Family Recovery holds ‘Tribute to Veterans’

Charles Drewry,  a U.S. Navy veteran in recovery from alcoholism and mental illness, spoke during Friday’s Tribute to Veterans at Family Recovery Center.

Charles Drewry, a U.S. Navy veteran in recovery from alcoholism and mental illness, spoke during Friday’s Tribute to Veterans at Family Recovery Center.

LISBON  —  A U.S. Navy veteran in recovery from alcoholism and mental illness delivered a message of hope and inspiration to those gathered on Veterans Day for a “Tribute to Veterans” around the flagpole on the Family Recovery Center Campus.

Charles Drewry, of the Columbus area, served as a hospital corpsman in the 1970s, post Vietnam. He spoke of his long journey from alcoholism to sobriety, a journey which started in the eighth grade when he had his first sip of alcohol.

“It was a magical moment,” he said. “It gave me everything I was looking for and took away my fear and anxiety.”

As a teen, Charles said he believed he “didn’t fit in.” And like most substance users, Charles used alcohol to fill this void.

“That only works for a while. At some point, it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. But by that time, you have no choice in the matter, and you have to continue using to try to feel better.”

Charles suffered emotional and physical abuse from a mother whose own mental illness diagnosis came far too late – when she was in her 70s. His drug and alcohol use escalated through high school, and he found himself facing the first of four DUI charges as a sophomore in high school. After his second DUI at age 22, he was ordered to attend treatment, losing his license.

Charles said his alcohol and drug use hit a peak during his time in the military.

“I was a medic, so we had unrestricted access to narcotics,” he said. “And I used that medication to numb the feelings and stress I was having, to cope,” he said.

In the years following his return to civilian life, Charles battled dual diagnoses of alcoholism and bipolar disorder. He continued to use alcohol and progressively harder, more lethal  drugs.

After getting married, Charles said his use slowed down, because his wife delivered an ultimatum.

“I stayed dry for 15 years. Had two children. But those alcoholic behaviors were still there – the anger and discontent. And it really caused problems in my marriage.”

A devastating blow came when the company he was working for closed down and he lost his job.

“On that last day, when the doors closed, I went out with my buddies from work and drank. When I got home, my wife knew what happened.  She wanted a divorce. Things got bad pretty quickly from there.”

His drug and alcohol abuse worsened and his mental health declined following his divorce. He attempted to end his life three times. He was living in a homeless shelter when a representative from the Veterans Administration visited and asked if there were any veterans staying at the shelter.

“I raised my hand, and she said, ‘Do you want help?’ I said, ‘Yes. Please.'”

Charles spent six months in treatment through the Volunteers of America (VOA) in Columbus, which provides housing and comprehensive support services to homeless veterans. While he remained sober for a while, he relapsed several more times and found himself homeless twice more.

“At that point, I hit rock bottom. I called my case manager at the VA and told him I needed help. He came and got me, and I ended up in a VOA shelter. From there, he got me to the House of Hope in Columbus. There I learned, and accepted, at age 56, that I could not cope with life. I had to learn coping skills and a whole new way of life.”

He said the last three years of sobriety have been challenging, but the benefits of sobriety have been extremely rewarding. He lives in a recovery residence, or “sober house” with four other men in recovery in the Columbus area. He has a full time job and recently purchased a car and got his license.

“Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries,” he said. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you hold on and surround yourself with the right support.”

The event began with a flag raising ceremony conducted by the Salem AmVets Post 45, while Lisbon High School student Aliyah Leyman sang the National Anthem.  The flag that was raised was presented to Family Recovery Center by Congressman Bill Johnson.  It flew over the U.S. Capitol Building on Nov. 18, 2015.

FRC Executive Director Eloise Traina welcomed those gathered and thanked those who had contributed to the flagpole project at the corner of North Market Street and Saltwell Road.

“We are proud to be able to provide this corner so that all who pass by see our flag waving daily, whether day or night.”

She noted a plaque listing the names of all donors has been affixed on the back side of the decorative wall. James Webster of Lisbon completed the concrete walkway as an Eagle Scout project. Others who helped make the project possible include Joe Rich and USA Concrete, Maggie Guglielmo of Flags and Specialties, Michael Webster, D.W. Dickey and Son Inc., Tytaric Landscapes, Henderson Electric, Robert Flory Construction, Inner Source Inc., Egolf Maintenance, Salem Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge, Heritage Thermal Services, Lisbon Ruritan Club, Dr. Michael and Eloise Traina, David and Janice Hogue, Dr. Michael and Eloise Traina, Terry McCoy and Jennifer Thorn.

The Community Relations Board of the federal prison in Elkton provided  lap blankets for each veteran in attendance, made by residents of the federal prison in Elkton, who considered it an honor to make the blankets for those who served our country. The yarn for the blankets was donated by the Community Relations Board.

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