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    A New Life

    SAN DIEGO, CA, UNITED STATES

    07.28.2019

    Story by Seaman David Schwartz 

    USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)   

    The Last Straw

    As the sun beat down on his head, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Nick Broders gazed back at the coastline of Da Nang, Vietnam, from the pier. He stood on the liberty landing wearing a sweat-soaked shirt and his legs felt like noodles. Broders was experiencing the aftereffects of another party-like-there’s-no-tomorrow port visit.

    An officer approached Broders. His lips moved, but Broders couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. The officer asked him a question, over and over again … it was then that the alcohol seemed to burn through the last reservoirs of Broders's self-control.

    “I blatantly disrespected him,” said Broders, leading chief petty officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN 71) deck department’s 2nd division.

    The next thing he knew, Broders was standing before the “old man,” the commanding officer of his ship, at captain’s mast.

    Wake-up Call

    This episode in 2018 wasn’t the first time Broders’ intoxication led to out-of-control behavior. Before he joined the Navy, he was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). It happened again in 2005, during a break in his military service while working for his father’s company. Two DUIs in four years.

    After each DUI, Broders paid his fines and attended court-mandated treatments.

    “I never took it seriously,” said Broders. “I just thought, ‘Oh, this is stupid. I just got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. I never felt like I had an alcohol problem.”

    After that alcohol related incident (ARI) in Vietnam, he had a moment of clarity.

    “I was charged with four counts of violating the [Uniform Code of Military Justice],” said Broders. “As a chief, I went to non-judicial punishment (NJP) and was put on restriction. I hit the lowest point in my life.”

    Part of his punishment was to meet with his command’s Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) and participate in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program’s (SARP) after-care treatment plan.

    “I had done the SARP interviews before and when they asked, ‘Do you have an alcohol problem?’ or ‘Have you ever blacked out?’ I always denied it,” said Broders. “This time when I did my interview, I was completely honest with the interviewer and, for the first time in my life, I was honest with myself—I had an alcohol problem, and it was time to get help.”

    The Flip Side

    Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Carlos Periera is Theodore Roosevelt's DAPA. Periera’s main responsibility is to advise the commanding officer on all alcohol-related manners.

    “Before I took over, the command culture toward drugs and alcohol was very different,” said Periera. “If a department could see signs a Sailor needed help, they would want to get him or her assistance but would say, ‘We can’t send them to DAPA. We don’t want to get them in to trouble. Let’s do it in-house’.”

    After taking over the reigns as DAPA, one of the first things Periera did was alter that mindset.

    “Sailors weren’t getting the help they really needed,” said Periera. “Their chains of command were trying to do it all and were falling short. We had professionals available, and we weren’t utilizing them.” said Periera.

    Culture Shift

    In recent years, the Navy has prioritized deglamorizing alcohol use. Punishments for ARIs have become more severe, but there has also been a push to help Sailors before they find themselves in compromising situations.

    “There are no repercussions for Sailors who decide to self-refer to DAPA,” said Periera. “All they have to do is come in, sit down, and ask for help. Even if Sailors are underage, if there is no evidence of an incident, they can self-refer with no disciplinary consequences.”

    Rehab

    During 35 days of inpatient rehabilitation at Navy Submarine Base Point Loma, Broders began to understand the role alcohol was playing in his life.

    “It was a life-changing experience,” said Broders. “It humbled and refocused me, not only as a Sailor but as a man. It allowed me the opportunity to self-reflect and decide what I needed to do to better myself.”

    It was during his time in Point Loma that Broders realized alcohol, regardless of his previous beliefs, did not have a justifiable place in his life.

    “I can go months without drinking, but when I do drink I have no self-control,” said Broders. “When I go out and drink socially, there’s no limit. That’s when I spiral out of control and make terrible decisions. Realizing that was the first step in my recovery.”

    Broders believes it is important for Sailors to understand there is a false stigma attached to people who have alcohol problems. It does not mean they are dependent upon alcohol to function. Drinking to excess, blacking out, or making poor decisions are all characteristics of an individual having an alcohol-related problem.

    A Different Way of Life

    The Navy has a storied history with drinking. Sailors across the fleet have sung Anchor’s Away in boot camp and have belted out the lyrics, “Drink to the foam!” The Navy, DAPA included, is trying to move away from the “drunken Sailor” mindset and provide a ship’s crew with alternatives to alcohol consumption while in port.

    “I think our command does a tremendous job of offering activities to Sailors which don’t involve drinking,” said Broders. “I am disappointed I missed so many things, like trips in Jordan, Australia, Thailand, and Hong Kong because I only wanted to drink. The trips I have taken after I addressed my drinking problem were some of the best experiences of my entire career.”

    When Sailors feel they have a drinking problem, Broders stressed the responsibility for chains of command to create an environment of open discussion.

    “I think the best thing a chain of command can do is to genuinely know their people and care about their interests outside of work,” said Broders. “I want everyone in my division to be able to come to me and ask for help. We have to be able to ‘turn our collars in’ and talk to each other as humans so we can provide Sailors the help they need.”

    An Open Door

    In the past twelve months, there has been a 78-percent increase in self-referrals. In that same time span, there has been 35 documented ARIs at the command. DAPA’s goal is to actively play a role in decreasing ARIs.

    “If I can get in with the junior Sailors at meetings like [Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions] and Real-Life Connected, and put that message out, then maybe when these junior Sailors are putting it out to their peers, it will have more of an appeal compared to when a crusty chief says it,” said Periera.

    Periera is in his office every day, sometimes until midnight. His door is always open to Sailors seeking help.

    “I’m here and most Sailors know who I am,” said Periera. “I’m approachable. Any Sailor can come to my office and talk about anything. I will answer any questions they have at any time.”

    Broders emphasized the importance that no one is alone. The issues Sailors face don’t have to be burdens they carry by themselves.

    “I hope others hear my story and think, ‘That chief has been to mast twice and has three DUIs and an ARI, but he’s still here trucking?’” said Broders. “I’ve made mistakes and I’m not ashamed to tell you I’ve made terrible decisions, but I have also succeeded. Everyone else who is struggling can too. You just have to be willing to ask for help.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.28.2019
    Date Posted: 10.18.2019 11:20
    Story ID: 348214
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 39
    Downloads: 0
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