LOUISA, Ky. (LEX 18) — Eager to serve the country he loved, Earl Young enlisted in the army in 1994.
But when a fellow soldier convinced him to try crystal meth, it sent him into a long, difficult battle with addiction.
“I didn’t see any bad side effects to it. I was able to max out all my physical training tests and any time we were on the firing range, I scored perfectly. I was considered, you could say, like a super-soldier,” Young said.
Young struggled with addiction for 23 years. He said during his battle, he ended up homeless and in jail.
He said his lawyer, a fellow veteran, changed his life by encouraging him to seek treatment at Addiction Recovery Care.
“I told him, I want to change my life on my own terms,” Young said.
Young will celebrate his three-year recovery anniversary in January.
“I rejoice because that’s the day that I chose to do something different,” Young said. “Each day I tell myself, no matter what happens I’m not getting high today. It might happen tomorrow, but it will not happen today. But, here’s the trick: I tell myself that every day so tomorrow never comes.”
More than one in ten veterans have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One in five veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder.
Nearly 70% of veterans with a substance abuse disorder do not receive treatment, according to research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
In seeking treatment, Young changed his life and found a new purpose in helping others, especially other veterans struggling the same way he did.
Young serves as a chaplain and lead peer support specialist at one of ARC’s treatment centers.
Army veteran Matthew Bailey is one of the countless veterans Young has been able to help.
Bailey said he was injured while on a tour of duty in Iraq. He returned home and became addicted to the prescription painkillers he was given for his injury.
He was introduced to Young on Veteran’s Day last year.
“It was the first time I felt someone actually care about me. Like I actually mattered. Like I wasn’t invisible,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he agreed to go to treatment and found the strength to stay in recovery because of the support he found in people like Young.
Bailey celebrated his one-year recovery anniversary on Thursday.
“I know in the madness of addiction we think that we’re in it alone. We’re not,” Young said.
Bailey and Young said that is the biggest message they want to get across.
“You’re not in combat anymore. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to reach out and let someone else help you try to carry the load of whatever you’re dealing with,” Bailey said.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, below are some resources: