How one veteran discovered his path and is paying it forward to thank those who helped him find his way
2006 was a big year for Kyle C. He joined the Army, completed Satellite Communications Operator Maintainer School at Fort Gordon in Georgia, and bought a car on his own.
He also began a new daily habit in the military: drinking. “I didn’t drink in basic training, because you couldn’t. After that, there was not a day that I wasn’t drinking, and I would drink to black out on the weekends in Georgia.”
He was then stationed at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, setting up and managing tactical satellite systems to provide internet to unit hubs. The role came with top secret clearance and 16 soldiers under his command.
While on leave for Christmas, Kyle was injured in a motorcycle accident. As a result, he was unable to move forward with plans to go airborne, and he was also passed up for promotion. “After that, I was on pain killers and my drinking got heavier. I was drinking every night and coming into work smelling like booze. I would usually sober up around lunchtime.”
“I was on pain killers and my drinking got heavier. I was drinking every night and coming into work smelling like booze. I would usually sober up around lunchtime.”
Kyle spent four years in active duty, and when he returned home, he had a job lined up with Lockheed Martin, which also included top secret clearance. His life was looking up… that was until he got a DUI and totaled the car he bought at the beginning of his military career.
He lost that job because of the DUI, so he parlayed his experience into contracting work as a computer technician, and he spent evenings working as a nightclub DJ. “I would work during the day, and then Wednesday through Saturday, I would be at the clubs, partying, drinking and doing drugs.”
Life of the Party
That party life lead to a string of jobs – from a festival company that put on raves to a fashion line and festival clothing vendor – and more substance abuse. “I met a girl who smoked meth and lived in a garage with her. Then I lived in an airplane hangar that a friend paid me to clean up. I was supposed to leave and come back, but I stayed there, smoked meth and made clothes.”
In early 2018, Kyle started having health and memory issues. He couldn’t remember simple things, his vocabulary became diminished, he developed a stutter and acute dyslexia, and he was having small twitches that lead to small seizures. “I got scared, so I went to the VA in Long Beach. That’s when they told me I was at risk of developing wet brain/Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. My toxicity level was too high from years of constant drinking and drug use.”
“I got scared, so I went to the VA in Long Beach. That’s when they told me I was at risk of developing wet brain/Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. My toxicity level was too high from years of constant drinking and drug use.”
He was told he needed to change his habits or he would develop permanent brain damage. Around that same time, Kyle visited his parents for his birthday and went to a check-up at the VA. When the doctor wished him a happy belated birthday, he broke down crying, and that led to a 5150 hold and his first stay in a psychiatric ward. “After that, I went to the Veterans Village Recovery Center (VVRC), but I wasn’t taking it seriously. The whole time, I was trying to sneak drugs and alcohol, and I finally ran away.”
After he left the VVRC, he drank for two days straight and somehow drove to his parents’ house. He has no memory of it and he had a BAC of 0.28. He credits God with ensuring he drove there without hurting himself or anyone else.
After a second stay in a psychiatric ward, he was released back to the VA. That’s when he spoke with Mario, a Beacon House graduate, who told him, “I was where you were and the Beacon House helped me.” Kyle did not want to go to long-term treatment, but he said Mario, Marta and the other VA staff members encouraged him to go that route.
“I was where you were and the Beacon House helped me.”
“They told me: ‘Look at your dad. He has aged 10 years in the last 30 days.’ I saw my dad with bags under his eyes. He was tired and depressed. We went home that night, and while we were watching a movie, I heard sniffling. I looked over and my dad was crying. He looked at me and said, ‘Just please do this. I can’t lose you.’ That’s when I finally made the decision to go to Beacon House.”
Hard Work Pays Off
That’s when the real work began. “Working this program has been more difficult than basic training, hands down. In basic training, you’re just marching and taking orders, but you don’t get a lot of sleep, so you’re physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. But here, you have to be honest with others, and most importantly, yourself. Learning how to express my emotions has been the hardest thing I’ve had to learn here.”
“You have to be honest with others, and most importantly, yourself. Learning how to express my emotions has been the hardest thing I’ve had to learn here.”
Kyle moved through the Primary Program, strengthened his recovery, worked for the Thrift Shop as a driver, and developed his social skills. “The physical labor was easy, but without social lubricants – drugs and alcohol – I had a hard time interacting with people. I got better at it through the program, interacting with peers at different stages of recovery, and also as a driver helping with pick-ups and deliveries. It gave me practice talking in a professional setting, and because you’re wearing a shirt that says Beacon House on it, you know you have to carry yourself in a certain way, because you represent the house.”
Kyle also made an important discovery as he worked his way through the program. “I want to be a drug and alcohol counselor at the VA. I want to work with the people that saved my life, like Mario and Marta, and I feel I am qualified to help other hard-headed veterans like me. I want to pay it forward.”
“I want to work with the people that saved my life, like Mario and Marta, and I feel I am qualified to help other hard-headed veterans like me.”
Kyle is currently working as an intern in Beacon House’s Program Department as a Resident Counselor, where he facilitates groups and handles case work for some of the men. He is also studying to become a certified counselor with the Training Institute for Addiction Counselors. Once he completes that in the Spring, he plans to apply to a local college, so he can begin the process of earning both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work.
Preparing for His New Journey
Kyle with his dad, mom and sister
Kyle recalled an experience in the military that prepared him for this new role. “I had soldiers beneath me, and I was responsible for them. So when they had personal issues, I was there to listen to them.”
He also shared that serving as a House President while at Beacon House not only helped prepare him for his future career, but was a huge accomplishment. “I was entrusted with the welfare of the men at that house, and it was a good feeling to help them with anything and everything they needed. Guys would wake me up at midnight, their minds racing and I would help them through it, but I wouldn’t be any more tired the next day.”
Kyle has had two other huge accomplishments recently. “I have a beautiful relationship with my family today. My dad told me that the day he dropped me off was one of the hardest days he’s ever had, and now he’s happy to have his son back.”
The other accomplishment? He brought and paid for a car of his own, by himself, for the first time since 2006 (pictured above). But now, he’s much better prepared for his journey and his future with it.
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