MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Dr. Jack “Blackjack” Matthews shared his personal stories on the horrors of alcohol abuse at the base theater Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mathews has been conducting alcohol abuse briefs since 1997 and said he intends to continue his work in hopes of helping young, addicted service members.
In his brief, Matthews gave several accounts on what the alcohol abuse did to his career, friends, family, health, and life as a whole.
“Alcoholism is repeated behavior and expecting different results,” explained Matthews in his brief to the crowd.
“They say alcoholism is a psychological disease,” continued Matthews. “But I think mine was more spiritual, a disease of the soul.”
From the time Matthews had his first drink at the age of 17, he said he was instantly dependent on alcohol to take away whatever pain or difficulties existed in his life.
His dependency grew steadily worse until he found himself choosing a bottle over his friends, dating, and even his own family.
“I failed the test as a father to my sons,” said Matthews. “But I am able to pick-up my 10-year-old grandson, hug him, and tell him how much I love him. I can’t do that for his father or his uncles, and I certainly couldn’t have done it as a drunk. But I can do it for him.”
For those in the crowd, like Cpl. Agustin A. Molinanauarro, Company B, Headquarters Battalion, the damage brought to families by alcohol abuse hits a strong chord.
“When he started talking about his grandkids and his family, that had a big impact on me,” said Molinanauarro.
“It’s not just a beverage,” continued Molinanauarro. “It’s a very addictive drug. If you don’t get help or treatment early on, it could lead to a deadly situation.”
Matthews explained in his brief why addicts like himself don’t always have the strength to get their own help.
“The dilemma of an alcoholic is wanting to quit, but not being able to make it through the day without having a drink,” said Matthews. “One drink is too many and a hundred drinks are not enough.”
It has been 22 years now since Matthews has had a drop of alcohol to drink thanks to his commitment to the 12-step program. He said his goals were accomplished by avoiding what he calls “slippery places,” or situations that tempt him to drink. He still attends meetings three times a week in Oregon to keep his goals in-sight and his motivation at a stable level.
Matthews said that if every one could take one thing from his brief, he hopes they will keep in mind what it means to be a Marine.
“Being a Marine is all about looking after each other,” said Matthews. “Marines don’t let other Marines or friends get behind a wheel or on a bike if they’ve been drinking.”
Matthews advises anyone who thinks they may have an alcohol dependency problem to get help early.
“If you know you are hurting or you have a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out for help,” said Matthews. “Don’t try to take on the pain by yourself.”