CARBONDALE, Colorado - Adam McCabe knows the affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder all too well.
McCabe, a 26-year-old Marine veteran of the Iraq War, has been dealing with the disorder since he returned from his second tour of duty in 2006. He found that it was hard to acclimate back into society after having seen the reality of war.
"I've been having a lot of struggles the past few years," McCabe said.
McCabe found that he was pushing those closest to him away, and he had a tough time connecting with people. Life was very different than he remembered.
"I thought that I would be successful in the civilian world because I was successful in the military," he said. "But there is a big disconnect here. I couldn't connect with people, family and friends. Not because I didn't want to, but because everything had changed about me."
He's undergone intensive inpatient treatment for PTSD, he said. And now, he's found solace in talking with other veterans who suffer from the same disorder.
"Once I started talking about it, it was a good thing," McCabe said.
And now he's helping other veterans in the Roaring Fork Valley, who suffer from the disorder, to deal with it head on.
McCabe started a PTSD support group in Carbondale - Monday nights at the Circle Club, located at the Gateway Plaza - for local veterans suffering from this disorder. The group is not a 12-step program but it is set up as a group-led meeting, similar to other support groups, he said.
"To have a group of guys that have been through similar things, we need that," McCabe said. "And to be able to come in and share about things that only other combat vets understand is a big thing."
McCabe is not a therapist, and he says that he is only the organizer of these groups. But just being able to talk and listen to others who have been through similar traumatic situations is a big part of dealing with the disorder, he said.
"PTSD affects us in all aspects of our life," he said. "It manifests into problems. The idea is to talk about what is happening and get some ideas from the others about how to deal with it."
The recent Vail shootings in which Vietnam veteran Richard "Rossi" Moreau shot four people, killing Gary Bruce Kitching of Carbondale, and claimed to suffer from PTSD, is a reminder of just how serious this disorder can be without being addressed.
"That one happened close to home, but it's happening all over the nation," McCabe said.
However, McCabe said that incident was not the main reason behind organizing this group, but more that there is not a lot of help available, other than traveling to the Veterans Center in Grand Junction, for local veterans.
According to Julie Fuller, a licensed independent social worker with the Veterans Center in Grand Junction, the Department of Veterans Affairs does offer help for PTSD available through the Veterans Center. Fuller makes a trip to Glenwood once a month from Grand Junction to help local vets with their needs, too. For more information on the services provided by the Veterans Center visit, www.vetcenter.va.gov.
According to Garfield County veteran service officer Joe Carpenter, there are about 6,000 veterans living in the three county area of Pitkin, Eagle, and Garfield Counties. However, Carpenter said that as far as he knows there are no other support groups of this type in the valley, but that it is a very good idea.
"It's a lifelong struggle," he said.
McCabe said that the benefit of a group meeting is the feedback from others who are going through the same things.
"Just sharing some of the trauma. There is power in giving a voice to it, and hearing other people talk about it," McCabe said.
Craig Rathbun, a Vietnam veteran and President and CEO of the Fleisher Company in Carbondale, is helping McCabe facilitate the meetings. Being an "older" vet, Rathbun said that he is very appreciative of what McCabe is trying to do. That is why he decided to become involved.
"What Adam is doing, putting this together and all the training he's gotten to facilitate these groups, principally for these Afghanistan and Iraq veterans in our valley, is wonderful," Rathbun said. "Absolutely wonderful."
Rathbun said that there are a couple of local Vietnam vets willing to participate in the meetings to show the younger vets that there are ways to deal with what they are feeling.
"We understand how so many Vietnam vets lost 20 years of life when they got back to get through it, and some never did," Rathbun said. "What we know from that experience, to help the Gulf War guys to be able to deal with issues they experienced in violent environments, and to help them transition into our society is a challenge."
But it's a challenge that McCabe is taking head on.