Today we conclude the episodes with Doctors Dustin and Kerry Brockberg, the co-authors of the book ‘End Your Covert Mission: A Veteran’s Guide to Fighting Pain and Addiction.’ Kerry and Dustin share some of the most common themes they heard from veterans when writing their book.
They also share how crucial it is to be a part of a supportive community of choice when recovering from trauma, pain, or addiction.
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See full transcript below.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast, a place for real conversations with people who love someone with the disease of addiction. Now here is your host, Margaret Swift Thompson.
Welcome back! Today we will complete Dustin and Kerry’s conversation about their new book, ‘End Your Covert Mission: A Veteran’s Guide to Fighting Pain and Addiction.’ They will share with us some of the most common themes they’ve heard from veterans when they interviewed them in writing the book.
Dustin and Kerry Brockberg will share more about tandem recoveries that often intermix and make one’s own recovery messier they share common themes discussed in their book and how essential it is to be part of a community of support, whether it be a community of family or family of choice when coming home from something traumatic. Let’s rejoin Kerry and Dustin.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast
So one of the words you used earlier Kerry was nuggets. This is full of nuggets. One of the things I really like, and this is probably my approach to life and recovery, in general, is being given suggestions on things I can actually do. I love that about your book. I forget what you call them. You’ll help me, but you have a section feels military.
Tangible Next Steps.
Yeah, but wasn’t there another one for questions?
Oh, yeah. Checkpoints.
Checkpoints. Yeah. So, I was thinking, okay, military frame of reference there. But I really thought those were very valuable was the ability to read something, potentially hear some of your story in it or connect with something in it and then actually do something with it, right? Answer questions, reflect. And the other thing was starting off with some writing that you refer back to as you evolve through the book, was really very clever, very effective, I appreciate it also very generous.
The two of you willing to probably use some of the tools that you use in your practices and put them down there for the average person, pick up the book and do the work for them. Much to say at the end, and I think this is just incredibly important, because I’m sure you would say it to you do have a list of coping strategies for trying. And of course, one of them is enlist professional help if needed. Because obviously, there are some things we may need somebody to guide us through, that we can’t do on our own. What’s been the most rewarding part of writing the book?
I think, for me, when I hear the personal stories, when someone’s like, I gave this to my nephew, or this person was open enough for me to say, hey, do you know anything where I could learn a little bit more, and we’ve had a few people that have come up to us and been like, I gave this to someone, it was really helpful. And even if it’s just one person, that was our goal was having an effect that could make a difference for someone. I think Dustin and I really talked about, like, the way we wrote this book was, you can take a paragraph at a time. Or you could take a chapter at a time. Or you could open up a random page or go back to just the coping strategies, or just the questions. Like we want this to be something that’s digestible. Dustin’s favorite line, the famous line, all this, you can put it down, right? Like you can put this down. And I love that because it really helps people come where they’re at. And that’s our thing is, this is a big part of understanding veterans like coming, where they’re at, meeting them right where they are right now. And that’s what we wanted to provide for people. So, I think that’s been so rewarding to hear actual stories of folks being like, I did read just a chapter and that was helpful. And I’m like, great, that’s awesome.
back to nuggets. What about you Dustin?
Yeah, I would say, you know, a similar vein to that. When I think of my time in the military and the culture of paying it forward, giving back. The idea of helping anyone that’s struggling, being able to make sure we’re all okay. That community is very much still in my lived experience. And so, this book really allowed me to do that. To give back to the community I care a lot about. And I think what’s also been equally rewarding is the amount of people that are coming up to us that have no affiliation to the Veteran community whatsoever. And I’m astounded by that. It’s a very good outcome. It makes me want to write 18 more books.
Kerry get ready. But it just speaks to like how much this is so much just a human experience than just a one group experience. And being able to see that come to life is just really cool. It’s just really cool to watch and to see where this can go and I’m really kind of envisioning how we could put this in certain places to really scaffold, help people earlier on in their process.
Scaffold, that’s a great word. I feel like that’s what this offer. It offers a framework for the person to climb through whatever.
Right, but still giving the creativity to create their own space. You know what I mean. And so that’s what I look forward to.
So, what’s the next book gonna be about?
Having twins? No.
You know, that’s a new piece of information. Eight month old, identical twins. You could write a book?
It would be good to do it in chapters, because you’re at the beginner stage. Wait till you get to the next levels, right?
Yeah, I’m not sure what the next book is. One of the things we found as we were editing, so we the actual book was written, we had way too many words on paper, we had to kind of bring it down. And as we were doing that, I remember Kerry and I, we’re talking about how, like, oh, I wanted to say this, I want this to come in the book. And so, it makes me wonder, one of those chapters can be a book, right? Just even the title could be a book, right? I mean, there’s a way of looking at that. So, I think part will come down to what is needed, right? What people in the world say like, Hey, I love this. But I wish you said more about this wonderful, let’s do it, right. And we definitely want that feedback.
We’ve talked to about the possibility of there being a clinician’s guide. And doing a more clinically based like workbook that’s guided by more of veteran experience. Obviously, Dustin being a veteran, but since we’ve got so much information from veterans in we were very transparent. In our book, we included the interview so people could see like, what we asked the different veterans. So, our last question in there was, if you could tell clinician something or if you could receive help what would you tell them? And that was something that just left us with a lot of info of like, oh, wow, there’s something here that maybe there should be something out there that’s a little bit more driven from that veteran community and providing clinicians a better guide of how to work with veterans because I think that’s the thing that folks forget about as clinicians is that most likely even if you’re not working at the VA, you might run into a veteran in your community regardless if you’re in substance use, you know, working in a hospital, the chances are very high.
Marriage therapist. Absolutely.
That’s a great idea.
Even all the families to right, you go into a crowd 95% of folks are somehow connected to that community or addiction or pain. I mean, you’re not going to find one person that doesn’t have some personal story to tell.
There might be some things, so stay tuned in the works as far as family to for us with veterans.
Well, I better be the first call!
We’ll let you know!
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Bumper: I’m excited to announce that I will be once again presenting at the National Rural Institute on Alcohol, Drugs, and Addictions from June 25th to June 29th, 2023, at the UW stout campus.
I think any of you who’ve been listening to my podcast for a while know how passionate I am about getting the message out for the intense need for more support, education, and resources for the families impacted by the disease of addiction.
So, I’m thrilled once again to be going there and sharing and teaching around engagement with families who’s loved one has the disease of addiction. The lineup of speakers is incredible! Any coach, counselor, educator who want further education in a variety of subjects please check out the link attached to this bumper in my show notes, and you’ll have a full access to this wonderful retreat that I thoroughly enjoyed last year and look forward to being a part of it again in June of this year.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast. Can you relate to what you’re hearing? Never miss a show by hitting the subscribe button. Now back to the show.
I wonder Dustin. I mean, hindsight is what it is. And you were in a different place being a young single man coming back from service. That was challenging enough. I’m sure, you said you had people who were your mentors, and your guides and people you could talk to before you met Kerry, and Kerry said very point didn’t leave that you did your own work before you connected in a relationship. What do you think the challenges would have been to return to a family of your own, a partner or children? Versus being a single man coming home? There’s probably differences on both sides.
Yeah, I think definitely differences on both sides of the coin and being single had its own challenges, too, right? Because there was some level of being alone in that process. I mean, I had my family and, but I was also simultaneously going through my own process of I don’t want to tell them a lot. Right. And then I was in the VA system and trying to figure out who I trust in the VA system. And then I’m off trying to go to school and advance my life, while I’m still, at the end of the night, laying my head in the pillow and not knowing what’s wrong, right. That’s still a feeling that was going on. I would say, you know, in hindsight, and let’s say, Kerry and I were already married, and we already had our kids. I think the challenge that I initially see in that is, how do I do my work, and be in that family? How do I help in their work? How do I not scare them? How do I not worry them? That in of itself is a mental health anxiety bubble, they’re almost anxiety about anxiety component of things, because that’s not easy, something to shake. So that feels like an immediate challenge, right off the bat. But just thinking about that, all the while I’m super excited and jazzed to get back into their world and to see what’s happened,
But also, to be very sad that I miss her steps, or I missed a funeral or a promotion, you know, all these things that I can’t get back.
And I think to like, let’s also normalize that, though, for a second right, like the fact that and I’m a big systems person, Margaret. So, I don’t know if you knew that. But
I picked it up, Kerry.
But independence within the family unit, right? Like this is the dichotomy at all times the dialectic that is so common that we have to understand that it’s okay to have both at the same time, right, like your own experience within the family unit. And I wanted to say that because I’m sure there are veterans listening, that maybe are feeling yes, thank you for saying that Dustin, that is exactly how I feel. And I want them, you know, to hear like, so natural, and there’s so many experiences that you maybe have had as well, is that same process where you have individual things going on, but you’re so connected to those water systems.
It probably just amplifies that in a system where the service part is not included, right. Like, just in a common family experience where you both have different jobs, you go out to work, your kids are doing their thing, and you may sit around the table and catch up on some stuff. But there’s still that autonomy and independence. It’s just amplified because when you’re away, you can maybe get a photograph, you can maybe have a FaceTime, a phone conversation, but you’re really disconnected on a whole different level Brings up a lot of thoughts. So, when you reflect on the people that you chatted with, in writing the book, and some of the stories are included. Was there something that just stood out for you from a family’s perspective, or that the person you spoke with talked about within their family that maybe will resonate with people listening, who are family members of veterans?
Yeah, I think two immediate things come to my mind when you say that is, we asked them, the veterans that are able to submit their stories to us of any experiences before the military, and family. They’re all family stories about good, bad, happy, sad, all the things, all the possible ways that this could have impacted their pathway into the military, and whether it created heartache or resilience. Who knows. So that’s one I really just think of is that it starts with that story.
That was the same one. I was thinking Dustin.
So then when you think back, in other responses, it ends with the family. Because it’s the impact it’s having on your system impacts having on you which impacts your family, the confusion, the concern of not knowing what to do when you come back home. I read a, I think it was a biography, some sort of story of a famous military member and the phrase they use was, their kids said, “Dad’s back, so everything’s gonna be okay.” I just had this moment of like, it’s not that simple. Right. But to that kid, it was that simple. If he’s back, this can all get calm again. And the ripple effect that that all has, the messaging that sends, those are some of the things that I think about when I think of the responses. Yeah, there’s just there’s so much.
What you just said what struck for me was the burden on that person to be responsible to make everything okay.
When they’re still landing and trying to pry process everything they’ve been experiencing when they were gone. Powerful.
Lots of layers to it all.
Right, all the while, it’s what Kerry said to that your relationship with your military family is changing.
Right. And that’s in its own grief process, especially if you’re active duty, where you’re one day you’re in the barracks, the next day you’re home, in your parents’ house. I mean, it’s just an abrupt, you lost 5000 people like that. And then all you have then is Facebook, text messaging, FaceTime, phone calls, which goes down as you keep going on in your life, and then pretty soon, it’s big events, they might reach out, you know, so depends on kind of the effort you put into that, too. But that’s its own process.
I actually am really happy you circled back to that, because I wanted to circle back to that. And I forgot. So, thank you for doing that.
I think I also want to kind of throw a caveat in there. for the military family and the immediate family. I wanted us to be careful, because leaving yes, physically, right. But I think that’s the amazing thing about gaining, the military family, having your immediate family. That’s an inherent stability, right. That’s an inherent team and network that I think that we have to remember that we have and that we’re connected to.
Margaret, you said in the beginning, we all have a family, right. And family is for some people how they define it themselves. I mean, we have a family where we have connection, support network. And I think that that’s something that’s really important to lean into and ground back into is that, yes, there’s this leaving or even the reintegration, that whole thing I was explaining before about, you know, leaving and coming back. But they’re with you, right, that’s my true belief is that these experiences your families are with you. And that’s one thing I’ve learned from you, Dustin about, like, you know, the fact that you can go back to and remember, yep, yep, that person’s with me right now. And I know, I could call this person and reach out to them. So, I think that’s really important to say, too, we’re talking a lot about like, physically leaving, but knowing that those experiences are with you.
Well, and to another legend that Hazelden Delia, who used to work in Renewal, talked about getting well in recovery was taking the “I” to the “we” so stop doing everything ourselves and getting to the “we” of support and community. And that’s what that speaks to me that you have got an extended family, and all those support systems, and people who truly know you in that environment that you can lean into, if you allow yourself.
Let me even add a further wrinkle on this. So sometimes, the family has to be defined, right? So earlier, when you spoke about death by suicide. When there’s a threat, feeling like you have no one or no one is available to you, or you are alone in this journey, that is a big threat for a person. And so, being able to redefine what family is, is really important, right?
So we’re talking a lot about, for example, the veterans family, whether military or their personal family, biological family, but also the family that they create, from their family, and their friend networks and their new family versus their old family.
For example, some of the people that I still talk with a lot in the military are not the same guys. I was close with the military. But they kept contacting me, we kept talking. And all of a sudden, I was like, hold on. You are just as much part of my world that you always were I just never even saw that. It took me to leave to see that which is its own process for me. I guess another important aspect to think about, and it often is finding your people.
Family of choice.
We talked about that in recovery world, right? Like,
Find your family of choice. If the family system you came from, there’s wounds or there wasn’t things that you feel good about and needed, and then they couldn’t. Find them in recovery rooms. Pretty powerful.
Yeah, we say the same thing about if you’ve ever worked with a therapist, find your therapist don’t find the first one that you’re assigned to right, fire us. We want you to do that. I told this story a while back this idea that when I first came home, I was assigned to a therapist at the VA system that was a veteran, and I thought it was going to be great and we’re going to connect, and it was just awful. I didn’t connect to him. It was just not a good experience. And then I got assigned to someone that was a non-veteran. They were like 40 years my junior and I was just like this is just really gonna suck and it fits right.
It also speaks to Kerry’s word that has been loud and clear in this Interview, is resilience. You had the capacity and the resilience to seek what you needed when you knew what you had wasn’t working. And that probably comes from your tenacity, but also your military experience, and your life experience.
And it is one of the things that I find astounding in all of human beings is the resiliency, and the capability, and fortuitousness to be able to navigate life, which is extremely challenging, and do it damn well. Even if it gets bumpy for a while. It’s very cool to see the both of you together, it’s very fun. Cool is probably such a horrible word for a podcast interview. But just to know that you as a couple, both in the field of helping people, both doctors, coming together in a marriage and putting what you’ve learned, mixed with your clinical training your life experience into a book that can help so many people is awesome.
Thank you, we feel really lucky, we definitely feel grateful and very, very lucky.
And still very much in love with eight-month-old twins. When I stepped out of the room, they were having their little chat while I was getting my glass of water. The book is End Your Covert Mission: A Veterans Guide to fighting pain and addiction. And though we talked a lot about all different things, I want to make sure that I leave a little bit of time here that if there’s anything you haven’t shared, anything you haven’t said that you’d want to say, to an audience of many people out there who are family members who are living within the disease of addiction, but I’m sure also many who are connected to veterans.
I think one thing I want to make sure that we say, and I feel like it oozed out of us during the whole thing today as we’re going through the interview. But just more directly, I just want to make sure that veterans know they’re valued, and that your family values you and vice versa that these veterans value you, more than you probably know. And that is so important to remember that this value system, these cherished loved connections are what keeps us together, what helps us have that resilience and to keep going forward. And that’s what Dustin and I have definitely found from folks that are reading this book is like, wow, there’s so much value in this community, the veterans and the families of, are just as involved in this community.
Yeah, I thank you for having us on your podcast, we appreciate it.
It was a treat.
Yeah. My message to everyone listening to this, take a chance. Take a chance, open the book, read a sentence, see if it hits you or not.
This book is built, to be direct to be in your face is built to be hard. And nothing comes easy. It takes sweat, and we have to work at some of this stuff. I think this book is really trying to give you some really new gear and tools to try and tackle some really hard life things are happening. And it’s not meant to fix, it’s not meant to completely heal. But you know, what I said earlier is to give some sense of structure and scaffolding to maybe put you in a position or a new framework to maybe see something a little bit differently. And that can make a real difference. And so, we encourage everyone to take a chance on it.
I don’t think you’ll regret taking a chance on it. I think anybody can gain value and reading this. To have an insight, when you may not have experienced anything like this like myself. But also just the tangible tools that you offer are fabulous. Things that can make anybody take some time to reflect, and identify, and understand themselves maybe a little better and also see the hope and resiliency of who they are. Because I think we tend to go to the dark side a lot as human beings. And it’s nice to know that though you both have intense jobs and work with people in various states of illness, wellness. You have a lot of hope that you offer and just your company in this interview, and I’m sure to your clients that you work with. They are very blessed to be able to have that time with you. And I also want to just say, could not say it better Dustin, interview, your provider asked direct questions. You’re seeking our services and you have the right to get your needs met. And so, I really think that’s a valuable way to end this because I think a lot of people don’t speak up for themselves or advocate or ask the right questions and they have the right to do that to get the care they deserve.
Outro: As we have discussed in this three-part series there are many parallels between veterans returning home and those struggling with the disease of addiction.
Just as those parallels exist, so do many parallels across all forms of the human experience with anything traumatic and life changing.
I hope you have gleaned just one invaluable tip from Kerry and Dustin’s vulnerable shares around their experience personally and professionally and if you have found this series valuable, I encourage you to order your own copy of their book ‘End Your Covert Mission: A Veterans Guide to Fighting Pain and Addiction’ by Dustin Brockberg and Kerry Brockberg.
Thank you both for being a part of this podcast.
I want to thank my guest for their courage and vulnerability in sharing parts of their story.
Please find resources on my website.
This is Margaret Swift Thompson.
Until next time, please take care of you!