The holiday season is often a joyous occasion filled with family and friends, but many Sailors face problems during the holiday season like excessive drinking and depression.
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) have a number of options available to them to receive help during this season or any time of the year. Alcohol treatment programs are one of these.
“There are many resources Sailors have at their disposal, such as the Fleet and Family Support Center or the continuing aftercare program held onboard, which teaches healthy ways to cope with Alcoholism,” said Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric Powell, Nimitz’ Command Drug and Alcohol Prevention Advisor. “The last thing we want is a Sailor suffering in silence.”
Sometimes, Sailors may either ignore the support offered to them or aren’t aware of it. Additionally, many major incidences that occur during the holiday season are alcohol-related incidences (ARI), specifically unauthorized absences (UA) and DUIs.
“Sailors get in more trouble during the holidays than any other time of the year,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Kenneth Fortune. “It’s especially common for junior Sailors where it’s their first Christmas away from home.”
Fortune said people often consume alcohol to cope with being away from home during the holidays, which may lead to getting behind the wheel drunk, or not showing up for work on time.
One of the biggest ways to avoid a DUI is to leave your car behind if you decide to go out and have a few drinks.
If a Sailor does decide to go out drinking and needs a ride home, there are many other options available besides getting behind the wheel.
“There will always be a friend or somebody in your chain of command who can pick you up if you’ve been drinking,” said Fortune.
Some Sailors may not feel like they can rely on their chain of command for help in a situation like that, but it’s their job to help.
“It’s important for a Sailor to know where to go for help and to feel comfortable enough to reach out,” said Powell. “Whether it’s your chain of command, a chaplain, or Dr. Denise Miller, Nimitz’ resiliency counselor, there are a lot of people who are willing to listen.”
According to Legalman 1st Class Wilma Galido, from Nimitz’ Legal Department, Sailors can always call Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD), who offer Arrive Alive cards, and pick Sailors up with no questions asked. There are also taxi services available that will pick someone up. It might cost a little money but it’s much cheaper than a DUI.
According to the Seattle Post, in the state of Washington, the average cab fee is $2.70 per mile, and the average DUI fee is $2,334. Not to mention $2,000 in court fees, and the penalties that come with a DUI through both the military and civilian courts.
ARIs are also a big problem for Sailors during the holidays, and they’re not the only problem a Sailor can experience. Depression is another issue that increases in numbers during the holidays.
“As most people know, alcohol is a depressant, and as ARIs increase, so do the depression cases,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Gregory Tramble, the behavioral health technician aboard Nimitz. “We all come from different walks of life, and the holidays don’t always mean the same thing for everyone. Some of us celebrate, but some of us don’t. On top of that, people don’t always get to go home for the holidays, so the ones who don’t may feel lonely.”
If a Sailor is feeling lonesome or depressed, there are ways to get help, such as going to medical and talking to a medical professional or to a chaplain. There are even ways to help prevent depression in the first place, like finding a hobby or hanging out with friends.
“Preventing depression is always the key,” said Tramble. “My biggest suggestion is to stay close to the friends you do have, even if it’s just communicating through social media. Hang out with people you work with and their friends. Find a hobby or sport that you like and befriend people with that similar hobby. Making friends and celebrating with those friends is what gets people through the holiday season.”
If you or someone you know may be struggling with alcoholism or depression, you can reach the Chaplain at 476-2183, the resiliency counselor at 854-0638 or visit Medical. You can also contact CSADD at (360) 340-2906 or contact Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647.
Story by MC3 Chad Anderson