My Friend, You’ve Got a Problem

Meet La Wanda, a U.S. Navy Veteran, who cares and shares with fellow Veterans as often as she can.

La Wanda’s story is not so different from many of her fellow soldiers.

“I will fully disclose anything and everything about me when it comes to helping another Veteran,” La Wanda shared with Make the Connection.

La Wanda’s Journey

La Wanda’s journey began like many of us — partying with her friends. Unfortunately, it gradually evolved into the misuse of controlled substances. Her addiction led to an other-than-honorable discharge, followed by battle after battle with an enemy more powerful than her Navy training: addiction, anger, and PTSD.

Today, following years of detox and counseling, La Wanda has her addiction in control. She now shares her story with other soldiers facing her former foe. She finds that the walls addicts usually hide behind crumble when she shares her story. Their whole demeanor changes, and they ask, “Wow! Why would a total stranger tell me that?”

La Wanda’s openness is not without expectations. She assumes those she shares with will respond just as openly with her.

She acknowledges there is little difference between the addiction of a soldier and a member of the general public. “Substance abuse is substance abuse.” However, she wants the public to understand the unimaginable experiences Veterans encounter. Simple acknowledgement by a civilian may be the catalyst to a Veteran entering and remaining in a recovery program.

Drug court teams were established to assist Veterans caught in the legal fall-out of substance use and mental health. This program offers support systems in lieu of jail time.

Giving Back

La Wanda has become more than a survivor of addiction. Her time is now divided between employment as a Veteran Resource Coordinator for the VA and her role as a mentor with the drug court team.

“The Veteran track is something that I firmly believe in because Veterans, you know, sometimes we’re prideful and we don’t want to admit that we need help. And a big thing that you have to do is you have to surrender — you have to admit you have a problem. And to surrender, for Veterans, is something we’re not going to do.”

La Wanda’s Story

It was a friend who forced La Wanda to confront her problem.

Following a day of heavy drinking, La Wanda heard the dreadful proclamation that, until she sought help for her addiction, she would no longer be welcome in her friend’s home. Simply, she told La Wanda: “You can do something about this. You know there’s help available out there, and you need to get it.”

Rejection by someone she loved became La Wanda’s breaking point. La Wanda now admits it took her friend’s actions to make her stop. She had never been confronted by anyone before. It took more than just knowing she had a problem to force her to quit.

La Wanda has now been sober for seven years. A 12-step fellowship program was the key to her success. She found she first had to change the way she thought and viewed things around her; then she had to change her lifestyle.

Recovery is hard work, and it takes a team who offer support and an honest, open-minded willingness to help others.

La Wanda now looks back and says she does not regret the difficult journey she has come through because it brought her to the place she’s in now:  open and eager to help others.

“All Veterans suffer from a disease: They think they’re alone. I need them to know they’re not alone. They’re not alone,” she says. “We let them know, ‘Hey, I did it. You can do it, too.’ So, it’s probably one of the most gratifying, fulfilling things I’ve ever done.”  La Wanda

Like La Wanda, there is help available for you. You are not alone. Reach out. Find a program near you.

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