‘I was fighting a battle I didn’t know I was fighting’: Army veteran finds recovery from substance use disorder, now helps others impacted by addiction
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Today, Kevin Schmidt, a Louisville native and Bardstown resident, serves as West Region Chief Operating Officer for Addiction Recovery Care, Kentucky’s largest provider of addiction treatment and recovery services.
As a teenager unknowingly struggling with substance use while enlisted in the Army, he couldn’t have ever imagine that’s what his future would hold.
“I grew up knowing the value of service,” Kevin said. I always wanted to be a soldier.
However, Kevin also wanted to fit in with the other kids in the neighborhood and that led him down a dangerous path. He began using drugs and alcohol and things spiraled.
Despite a drug-related arrest on his record, Kevin was able to enlist in the military after he graduated. It was an opportunity for him to get away from his problems. That’s what he and his parents thought.
In many ways, however, that choice amplified the challenges he was trying to escape.
Kevin was stationed in a base in Oklahoma after he completed his training.
“Taking me from Kentucky to Oklahoma didn’t really do anything,” he said. “In fact, it only introduced me to new drugs and new criminal behavior, even with a uniform on.”
During that time, Kevin was drinking a lot and was caught with alcohol in the barracks multiple times.
“I thought I was just having a good time doing drugs and drinking,” he said. “I didn’t know that I was suffering from a substance use disorder.”
When Kevin came home for a visit, the military police raided the barracks and found drug paraphernalia. Kevin knew they would be waiting for him when he came back, but still returned to face the consequences.
The military gave him the choice to stay or go and Kevin chose to leave with an honorable discharge.
“My leadership really went to bat for me,” he said. “They wanted to work with my, but I just continued doing what I knew.”
That’s when Kevin decided to go to treatment to get sober.
“I’m proud of my service,” Kevin said. “I did the best I could while fighting a battle that I didn’t know I was fighting; that I didn’t know I could beat. It was a point of shame for me for a long time but through my recovery journey, I’ve been able to make peace with what happened.”
In 2020, 26.2% of veterans had a mental illness or substance use disorder. Among veterans with substance use disorder, approximately four in 10 struggle with illicit drugs and seven in 10 struggle with alcohol use. One in eight struggle with both drugs and alcohol.
Kevin said that when it comes to helping veterans battling substance use, hearing from another veteran can make a big difference.
“They know you’ve experienced what they’re experiencing and they tend to listen more,” he said. “It’s important veterans get the help they need.”
Now in his role with Addiction Recovery Care, he is able to give back and serve others who are struggling with drugs and alcohol.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you can visit here or call 888-351-1761.
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