Real stories

Jake's Story

With his treatment team, he could go beyond the surface of his addiction and address the trauma that was really bothering him.

As a police officer of 16 years, Jake had witnessed many difficult, tragic events in his career. He’d seen multiple suicides, autopsies, gun violence and child victims of horrible abuse. Over time, Jake’s trauma built up, his drinking habits worsened and the world around him began to crumble.

“Before treatment, I was miserable, broken, hopeless, toxic to other people and just an unhealthy person,” says Jake. “I had uncontrollable outbursts of anger, horrible nightmares and flashbacks. I was crying for no reason and losing weight. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what it was or how to ask for help.”

After two detoxifications at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer, Jake was ready to take professional advice by adhering to Alcoholics Anonymous guidelines and beginning residential addiction treatment at Herrington Recovery Center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. “When I relapsed, I went downhill very quickly,” he says. “It affected my work, my kids and my marriage.”

While at Herrington, Jake was able to receive dual diagnosis treatment addressing his addiction and trauma at the same time. “When I worked with my behavioral specialists, I was able to do prolonged exposure work and go deep into issues I had been suffering from for a long time.”

Since Jake had more traumatic experiences than could be addressed during his residential stay, his treatment team suggested he enroll in outpatient programming. With a Rogers’ clinic located close to home, Jake chose to continue care at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Appleton in the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) partial hospital program. “It was like a family setting,” says Jake. “The professionals were genuine, motivating and they took away any discomfort or awkwardness I felt.”

Jake began art therapy at Herrington and then continued the technique in his PTSD treatment. “I was never an artist, but the projects I made were extremely therapeutic and healing,” he says. “I still draw and paint all of the time. It’s something I can do with my kids.” Listening to music and meditating also help him stay healthy in his recovery.

For Jake, the hardest part of programming was finding the courage to open up in front of the treatment team and others in the program. “It took me a long time to accept the fact that not everyone is against me,” he says. “Believe it or not, there are people out there who want what’s best for you. At some point, you have to make that leap of faith and put it all out there.”

Besides being free from alcohol, Jake continues to use the knowledge he gained in treatment. “I’m living life,” he says. “I’m dealing with issues in a better way. I’m happier and healthier.” However, Jake acknowledges that like many mental illnesses, PTSD isn’t something that ever completely goes away.

“The triggers are there—the difference is I don’t let them control me like I used to,” he says. “I had a trigger yesterday and I was able to overcome it with breathing exercises and keeping my mind occupied in a positive way. Then I went on to make dinner and put my kids to bed.”

Jake succeeds every day with the skills he learned, but not every person with PTSD feels they can reach out for help. “The reality is, officers are committing suicide because they have untreated mental health issues and alcoholism,” he says. “Officers and others with PTSD should know they’re not weak. There’s help available if they have the courage to ask for it.”

Jake attributes his success, in large part, to the care and support he received at Rogers. “If I didn’t have my outpatient treatment in Appleton, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am,” he says.

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