Mental Illness and Alcoholism Plagued Buzz Aldrin

mental illness

On July 20th, 1969, the United States became the first country to put human beings on the moon. In the 50 years since the unprecedented feat, America is still the only nation to achieve what was once thought to be the stuff of science fiction. A half a century later we have mapped more of the moon – an object 238,900 miles away – than we have the human brain. We know more about lunar composition than mental illness; perhaps the human mind, not space, is humanity's final frontier to explore.

One can't help but marvel at the genius and steadfast determination that resulted in the successful voyage of Apollo 11. Countless people worked together to find a way to safely transport Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins from the Earth to the moon and back. The significance of the voyage is unmatched and proof that the sky was not the limit for humankind.

The success of Apollo 11 made the three-person crew instant icons around the globe. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first and second to walk on the moon respectively, became household names. While safely returning home from the lunar walk was likely Aldrin's crowning achievement, it was perhaps not his most arduous journey.

Buzz Aldrin severely struggled with depression and addiction; mental illness ran in his family. Even though he was an active player in the most magnificent odyssey, he reported feeling largely unfulfilled back home on Earth. His depression, like many others, led him to seek the comfort of alcohol, Biography reports. The drinking and untreated depressive symptoms contributed to both professional and personal losses.

Magnificent Desolation: Hopelessness and Despair

Buzz Aldrin's mother, Marion, battled with depression up until her suicide in May 1968—a little more than a year before Apollo 11. Marion Aldrin's father had also battled mental illness and committed suicide. Buzz believed he inherited depression from his family.

In the early 1970s, Buzz did something relatively unheard of when he opened up about his mental health in an LA Times article. Around the same time, Aldrin began serving on the board of directors of the National Association for Mental Health (NAMH). He would eventually go on to become the national chairman of NAMH. At the time, he was traveling around the country, speaking about his experience with depression. However, Aldrin was also drinking heavily and had trouble fulfilling his obligations.

In August 1975, Buzz did a 28-day stay in an addiction treatment center and got involved with Alcoholics Anonymous, Biography reports. Unfortunately, the retired astronaut had a challenging time staying sober despite the support he received in AA.

He was arrested for disorderly conduct after breaking in his girlfriend's door while intoxicated. Having reached rock bottom, Buzz gave up alcohol for good in October 1978.

Buzz Aldrin's journey to free himself of feelings of hopelessness and despair was rocky, but with the support of the fellowship, he was able to overcome. In the years that followed, he helped others who had issues with alcohol find what he had found in recovery. He published two autobiographies, Return to Earth (1973) and Magnificent Desolation (2009), he shares at length about his clinical depression and alcohol use disorder in both memoirs.

Seeking Treatment for Mental Illness and Addiction

Resilience is what humans have and resilience is what humans need to take advantage of—their ability to explore and to understand and then to react positively and with motivation, not as a defeatist, to the constant flow of challenges," Aldrin tells Biography. "Negativity doesn’t get anybody anywhere. It takes reacting to all of life in a positive way to make the most out of what you’ve experienced and to make a better life and a better world."

The Apollo 11 astronaut’s story is unique in several ways, but not his road to addiction and recovery. More than half of people who meet the criteria for alcohol or substance use disorder also contend with another mental illness, such as depression.

When the symptoms of mental health disorders are not addressed, individuals are at higher risk of turning toward drugs and alcohol for relief. Self-medicating mental illness is a path to dependence and addiction. Fortunately, treatment methods have come a long way since the 1970s. Scientists and medical professionals have a much firmer grasp of the mechanisms of mental diseases.

Evidence-based therapeutic treatment approaches help people get to the root of their issues and take steps to lead fulfilling lives in recovery. If you are an adult male who is experiencing problems with drugs, alcohol, or co-occurring mental illness, then please contact PACE Recovery Center. Our gender-specific treatment center gives clients the tools to fulfill their dreams.

Addiction and Alcohol Use in the Service Industry

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Just over one year ago the world shared in collective sadness while we mourned the loss of Kitchen Confidential author Anthony Bourdain. He was brilliant, relatively young (62), approachable, and he also struggled with both addiction and co-occurring mental illness.

Like many young men in the prime of their life, depression brought Bourdain to the precipice. Seemingly being no longer able to manage the invisible illness, he made a conscious decision to end his life. While nothing any of us can do or say can bring Anthony back, there is a silver lining to be found in his untimely departure. From world-famous chefs to anonymous bartenders across the country, restaurant workers are opening up about their struggles with alcohol use and addiction.

Millions of Americans make a career in the service or hospitality industry. It's hard work and mentally taxing, but people keep showing up to work because the pay is agreeable. Preparing exquisite cuisines, waiting tables, and crafting cocktails are demanding; the hours are long, and guests are not always the nicest of people. Not surprisingly, those lines of employment can exact a heavy toll on mental health. Any person who has worked in restaurants knows this truth.

Those who do not have healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with industry-induced stress are prone to turn to drugs and alcohol. A sigh of relief accompanies a shift drink come closing time. However, one "shifty" can quickly lead to two—ad infinitum. Life moves forward, years pass by, and before you know it, a problem develops that requires attention.

The Other Side of the Bar is a Dangerous Place

It's no secret that toxic relationships with alcohol abound in the service industry. This is especially true for barkeeps. Practically all customers expect bartenders to sample their wares; they even offer to buy their mixologists drinks as a modest token of appreciation. Such gestures are welcome, to be sure, but it may not be in the best interest of the recipient. Still, many will accept the free drink not to offend the patron.

For those who do not have a history of harmful drinking, a free drink is a free drink. Having a drink on the job is a slippery slope when it comes to men and women who are apt to drink to excess. There is a good reason why most individuals in recovery avoid working in the service industry; the risk of relapse is exceedingly high. That isn't to say that you can't work a program of sobriety while working in hospitality. A large number of people do; however, those who do need to be extra cautious.

The truth is that men and women in recovery can follow any career path they like; provided, however, that such people are on top of their program. There are no barriers or exclusions for those who put their recovery first. A strong support network, working the steps, and attending meetings regularly puts people in positions to excel at anything.

Helpful Reminders Not to Use Drugs and Alcohol

In circles of recovery around the country, it is not uncommon to see people wearing rubber bands on their wrist. The idea is simple: whenever you think of having a drink or drug, give it a snap. The discomfort is minor but the brief sensation can be enough to force you to remember the pain that accompanies alcohol and substance use.

A significant number of men and women in the early years of addiction recovery carry their AA or NA tokens with them wherever they go. The unassuming coin serves as a reminder of how far you've come, and where you came from, most importantly. It is a talisman; it's a marker of progress. Having a sobriety chip in one's pocket is useful when the temptation to drink or drug is high. Urges to use can be quelled by merely touching the coin.

On a similar note, a growing movement is underway among service industry employees that involves wearing a talisman of sorts. The Pin Project is a way for bartenders and others who find employment in hospitality to express their intention not to drink.

Similar to the rubber band trick, The Pin Project came about when a bartender decided he was not going to drink on the job anymore. In an effort to stay true to his intention, Mark Goodwin reached for a sharpie and drew a circle bisected by a straight line on his forearm, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Each time Goodwin thought about having a drink, he looked at the marking, much like the person wearing a rubber band. It worked!

Goodwin has abstained from drinking ever since, and others in the field have joined the movement. One of Goodwin's regulars, Alyx Ryan, created a small, brushed-metal pin that resembles the symbol once drawn in sharpie.

The Pin Project Promotes Healing and Understanding

"The opposite of addiction is connection," Mark Goodwin, a bartender at Coin-Op Game Room in San Francisco, tells the SF Chronicle.

A couple more bartenders in the Bay Area jumped on board with Goodwin's mission. Together, they launched the initiative – to help service industry men and women find strength and abstain while on the job and beyond – on June 24th. What is The Pin Project?

It is a collective of bartenders and service industry professionals based in the Bay Area looking to create a movement of healing and understanding for those among us caught up in the often dangerous context that comes from working within close proximity of alcohol...The pin project was created with the intention of helping industry folks, but anyone that could use a hand in curating safe space to uphold their intentions not to drink are welcomed to utilize it in any of the contexts they themselves struggle within."

People working at restaurants who are also in recovery may benefit from wearing the pin. Goodwin points out that industry workers must show guests a good time; sales and tips are dependent on a person's ability to accept proffers without protest. Saying no to free drinks from a customer could inadvertently impact the bottom line. Pointing to the pin, and explaining to diners what it means, might have the opposite effect.

It's worth noting that Goodwin, along with The Pin Project collaborators Nick Melle of Bon Voyage and DiDi Saiki of Bourbon & Branch, launched The Pin Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from pin sales goes to linking service-industry professionals with mental health services.

Addiction Treatment for Men

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you are struggling with alcohol use. Our gender-specific addiction treatment center for adult men can help you break the disease cycle and learn how to work a program of long-term recovery. We also can help those who contend with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Team members are standing by to field any questions you may have about our extended care, mental health, and addiction rehab for men. 800·526·1851

Addiction Took Matthew Brewer’s Legs, Not His Life

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Opioid addiction is a public health crisis in the United States. Prescription painkillers, heroin, and synthetic opioids continue to cut people’s lives short at a startling rate. While progress has been made, we still have a long way to go in providing men and women the help they need.

Substance use disorders of any type put the lives of individuals in jeopardy. However, the effect that opioids have on vital systems of the human body makes this family of drugs particularly dangerous. Opioid narcotics have an impact on breathing, restricting a person’s ability to supply oxygen to the bloodstream.

Opioids kill people by slowing the rate of breathing and the depth of breathing,” said medical toxicologist and emergency physician Andrew Stolbach of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

If an overdose is treated with naloxone promptly, then a fatal outcome can be prevented. Initiatives to arm drug users, family members, and first-responders with naloxone have led to thousands of overdose reversals. A user-friendly version of the drug, Narcan, allows medical laypeople to provide life-saving assistance to victims.

The outcomes of an opioid overdose are not always black and white. A reversal can mean a continuation of life, but severe complications can occur. Scientists are still researching the long-term effects of this type of near-death experience. Moreover, there are instances when doctors have to take drastic measures to save a life; such was the case of Matthew Brewer, 44, of Huntington Beach.

Learning to Walk Again, Following an Opioid Overdose

On September 25th, 2014, a few months after leaving treatment, Matthew Brewer relapsed and overdosed on heroin. Alone at the time, Brewer was fixed in a position that cut off blood flow to his legs for 10-12 hours (tissue begins to die after 4-6 hours).

Matthew's roommate found him, and he was rushed to a hospital. He was then transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where doctors decided that a bilateral amputation of his legs was the only way to save his life. Fortunately, Brewer did not have brain damage from the overdose, but life would be an uphill battle moving forward.

Following the amputation, doctors resorted to prescription opioids: the powerful narcotics that led to addiction in the first place, The Orange County Register reports. Some years earlier, in 2008, Brewer was diagnosed with testicular cancer; he was prescribed opioids and addiction developed. For two-and-a-half years post-amputation, the young man a former competitive athlete suffered.

Matthew’s sister, Tera, owns a hair salon in Newport Beach; she had a client who was a producer on the medical show, “The Doctors,” according to the article. The show’s experts offered to take Brewer’s case, and he appeared on the television show in 2016 for the first time.

“The Doctors” helped Matthew detox from opioids and begin the healing process. In 2017, he attended a bilateral above-knee boot camp hosted by the Hanger Clinic. He learned how to walk with prosthetics, and so much more.

A New Lease on Life

Last month, Matthew Brewer competed in the Angel City Games, a four-day adaptive sports festival. At the event, he took part in a swimming race and the 200-meter sprint, the article reports. Despite his prosthetics, his athleticism goes beyond swimming and running; today, he enjoys surfing and snowboarding as well.

Matthew has a new lease on life; he travels around the country, speaking in front of audiences and visiting hospitals. The Huntington Beach man’s experience is an inspiration to so many people who have had their lives upended by opioid use disorder and overdose. Matthew is proof that there is hope after tragedy.

It’s given him a purpose,” said his mother, Cathy. “We’ve always been proud of him, but seeing the pride he has in himself has been the frosting on the cake. He just looks forward to the next event and the next event.”

Opioid Addiction Treatment for Men

PACE Recovery Center can help you or an adult male loved one recover from an opioid use disorder. Utilizing evidence-based treatments and a multidimensional approach, we show clients how to achieve their goals in recovery. Please contact us today to learn more about the programs we offer and the benefits of gender-specific addiction treatment.

Recovery During Independence Day: Having a Plan

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The Fourth of July is less than 24 hours away, which means that people in addiction recovery are making plans. It’s vital to have a schedule during major holidays, especially the ones synonymous with heavy alcohol consumption. Leaving things up to chance is never a sound practice in sobriety.

Like any holiday, it’s imperative to fill up the day with recovery-centered activities. The goal is to prevent finding oneself in any situation that could compromise progress. Accruing any length of clean and sober time is an enormous undertaking that requires steadfast dedication and vigilance. Nobody wants to jeopardize their hard work, which is why showing deference to the dangers of holidays is paramount.

Men and women who are in the first year of sobriety are often tempted to test the strength of their program. Some are convinced that they can attend holiday functions, barbeques, and parties just like everyone else. While it is possible to go to an Independence Day party without picking up a drink, in most early recovery cases, it’s not worth the risk.

The Fourth is not Christmas; there aren’t the same familial expectations to attend functions. With that in mind, people in recovery are free to forge a safe path from one side of the holiday to the other. Structuring one’s day similar to any other day is beneficial: prayer or meditation, attending home groups, being of service and engaging with one’s peers. Those who put their program first make it last!

Occupying Your Time on the Fourth

Since most businesses are closed on the Fourth of July, many people don’t have to work. It is not uncommon to attend several recovery meetings during holidays, it’s even advised in fact. Meetings are held around the clock to ensure everyone in sobriety has a safe harbor to wait out the turbulent seas that holidays bring. Moreover, recovery communities organize Independence Day events that are a fun time.

When given the option to attend an event that involves alcohol use or one whose guests are in recovery, deciding which is healthier is not challenging. People in early recovery might think that it’s boring to attend a program-related holiday gathering, but please do not knock it until you try it.

Those committed to abstaining from drugs and alcohol are not sticks in the mud, and they know how to have a good time. Another benefit of attending an event hosted by people in the program is that one has the opportunity to bond with their peers outside the rooms. Meeting new men and women out in the world could lead to lasting friendships.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to make a plan for the holiday, please take action. Another holiday pitfall is isolation; spending too much time alone can be detrimental. Reach out to some of your peers today to find out what they are planning for tomorrow. They may know of something exciting happening that you will want to attend.

Independence from Addiction, Finding Recovery

Tomorrow, we acknowledge our nation’s rich history. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence. The Gentlemen of PACE Recovery Center hope that everyone working a program has a safe and sober Independence Day.

We also understand that millions of American men are in the grips of the disease of addiction and would like to find freedom. We can help adult males break the cycle and transform their lives through working a program of recovery. Please contact us today to take the first steps toward living independently from drugs and alcohol.

Young men who are struggling with non-substance-related mental illness, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, are encouraged to reach out to us as well.

The PACE Mental Health Program can treat and help you navigate mood disorders and life obstacles arising during college and young adulthood. Click the link to learn more about our Huntington Beach Mental Health Program.

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