent playing the "Xbox, I could see the excessive "Reading" and even find the hidden "Lottery tickets or hidden food wrappers from late night snacking. The medications and a few other behaviors I really had no clue about because he hid them, minimized them, did not over use them, lied or explained them away, but one thing for sure.... as his addiction issues increased, so did the problems not just for us but for the family.
I think for myself what has been the most upsetting in all this is that many of the medications the VA was prescribing to my husband off and on since 2006 to treat the symptoms of his PTSD, opened the door for his addiction to rear it's ugly little head in full force but now in the form of legally prescribed drugs. Drugs like Xanax, Ambian, Kolonipin or many of the other pain type pills are VERY easy for a recovering alcoholic to become addicted to, not just physically but mentally as well. I spent weeks watching my husband recover. Initially there was the fear he was going to die and seeing him in a coma, hooked up to machines to assist him with breathing, to his coming back from the brink to come home to suffer some more was the worst thing I have ever experienced. The physical and mental withdrawals were not only horrid for him but for me to watch. He suffered from fevers, sweating, body aches, confusion, mood swings, irrational behavior and thinking on top of being massively depressed and angry, and top top it off I was a basket case myself, blamed for everything and had to take a hard look at myself and our marriage.
The suffering we both experienced as well as our children and family was not anything I would wish on anyone. I have never felt more confused, angry and betrayed in all my life as his wife. I was about to toss in the towel but one memory kept me from making a rash decision. When my husband finally came out of his coma and I saw his eyes open and they had taken the tube out I asked him if he knew who I was. The one thing he rasped at me in a tone like I was an idiot for even asking.." of course, your my wife" That one small phrase really hit me. I had already gone through so much with him I was not willing to just toss in the towel. This was my best friend, partner and someone who I would not leave behind.
So we have a lot to learn, have learned a lot and our hope is to help someone else before they get to where we have been. We are not in anyway cured, healed or fixed, but we both have plenty of hope, commitment, honesty and love and for now that is enough.
BTW, addiction does NOT ALWAYS MEAN someone is drinking or taking some type of substance, behavioral addiction is just as serious. Even if someone is taking medications they do not have to look stoned or walk around stupefied or even be taking more drugs then they need, in fact my husband was not abusing the medications but instead hiding them and sometimes taking less then the doctor stated he could. It would have been most likely a different story and outcome if he behaved like someone on the show Intervention but for us that was not the case.
His taking less then the doctor prescribed at times was how he was able to hide this from me for months besides his intercepting the mail when he re-ordered his medications either via My Healthy Vet online or via the VA telephone reorder system. His doing this made it easy for him to stock pile an excess of medication over many months making it easy for him to take aprox 150 or more of 25mg Xanax and 30 mg Cymbalta to overdose on. He was relying on them to help him cope with issues like his anger, sleep and depression and yet not doing anything else like telling his counselor he was depressed. There was no warning sign he was going to take his life, there was no note, nothing except a verbal fight between us.
The biggest signs I suppose looking back was the fact he began to isolate himself more and more and obsess on things to include the support group. His need to help others grew worse and his anger began to spiral out of control with me and the family being in the direct line of fire. It did not help that my patience was gone, I began to feel the same anger and suffered my own PTSD symptoms. My husband did not ask for help, his denial and pride was standing in the way and I had no idea what was wrong except to blame myself. Maybe I was not a good wife, I complained to much, I caused this. The reality is none of this was my fault, but boy did I sure feel like it was. The shame, guilt, sadness and anger this has brought into our lives has been tremendous. Working through this is and will be a long slow road. The biggest support our family had the last few months was AA and Al-Anon and some terrific family and friends who never judged us, only supported us and were honest enough to lead us towards a healthier path then the one we had been on. I have learned more about addiction and PTSD then I ever knew before and I am greatful to those people who stood by us and at times listened to me vent for hours.
We both now realize PTSD/TBI and addiction is a bigger problem then we both were aware of and having a better understanding of this has helped us make some major decisions and changes with not only our support group but our personal lives. Our personal experience gives us another good reason to move forward and set up shop once again but doing this with a focus and with more help and support. The need for support is great and until the VA or military changes many things within their system the need for groups like ours will continue to grow! Our hope is that the community will be more involved and support not just the troops and veterans but the families that are suffering too.