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Airman battles alcoholism, prevails

Airman 1st Class Mary Amstead, 23d Wing Judge Advocate general law paralegal, poses with an assortment of alcohol bottles, April 26, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Air Force expresses the importance of having outlets for the stressors of military life. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

Airman 1st Class Mary Amstead, 23d Wing Judge Advocate general law paralegal, poses with an assortment of alcohol bottles, April 26, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Air Force expresses the importance of having outlets for the stressors of military life. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

“I was in a ball crying and saying, ‘I need help.’ My wife didn’t know what to do. I’d already been through in-patient once, and she didn’t know how to fix me.”

After relapsing and turning back to the bottle, Staff Sgt. Jaiopalanta Jones, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment technician, later checked himself into in-patient care. This was the second time he attempted to combat the effects alcohol was having on his life.

Jones said drinking became part of his daily routine. “[Alcohol] was just a coping mechanism,” said Jones.

When it began to be a strain on his career and family, he would seek help but it never lasted. Jones said he wasn’t focused enough on why he was trying to quit drinking.

“Before, I was doing it for the wrong reasons,” said Jones. “I was doing it for everybody else. I was doing it because I didn’t want to be a bad father and husband. I didn’t do it for myself, I didn’t do it because I wanted to be better. That’s the reason I relapsed.”

The U.S. Air Force often expresses the importance of having outlets and how the stresses of military life can degrade the resiliency of members or their families.

“When you’re doing what we’re doing every day, you need an outlet,” said Jones. “You need a release.”

Team Moody and the Air Force offer an array of services to provide guidance and assistance without affecting one’s career.

“It’s not necessarily all about coming to mental health,” said Maj. Charnell Smith, 23d Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight chief. “We want people to know there’s other resources.”

Some examples she gave were Military One Source, Military Family Life Consultants and the chaplains. She went on to explain myths that surround asking for help in a tough time.

“I hear that coming to mental health ‘will kill my career,’” said Smith.  “That’s not true. Only about one percent of people who come through our doors at Moody have any career impact, and Air Force-wide is near that (percentage) too. They may get put on a profile for a short period of time, but then that comes off.”

Jones expressed that in his case things were difficult at first, but have gotten easier as time progressed.

“I’ve actually had more good things happen since I’ve finished the program,” said Jones. “I think part of that has to do with my mindset now that I’ve changed my way of thinking.

 “I finally started caring about myself, and that’s what gave me that drive,” Jones added. “I would be getting out of the military in October if I hadn’t gone through that. I care about my career now; I’m fighting for it.”

Jones suggested Airmen need to be brave enough to go against the grain and admit when they’re struggling.

“Don’t be afraid to get out there and say, ‘hey I’ve got a problem. I’ve made a mistake and I need help.’ You can’t be afraid to be honest with yourself.”

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