When Coast Guard Petty Officer Patrick Kelley met Director Michael Botticelli last November on a flight to Panama for an Interdiction Committee meeting, they instantly bonded over their similar past: Both men are in long-term recovery from alcohol use disorders. For Kelley, Botticelli’s journey from alcoholic to 26-years-sober Director of National Drug Control Policy was inspiring – so much so that he decided to share his own recovery story with the Office of National Drug Policy.
Two years ago, Kelley was in a dark place. His marriage was failing, and he found himself routinely drinking to excess, alone. He was hesitant to admit his alcohol problem to his Coast Guard colleagues because he worried that admitting he had an alcohol use disorder would damage his reputation or force him out of his job.
After his decade-long struggle with alcohol culminated in one awful night, Kelley finally opened up about his substance use disorder and sought help within the Coast Guard community. He was amazed by the response: His friends and peers rallied around him and helped him into treatment. His biggest fear had been getting kicked out of the Coast Guard, but the opposite happened. He found that the Coast Guard has a compassionate, evidence-based response to service members in need of treatment for substance use disorders.
In November 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters established a 12-step support group that helps ensure that service men and women struggling with substance use disorders don’t have to feel isolated when seeking treatment.
Director Botticelli sat down in March with Rear Admiral Maura Dollymore, the Coast Guard’s Director of Health, Safety and Work-Life, and other senior staff for a Coast Guard Prevention and Treatment roundtable discussion. At the meeting, Coast Guard leadership talked about the newly formed support group that helps service members like Kelley through treatment, and Director Botticelli offered his support for the Coast Guard’s prevention and treatment initiatives.
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