Veteran and recovering addict: ‘The past will always catch up with you’

Editor's note: This is one of several stories of local veterans who have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction and gotten help through the Dayton VA. You can read more about all the ways the VA is working prevent and treat addiction in the Miami Valley here: What is the Dayton VA doing to combat the opioid crisis?

DAYTON — Army veteran David Surbaugh had been going to the Dayton VA for years for medical care and for help with alcohol and drug addiction when his psychologist recognized in 2014 that he was suffering from symptoms of PTSD.

His doctors immediately got him enrolled in outpatient treatment for that condition, in addition to the other services he was already receiving.

“The people do care a lot,” he said. “The drugs and the alcohol aren’t the problem, that’s our solution. The VA really helps you out in identifying problems that you have.”

Surbaugh, 58, served from 1978 through 1982 and said he never drank before entering the Army.

That changed when he was sexually assaulted, he said, and he began drinking in order to sleep.

“I felt hopeless and helpless,” he said. “And I vowed I would never feel that way again. I didn’t care if I went to jail.”

He struggled for years trying to kick his dependence on alcohol and drugs and achieved 12 years of sobriety after going through a VA 12-step program in 2002. But in 2014 he started using again. He knew the problem was different this time because he wasn’t trying to get high, he said, he was trying to die.

“The past will always catch up with you,” Surbaugh said. His doctor at the VA knew something was wrong and questioned him, he said. That’s when he first revealed what had happened to him in 1979.

“They take good care of me,” he said of the VA.

Surbaugh said he’s doing well in recovery for four years since that relapse and attends meetings and events at Traditions Clubhouse in Middletown.


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