this not as a committee report, but as the observations and
recommendations of an old soldier. The Spanish have an
appropriate expression: "The Devil is wise not because he is
the Devil, but because he is old."
you, am an old traveler. We learn from our experiences and
those of our extended family. I write this on a personal basis
in the hope that it will serve to ameliorate the "quiet
desperation" so many of you now
suffer. If it is of moderate help to you, it will be of
incalculable value to those veterans, who, living in moral
pain, need you.
A man alone
is keeping bad company, indeed. He or she needs you. And since
you must love your veteran, it is vital that you remember that
the cost of a thing is how much of your life you are willing
to exchange for it. This is an emotionally expensive
commitment - one which can bring great rewards for you and
your loved one.
There are two
things to know at the onset. One is that no relationship can
begin until the romance is over. The other is that no one can
get on with the future by denying the past. It is the past -
not the future - that holds the key to our greatest fears.
These two life observations become the core of the problem I
now briefly address.
earn the trust of your veteran who suffers the ravages of PTSD
and/or substance abuse, you discover one of life's best kept
secrets. We do not "find"
each other; we "invent"
one another. Betrayal is when the person we love becomes who
he or she was all along. It is maintenance, therefore, not
passion, which sustains any relationship.
chair of this committee, it is a safe bet that I know a thing
or two about PTSD/SA. It is a sure bet that you know
first-hand what some "experts" learn
only second hand. PTSD is not war specific. Spiritual abuse as
a child, rape, witnessing horrific events, divorce for
children, a damned dog bite, the national fear of terrorist
attacks, are just some of the other tragic events whether
singular in incident or sustained, which cause trauma. Trauma
is not just a bad memory. It cannot and will not be denied. It
is in us, it becomes us. It will not be ignored and refuses to
be allayed with time or distance. Unlike memory, trauma
becomes neither distorted nor attenuated.
expects you to be a therapist. But help does exist. And the
future can be bright. For instance, how many trigger
mechanisms have you identified in your veteran? Certainly, he
or she is deeply invested in avoidance and, if an alcoholic or
a substance abuser, the propensity for getting away
from him/herself in an altered state is proof of that. You
cannot be responsible for understanding situational reactivity
or re-experiencing. You cannot understand the origins of
his/her repressed rage. You must, however, understand what,
if not with whom, you are involved.