Colonel Eric Kreitz woke up when paramedics lit a flashlight in his eyes.
He was on his back and noticed the stars in the night sky.
He remembered having dinner with his family in Colorado, but he does not remember losing consciousness while drinking.
At the time, he was the commander of the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion at Fort Bragg and on leave in Colorado in 2018.
Sharing his experience on 1st Special Forces Command and 18th Airborne Corps podcasts, Kreitz said he was not open with his colleagues about his drinking problems.
Doctors loaded him into the ambulance and a police officer from the hospital asked him if he remembered what had happened.
“He said there was a suicide attempt in that blackout,” Kreitz said on podcasts. “I had no memory of it, that’s really what scared me. Almost losing my life was a big wake-up call for me. “
He has had suicidal thoughts in the past only when he was drinking, but never acted on it until then.
Personal stories:This Fort Bragg wife was addicted to pain medication. Now she is sharing her story in the hopes that she will help others with addiction.
Fight against alcohol
Kreitz said his battle with alcohol was unrelated to a traumatic event in combat.
His first sip of alcohol was at the age of 16 and he passed out.
Throughout college, he said, alcohol always seemed to be present and he thought it was part of the college experience.
He continued to drink at family events and believed that drinking was part of normal life, even when he joined the military in 2001.
Kreitz said his alcoholism stems more from one aspect of behavioral health.
He was a perfectionist and struggled with doubt.
He yearned for personal perfection, but in 2012 he said he drank regularly to the point of passing out.
Kreitz said he didn’t think this was a problem because he still had his family, his car and his career.
In 2012, he was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“I made a fool of myself at a family event, and at that point I was like, ‘Wow, I probably should really do something about this,'” Kreitz said.
Kreitz was on the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and was not drinking for three months.
“Now I know I wasn’t really sober for those three months because sobriety is a state of mind,” Kreitz said.
He quickly received an assignment at Fort Bragg and thought he had a handle on the problem, but resumed drinking.
Military: “It’s a really cool way to end your time in Fort Bragg”: father and son jump together
Kreitz said he fears inadequacy, fears being a failure, fears being judged – though he said he worked hard – and fears being vulnerable.
He created what he described as a working wall, where he didn’t want people at work seeing him struggle.
Kreitz said that although he hid what was going on in his chain of command, he had come to isolate himself or needed at least two or three beers before going to social functions or before. to talk to others.
“I always thought, ‘when am I going to have that next drink,’ just because that was my way of escaping,” he said. “I had no other tool that could help me deal with life stressors. “
When he became a battalion commander, he said he created unrealistic expectations for himself and emphasized the responsibilities associated with finding soldiers and deploying.
“My mind was just centered on alcohol as a solution,” he said. “I wouldn’t allow myself to get help.
Kreitz said he was concerned that if his chain of command found out about his problem with alcohol, his military security clearance would be revoked.
Instead, he said, he found support from his chain of command.
When he left the Colorado hospital in 2018, he spent a week at the Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado to stabilize.
After returning to Fort Bragg, he was sent to the Farley Center in Williamsburg, Va., For two months of alcohol treatment.
An additional four months were spent on the Ambulatory Behavioral Health and Fort Bragg Substance Abuse Program at Womack Army Medical Center.
“During that time, I had the chain of command not only over myself, but also over my family,” Kreitz said. “That’s what really helped me recover at this point. “
Kreitz said his unit chaplain and command sergeant major would watch over his family, allowing him to focus on his recovery.
“Management has failed”: Lies, Febreze, and the death of a new Fort Bragg soldier
The first step, and admitting he was vulnerable, he said was the hardest.
He previously thought that once he recovered, it would become more difficult.
However, he said he found the tools he needed to deal with his feelings and behavioral health.
He now has a value statement, where he commits to three balanced promises: to take care of himself, spiritually, physically and mentally; to be available for his family; and ask for help from others.
“If I can’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of others,” he said.
Kreitz said he’s now making the decision to ask others for help instead of staying late at work to allow time for family.
Another way he said he has found recovery is by volunteering to serve others, which he says allows him to thrive instead of just through work.
“I can do it in uniform and I can do it without a uniform,” he said of the priorities in his values statement.
And, Kreitz said, he allows himself to be vulnerable.
“Now if I can help someone else, this vulnerability is worth it,” he said.
Shortly after completing his treatment in Virginia, he spoke to his battalion about his experience.
He said three to four soldiers from the battalion went to their leaders after hearing his story to say they needed help.
Kreitz said he believes behavioral health and seeking help is an individual responsibility balanced with committed leaders making sure soldiers are taken care of.
One of the things he said he discussed with his advisor is whether behavioral health should be approached as a routine exam where all soldiers talk one-on-one more frequently with their providers.
He said he wondered what would happen to his battalion, but found that he was “still functioning well” after receiving treatment.
At the time he was treated he was a lieutenant colonel and had since been promoted to colonel and is currently director of information warfare for 1st Special Forces Command.
“What I really want people to take away from this is that it’s possible to get back on track,” Kreitz said.
Soldiers at Fort Bragg in need of assistance can contact Military One Source, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255, or call the Army Drug Abuse Program at Fort Bragg at 910- 396-5784.
Editor Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.
Support local journalism with a subscription to The Fayetteville Observer. Click the “subscribe” link at the top of this article.