Jacksonville Counselor and Veteran Wants Vets to Know They are Not Alone

By Jeremy Coumbes on November 11, 2021 at 10:01am

As Veterans Day ceremonies are set to get underway soon, one area Vet is working to aid those who continue to struggle with substance abuse.

Martin Stauffer is a veteran who is now a counselor at the Gateway Foundation in Jacksonville who says he has fought enemies both from outside and within himself and wants any Vet who is struggling to know they are not alone.

Stauffer says his battle with substance abuse started when he was young, and that he first enjoyed substance abuse because of the escape it provided him from himself.

Stauffer says though that as many later discover, the escape was actually running from an unresolved trauma. He says unresolved trauma is a common factor found at the root of substance abuse cases.

Stauffer says the recovery process can be different for Veterans as they have to first overcome the warrior mentality they gained while serving in the military.

Veterans typically enter the service at a vulnerable age, to begin with, and they are away from home and their support network. Some of course are in combat situations. In the military, we have to develop this kind of warrior mentality to be tough and to push forward, and there’s a reason for that. You know we want our soldiers to go into some of those bad situations and not stop and talk about how they feel.

So we get used to suppressing our emotions, we don’t really share a lot amongst each other with that. Our veterans come home and they are in that habit of suppressing and not talking about things and that really escalates for a lot of veterans once they come home that they are more alone or feel more alone. A lot of veterans tell me they feel like no one would understand except for maybe another veteran so they have a hard time reaching out to get the help they need quite often.”

Stauffer says the longer Veterans like himself go without accepting help, the longer the disease of addiction as a way to cope is allowed to progress. He says today, he has a different view of the warrior mentality that he did back when he served.

We are trained to adapt and overcome, that’s the core of our training. So we get stuck in this place where we cannot figure out how to adapt and overcome the situation like we are spinning our wheels, and it does continue to get worse. So today being a warrior to me means reaching out and accepting the help that’s offered and picking up the pieces and moving forward with my life.

And then reaching back and grabbing the other veteran behind me and pulling him up like we used to do, and that’s what it’s all about today. I think the quicker someone can reach out and take care of this the better. Because we have a lot of veterans that get stuck in that place and get to point they just want to give up.”

Stauffer says there are a lot of support groups available for Veterans, and one of the best things to do is to reach out to another Vet.

There are support groups for trauma support, there are substance use support groups out there, there are faith-based support groups out there, and then there’s connections on social media. I connected with guys I served with twenty-some years later, and eighty-five percent of the guys I served with in my platoon are on this social media site. And we really support one another and help one another move forward with our lives. One of the guys said we used to bring out the best in each other all those years ago and now we can do that again and he’s exactly right. Because that is what we do, we try to pull one another up and help one another move forward.”

Stauffer says his own struggles are why he eventually chose to go into counseling, and now his mission is to help others. He says as a counselor for the Gateway Foundation, he is able to help fellow Vets, as well as civilians, get the help they need.

Stauffer says sometimes the hardest part, especially for Veterans can be asking for help. He says information is available for someone who is struggling or for those who have a loved one who is struggling, and he can be reached by going to gatewayfoundation@gatewayfoundation.org or by calling 877-505-HOPE.

Stauffer says he is willing to help anyone but especially his fellow Vets who are struggling this Veterans Day.