By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 19, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Addiction can be one of the hardest fights a person faces in life, and it affects more than just the person afflicted, so Fort Rucker's Army Substance Abuse Program is doing what it can to raise awareness of the problem and help those who might be in need of assistance.
ASAP teamed with Outside the Wire to bring the Addiction Performance Project to the installation as a way to help educate people on the dangers of addiction, as well as help people see what addiction looks like, according to Lynn O'Brien, ASAP alcohol and drug prevention coordinator.
"(This) prevention training is something new and we use this vehicle as an education tool," she said. "It's really difficult to teach about or hold training for an age-old problem, and addiction is just one of those things that is difficult to talk about. It's difficult to talk about now, it was difficult to talk about 100 years ago."
That's why ASAP looks for unconventional ways to help get the message across by engaging its audience and getting them involved in active discussions, which is one thing the Addiction Performance Project was able to do, said O'Brien.
This performance brought an excerpt from Eugene O'Neill's award-winning play, "Long Day's Journey into Night," which depicts the struggles of Mary Tyrone, a woman who abuses prescription painkillers and relapses into full-blown morphine addiction. It is also the story of how her addiction tore her family apart, as her morphine use slowly becomes apparent to her husband and children.
"Although the play was published more than a half-century ago, the issues and themes it addresses make it powerful and relevant still today," said O'Brien. "It also speaks to how stigma and shame keep people that are addicted from getting the help they need to overcome a battle, which is as true today as it was over a hundred years ago."
A 30-minute segment of the play was performed and, after the performance, members of the community were invited onstage to talk about what they heard that connected with them, personally and professionally.
Dr. Rick Gilbert, ASAP physician, was among those who spoke and said what touched him about the play was the fact that the family lived in constant denial.
"They are all aware of what's actually going on," he said. "At the beginning of the play, the mother talks about her pharmacy situation and how all that matters is that she got her medicine, but who cares what anybody thinks. As it goes further on, she deflects her condition and the problems she's having, and she emphasizes everybody else's problems. What speaks to me most is the unspoken shame of it all."
Capt. Tashina Miller, Lyster Army Health Clinic licensed clinical social worker, said the play hit her on a more personal level as she was able to see her family in the portrayal.
"I was raised by a mother who was a recovering alcoholic, so what stood out to me while I was sitting there was, 'Wow, that's my family!'" she said. "It seems that substance abuse or addiction holds no prejudice. It doesn't matter what title we hold, what rank we are or matter what (military occupational specialty) we work -- at the end of the day we're all human beings."
The play brought about the opportunity for open discussion and allowed people to share their different interpretations of what the play meant to them, which is what Brian Dorries, Outside the Wire artistic director and founder, said was meant to be the purpose of the performance -- to get people talking.
"We're here to perform a beautiful, award-winning play -- perhaps the most important play written by an American author -- and then to ask you, 'What do you see of yourself, of your community, of your lives reflected in this very human story?" he said.
It's that level of interaction that helps bring about the awareness that is needed and show that people from all walks of life might have something that they're struggling with, added O'Brien.
"Everyone's predisposed with their own set of perceptions, life experiences, knowledge levels, etc., and most important of these is the human element that makes each of us unique in the way we receive and learn," she said. "I can definitely say this training was well received in that it was an innovative approach to increase awareness of an age-old issue."