Recently, a Canadian political cartoonist wrote and illustrated a book about what it means to be a Canadian and discussed this book in a radio interview.
In the course of this conversation, he told the interviewer about his Uncle Bunny. Uncle Bunny received his name from his prowess hunting small animals as a child. As an adult, he served in the Canadian military in World War II.
After leaving the service, Uncle Bunny never spoke of his time in the war and drank excessively. His nephew said that his uncle was a wonderful man whose alcoholism may have stemmed from his difficult wartime experiences and his reluctance (or inability) to talk about them. The nephew and the interviewer agreed that “everyone has an Uncle Bunny.”
This statement is striking. I had a great-uncle who everyone agreed “wasn’t quite right” when he returned from World War II, and I have friends whose fathers who have refused to discuss their time serving in Vietnam. And we’ve all heard about veterans who use alcohol or drugs to try to escape the pain of their pasts.
This is a common occurrence. But the fact that it is common means that more people are realizing the scope of the problem. There is more help available for people struggling with a dual diagnosis, which occurs when doctors diagnose a drug or alcohol problem along with a mental condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an eating disorder, anxiety, or depression.
Like other types of mental health and substance use disorder treatment, dual diagnosis treatment involves therapy. Therapy is a great way to explore our feelings and our triggers and can be helpful in improving even our basic biology, including sleep. We can determine what causes our problems so we can prevent them from ever occurring in the first place, or minimize the damage if they do occur. It can help us develop tools to cope with our pasts and our futures. Therapy can give veterans (and the rest of us) help and hope.