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A BATTLE AFTER DISCHARGE: Collier Veteran shares his experience battling substance abuse after service

A BATTLE AFTER DISCHARGE: Collier Veteran shares his experience battling substance abuse after service
Posted at 6:40 PM, May 21, 2024

NAPLES, Fla. — May is military appreciation month, and according to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, we have more than 22,000 veterans living in Collier County.

Collier County Community Correspondent Bella Line met with one of those veterans who said the battle didn't stop after discharge.

Alex Kane says he always wanted to serve our country but wasn't sure in what way... until September 11, 2001.

"I remember that morning I woke up and watched from my apartment and so I wanted to join the military even more after that happened," said Kane, a Navy Veteran.

Alex joined the Navy and spent a few years at sea going port to port, but even before he came back, Kane found himself in a personal battle.

"I came back home to Broward County to visit some friends and I got a DUI which at first I kind of got a slap on the wrist, but a couple of years later I was discharged over it," said Kane. "That was like my first consequence and it cost me my career in the Navy."

According to the US VA's Office, 1 in 10 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have an alcohol or drug abuse problem.

Something Gregory Tinsley can resonate with as he served in the invasions of both wars. For him, the PTSD and survivor's guilt when he got home sparked his abuse.

"It starts off, it's small stuff you know, you're uneasy, you count people in restaurants, you sit in specific seats with your back to the wall," said Tinsley. "You see the doors, all those kinds of things, but then it starts to creep into your sleep. Then, you know, certain sounds, you know, certain holidays, certain things will always remind you and take you up but then how do you explain that to your aunts or your mom who's wondering why you're isolating and you're not being part of the family."

Both Tinsley and Kane credit Warrior Homes of Collier, a veteran-run, not-for-profit organization for helping turn their lives around.

"They treat the whole individual," said Kane. "It's not like they're just putting you in a house and saying okay, you can't drink like okay, you can't drink but what else you got going on here?"

The Alpha House serves only veterans who have been honorably discharged. At no cost of their own, the program gets them off the street and helps them find jobs along their path of recovery.

Right now, it has an 80% success rate. Compare that to the 12% national success rate for recovery homes.

"A lot of them were homeless in the woods," said Tinsley, currently the Alpha House manager. "They just would go weeks without saying anything to anybody. Now they have that sense of community which is very similar to that tribal-like community of the service where you're always around people, you going through everything together. You've got all that then when we got out it was gone."

For more information on the Alpha House and Warrior Homes of Collier, click here.