Veteran’s Treatment Opens Up “Whole New Life”
October 18, 2023 | 4-minute read
At age 71, Bill returned to share how he has sustained his turnaround — and how much of a difference it has made in his life, including in his relationships with his three children. Bill’s experience demonstrates that it’s never too late to seek help, set a new course and reap the rewards.
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“I’ve learned to handle a lot of things better than I used to,” Bill says in his second interview. “I used to have some serious anger issues. Not that they don’t still exist, but I handle them differently now.” He says he has trained himself to wait a second before he reacts and to calm his instinct to react as if he’s at war.
As an infantry Soldier in the U.S. Army, Bill served on the frontlines in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971 with the 1st Cavalry Division. “My job was to be out front shooting people,” Bill says. “It was rough. You did whatever you had to do to cope with whatever it is that you need to deal with every day, day in and day out.”
Bill tried to manage his emotions by smoking, drinking heavily and working exceptionally long hours — which damaged his relationships with his wife and children. A newly developed quickness to anger became one of his biggest challenges: It was difficult for him to control his reactions, which cost him job after job.
It took Bill about 25 years to accept that he couldn’t manage his emotions on his own. Then, one day, he reacted to an incident in a manner that he considered homicidal. Shaken, he went to the Denver Vet Center for help.
He describes his first meeting there as a turning point. He talked with the counselor for five hours and finally opened up about his experiences in Vietnam. He started meeting with her every week. She also referred him to a psychiatrist and, eventually, to a seven-week, in-hospital posttraumatic stress disorder clinic.
“It just brought my whole world together,” Bill says, describing the seven-week clinic in his first interview. “Knowing that there was so many other guys there that were the same was the biggest thing that there was. Because now you know you’re not the only one.”
Today, Bill finds peace in activities that connect him with nature and clear his mind, like fishing and taking daily walks with his dog. He also sees a psychologist once a month and a psychiatrist every three months. He says speaking with them helps him stay on the right track.
“You are able to say things to them that you don’t say to anybody, ever,” Bill explains. “It’s just, getting that stuff out helps.
“All those times that I’ve spent with them have helped me make peace with just about everybody and everything,” he continues. “You don’t realize it’s going to help you, but it does, so it was a whole new life for me.”
That new life included reestablishing good relationships with his children and helping to put them all through college. At the time of his second interview, he was planning a cruise with his children and grandchildren.
“That should be fun,” Bill says.