main story image for facebook sharing

Your Career

The Final Straw

Senior Chief Gets Help through Navy's Self-Referral Program

The Keep What You've Earned campaign released its latest testimonial video, capturing the story of a Sailor whose decision to self-refer for alcohol treatment saved his career and his life.

The latest video features Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Brian Wenzel from the Marine Corps Security Force Regimen in Norfolk, Va. He shares how his struggles with alcoholism led him to seek treatment with the Navy's Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP).

For the majority of his career in the Navy, Wenzel thought heavy drinking and blacking out was the definition of a "successful night." After years of living life as an alcoholic, Wenzel finally got a wakeup call one day after seeing the disease's effect on his marriage and his family.

"The final straw was yelling at my ex-wife and seeing my daughter put her hands over her ears begging us to stop," said Wenzel. "I realized that if I kept drinking the way I was, something bad was going to happen."

In the newly released video, Wenzel explains how he was afraid that seeking treatment would get him kicked out of the Navy. In reality, he received tremendous support from his supervisors from the moment he walked into his seargent major's office and told him he needed help.

"Which one is worse? You referring yourself to get help, or you getting an alcohol incident (such as a DUI), killing somebody, or even worse, your life comes to an end," said Wenzel.

Thanks to the treatment he received through SARP, Wenzel recently celebrated his two-year anniversary of being sober. Today he has a better relationship with his kids and aspires to becoming a master chief petty officer some day. He attributes the continued success in his sobriety and keeping what he's earned to his incredible support network within the Navy and within his family.

"We work really hard for where we're at," said Wenzel. "Why would you risk losing what you have? It doesn't make any sense to me now looking back on it."

If you think you could benefit from treatment, the Navy offers a non-disciplinary self-referral process that allows you to get treatment and remain an active-duty Sailor. During 2011, 732 Sailors self-referred. In 2012, 837 Sailors sought help for alcohol abuse. Don't wait until you've hit rock bottom or are in administrative processing for separation from the Navy to get yourself help.

"We want Sailors to understand that self-referral is the best option for getting help with alcohol or substance abuse issues," said Dorice Favorite, director of the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office. "When Sailors get help via self-referral or through the help of their command, neither results in any disciplinary action. It's a sign of strength and can ultimately save a Sailor from losing their career, or worse, their life."

Wenzel's testimonial is part of the Keep What You've Earned video series. Each testimonial reminds Sailors of the importance of drinking responsibly and keeping what you've earned.

You can watch all the Keep What You've Earned videos at For more information, and to help promote responsible drinking at your command, visit

Where to Turn For Help

Recognizing that you have a problem with alcohol is the first step in recovery. Reaching out for help takes strength and courage, and it could save your health and your career. By getting help early, you can address your drinking habits before they result in serious consequences. If you think you could benefit from treatment, the Navy offers a non-disciplinary self-referral process that allows you to get treatment and remain an active-duty Sailor.

A self-referral is initiated by a Sailor who desires counseling or treatment for alcohol abuse. To qualify as a valid self-referral, there can be no credible evidence that an alcohol-related incident has already occurred. For example, you cannot initiate a self-referral after you have been cited for an alcohol-related offense to avoid disciplinary action. Additionally, a self-referral disclosure of alcohol abuse must be made to a qualified referral agent with the intent of acquiring treatment. Disclosure made to any other person who is not a qualified self-referral agent may not prevent disciplinary action.

Qualified self-referral agents include:

*Drug and Alcohol Program Advisors
*Commanding officers, XOs, OICs, or CMDCMs/Chiefs of the Boat(COB)
*Navy drug and alcohol counselors (or interns)
*Department of Defense medical personnel
*Fleet and Family Support Center counselors