CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune (NHCL) added a twist to the command substance abuse awareness and prevention training with a dramatic reading from Outside the Wire's "Rum and Vodka" on the hospital quarterdeck, June 12.
The reading served as a catalyst for a discussion about substance abuse, alcoholism, stigma and how substance abuse affects lives, careers and relationships.
The program was co-sponsored by Headquarters Marine Corps Safety Division and Marine Corps Community Services Marine and Family Programs Division and hosted by the naval hospital. The command's Pastoral Care Department brought the program to NHCL to supplement the Navy and command's training programs on substance abuse.
"The playwright wrote this during a period in his life where he frequently drank alcohol in excess," said Bryan Doerries, artistic director and co-founder of Outside the Wire. "We came to you, not to tell you we are like Navy Sailors, but to perform a play and distance ourselves from you and to engage in dialogue with you."
Actor Brendan Griffin read an excerpt from the one-man play, depicting a dramatic, fictional confession of a 24-year old who on a three-day drinking binge loses his job, cheats on his wife and nearly destroys his family. By drinking, the character believes he can cope with his anger, shame and disappointment with a life he feels he did not choose for himself. The reading ended on a dramatic note by the character exclaiming he can no longer bare it, intentionally leaving the ending open to interpretation.
Shortly after, the artistic director escorted two Sailors on the stage who shared their personal interactions with substance abuse and how it affected their lives. Both talked about how they overcame the challenges and moved forward with successful careers in the Navy. The artistic director then facilitated a dialogue between members of the audience and the panel.
"In a health-care facility that cares for Marines and Sailors, there are many who are diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI)," said Cmdr. Julie Green (Dr.), directorate of surgical services after the director asked for feedback about why people drink. "Sometimes they choose to drink to get the calming or relaxing effect which helps mitigate their TBI symptoms. It is our responsibility as health-care workers to recognize if or when that happens and get them help."
Doerries noted how the playwright's drinking continued for 17 years and led to eventual organ failure, what he called gradual suicide.
"Which leads me to my toughest question," said Doerries. "What would you do if you knew someone who didn't recognize they may have a problem? Or who was afraid to ask for help? How would you help them?"
According to the command master chief, in keeping with the Navy's Keep What You've Earned campaign against substance abuse and the Navy's ship, shipmate, self-culture, one of the first steps in getting help or helping others starts with the Sailors themselves.
"If you see a shipmate who normally performs at a certain level or when you ask him or her how the day is going and you notice that they don't respond how they typically would, ask them, 'Hey shipmate, are you OK?,'" said Command Master Chief Edward Moreno. "A lot of Sailors have trouble asking for help when they need it. It's up to us to take care of one another and look out for each other."
The command intends to continue reaching out to Sailors, staff and patients to lessen the stigma surrounding asking for help and to increase the education about substance abuse and the resources offered by the command.
"The feedback on the program was fantastic. Watching how engaged the Sailors were and hearing how they trusted each other enough to open up to the audience and share such personal stories was touching," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Rumery, NHCL's staff chaplain. "It was clear that in some way, substance abuse affects most people directly or indirectly, and that we are all willing to help each other and make sure our lives, our careers stay on a positive track."
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