Deployments, the economy, relationships, draw down, and health--all matters that can create stress and often make the daily rigors of life difficult to cope with. No one is immune to life’s challenges. What is different for each individual is how he or she chooses to cope with life’s trials and tribulations. Some people exercise, some people seek comfort foods, some people turn to drugs and alcohol.
When Hawaii National Guardsmen find themselves seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle or relief in the form of drugs, it may be time to seek help. Help can be found with the Hawaii National Guard Counterdrug Prevention, Treatment and Outreach Program (PTO).
The Hawaii National Guard’s Counterdrug PTO program uses ‘PRIME for Life’, a three phase evidence based program created by the Prevention Research Institute (PRI), to ensure Hawaii National Guard members and their families who find themselves in a battle with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol are given an opportunity to address and defeat the addiction.
Hawaii Guard members attend the ‘PRIME for Life’ program for a number of reasons: cited for Driving Under the Influence, testing positive on a drug test, a requirement for retention, and/or self-referral.
Air Guard Tech. Sgt. Priscilla Bastatas and Army Sgt. Barry Asberry, both Hawaii National Guard Counterdrug members, are certified ‘PRIME for Life’ instructors, facilitate the curriculum. They teach strategic prevention skills during the three day session.
“The intent is to ensure our members are given the proper training about how to avoid “high-risk" choices that lead to negative outcomes, which may affect their military career and/or personal lives,” Tech. Sgt. Priscilla Bastatas, Hawaii Counterdrug Civil Operations coordinator said. “The goal is to get participants to see their decision making as the reason why they are in the situation they are in, in hopes the individual will choose a drug-free life and make positive contributions to society.”
“The class was an eye opener,” said Staff Sgt. Larry Pasion, Armament System Specialist, Hawaii Air National Guard. “I never saw my lifestyle as a high risk choice, but I had to admit to myself that the lifestyle I was living needed to be changed. I needed to bring choices to a low risk category to protect myself, my family and my career.”
Persuasion-focused curriculum is employed through lectures, group discussions, activities and multimedia presentations as Guard members tackle the three phases of the program: Prevention, Reflection, and Protection.
“Individual and group activities complement the curriculum and videos enhance the message being conveyed,” Bastatas said.
During the Prevention phase, participants identify what they value most and explore social norms, psychological and social influences, impairment problems, biological risk factors, tolerance and trigger levels. During the Reflection phase, participants reflect on skills learned, accomplish a self-assessment, and discuss low and high risk choices, psychological dependence, and the phases of addiction.
During the Protection phase, participants learn how to protect the people and things they value most, discover psychological and social support, create their personal plan for success, and learn how to self-reward and provide self-care.
“Sometimes we get negative feedback from the participants. They may not agree with the research, but that is okay,” Sgt. Barry Asberry, Hawaii Counterdrug PTO coordinator, said. “We want them to disagree in the beginning. That way we see what they believe is true about alcohol and drug use, then we give them facts and research from the program that may change their perception.”
Despite all the carefully selected research information and documentation presented to change perceptions about one’s decisions, sometimes it is just about the people.
“The key ingredient was Tech. Sgt. Bastatas,” Pasion said. “Opening up with her personal life experience and as passionate as she was, that really opened my eyes, that was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.”
At the conclusion of the training, attendees leave with a better understanding of their problem and a plan of action for a successful future.
“Drinking was part of my lifestyle; I’d go out every night, hangout and drink a lot of beers, but after exposure to this class, I look at life with a different perspective,” said Pasion. “Now, I go home every night, kiss my wife and kids and make sure they are safe.”
Hawaii’s Counterdrug Prevention, Treatment, and Outreach program offers the ‘PRIME for Life’ program to Hawaii National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on a quarterly basis, and Hawaii Counterdrug has three PRI certified facilitators.
Participants receive a graduation certificate that helps them regain their driver’s license and/or continue their military career.
“I wish more people could take the class; it is good information for a lot of people in the organization [Hawaii Air National Guard],” Pasion said. “People should attend with an open mind. If they seriously want to make a change, this class will really open their eyes and help them make responsible choices regarding the drinking of alcohol.”