Former Green Beret dedicates life to helping veterans fight addiction | Military Health

An addiction and PTSD treatment center launched a 12-step program earlier this year for military, veterans, and first responders.

Warriors Heart was co-founded in 2016 by retired Army Master Sgt. Tom Spooner, a former special forces soldier who served 21 years. Over his career, he saw several friends die by suicide or turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate the wounds and trauma of war.

After his retirement in 2011, Spooner teamed up with Lisa Lannon and her husband, Josh, to launch the first accredited treatment program in the U.S. exclusively for “warriors” faced with the self-medicating struggles of alcohol addiction, prescription and drug addiction, PTSD and mild TBI, according to a press release.

Spooner was able to self-manage an undiagnosed traumatic brain for several years before realizing he needed to get some help.

“I went from being the guy who helped people to being the guy who needed help. And that was really confusing for me. Everything I’ve done in the Army guarantee a lot of things. The two most important things they guarantee are that number one, I won’t quit, and number two, I’ll never ask for help. So, it was really messing with my mind that I needed to seek out help. For a long time, I knew I had stuff going on but my priority was war,” Spooner said.

He said he self-managed his condition for several years in part because it wasn’t affecting his job, but also because he was worried about how his need for treatment might be perceived.

The breaking point came when he realized he wasn’t the husband and father he wanted to be. Decisions to seek treatment for active-duty service members are often difficult choices to make since each command climate differs in its receptiveness to mental health-related issues, but Spooner says the military made progress.

“Where I was working, there’s a lot of TS stuff happening all the time and I wondered if I were to be honest about what was going on, if there was a chance I’d lose my job or my TS. But today’s climate is completely different than the 2010s. The military has come a long, long way in improving that stigma and backing up what they say about seeking treatment,” said Spooner.

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