In this post, I’ll go over some of the ways in which my husband began to act recklessly as a result of PTSD.
Reckless Behavior #1: Drinking
“It’s Miller Time!” Recognize the popular beer slogan? Well, when my husband got out of the Army, any time of the day was Miller Time. Any excuse for a drink, or two or three – he took it. If he had a bad day, he would drink his problems away. If he had a good day, he would drink in celebration. If we argued, he drank. If we hung out with friends, of course, he drank! And if he didn’t have an excuse – he still drank.
Just like with many of the other symptoms of PTSD, I was naïve and thought nothing of it at first. We both like to drink and grew up in families that don’t consider drinking a bad thing (very typical of many Hispanic families). I’ll be the first to admit that I LOVE a cold beer on a hot summer day, but I don’t drink every day and, more importantly, I know when to stop. My husband didn’t. In the months following his release from active duty, our trash can contained, at all times, empty beer cans. Bottles of liquor slowly began appearing and then disappearing way too quickly. There was no such thing as one drink. He had to get drunk because it was his way of coping with PTSD.
Luckily, my husband has cut back on his drinking A LOT, but it took time for him to realize that drinking was an unhealthy way of coping with his feelings. He has since replaced drinking with working out as his coping mechanism. Much healthier (and cheaper too)!
Reckless Behavior #2: Driving
My husband has always loved fast cars. He loves working on them, reading about them, and, of course, driving them. At the time he was released from active duty, he had a 2001 Ford Mustang and to say he was “a fast driver” was an understatement. He went from being a safe driver to a reckless one. In fact, within a year of getting out he received a speeding ticket and a ticket for running a red light (probably because he was going too fast to stop). He was stopped plenty of other times too but managed to get out with warnings.
Whenever we argued, my husband’s favorite thing to do was leave and go for a drive. This terrified me because I knew he would be driving like a maniac and thought it was only a matter of time before he had an accident. Thankfully, that never happened. (He did end up totaling his Mustang in 2009, but that was due to ice on the road, and he walked away unharmed.)
As with drinking, my husband’s reckless driving has calmed down a lot. Receiving eight points on his license and having to pay increased insurance premiums made him realize that his behavior needed to change. He has admitted to me that once in a while, especially if he has had a really bad day, he will go back to his old ways but has promised me that he doesn’t let it last more than a minute. But we all know that it only takes a second to lose control of a vehicle.
Reckless Behavior #3: Eating and Exercise Habits
My husband’s eating and exercise habits completely changed when he got out of the military and, as a result, his weight changed too. He went from eating normal foods and running several miles a day to eating ONLY junk food and doing zero exercise. The worst part of it all is that he would lie to me about what he ate! At the time, we lived close to a Burger King and I had my suspicions that he was a regular customer, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until one day when I decided to clean out his car.
We had switched cars for the day (don’t remember why), so I decided I would clean out the inside for him. I saw a ton of receipts in the cubby of the driver door, and when I pulled them out I was amazed to see they were all from Burger King! I started to organize them chronologically (I’m weird like that), and there was a receipt from every single day for the past couple of weeks! And there were receipts that had the same date on them – one for breakfast and one for lunch. I was livid. Not so much that he was feeding himself junk food but that he would lie about it! When I confronted him about it, he admitted that he would throw away the lunch I packed him and buy Burger King instead. He was so ashamed of his behavior that he just kept lying about it. Just like a drug addict.
I think everyone likes to indulge in junk food when you’re feeling bad, but in my husband’s case, he took it to an extreme. Or maybe not – after all, he was feeling bad every single day so it only seemed natural to indulge in junk food every single day. Or maybe it was his way of deliberate self-harm (another symptom of PTSD).
Thankfully, his ways have changed and he is back to eating well-balanced meals and working out.
In my next blog post, I will go over a symptom of PTSD that my husband still deals with on a regular basis: nightmares and depression.