Larry: Recovering From Substance Dependency and Depression

A man shares his story of recovering from substance use and depression and helping others find hope in themselves.

A Short Story of the Key Elements of WRAP® at Work

Hope/Personal Responsibility/Education/Self-Advocacy/Support

His absent and abusive father called him Dummy. His mother spent his adolescence reliving hers. He never really drank alcohol but started smoking dope in junior high. With no real nurturing, he somehow found seeds of optimism and learned early to focus on others and build up his armor with music, humor, and hope.

He flew a jet in the Air Force and skied in the Alps during the Vietnam era. He married a daughter of German immigrants (who had her own mental health issues) and had a girl and a boy. He got out of the Air Force and joined Hewlett Packard. Still, no nurturing of his spirit or soul.

Out to prove something to himself, he went back to school struggling to get a bachelor’s degree with a bad back and a broken heart. No one shared in his accomplishment. But that’s when his real education and self-advocacy and self-empowerment began. Others struggled with his growth.

His first marriage of more than 10 years ended because of his being abused, having clinical depression, and staring at a 9mm. But then he turned to thoughts of his two kids. That was not how he wanted his kids to remember him. He joined groups at his local VA and began to change. The seeds of personal responsibility were planted by beginning to focus on what he could control and, more importantly, let go of what he could not.

He left HP after 10 years for a great job as the Army ROTC cadet manager and academic advisor at a local university.

His second round of depression came during the seventh year of the job he loved by an abusive, bipolar Army commander who hated the idea of civilians working for him. But he managed to get his teaching credentials in speech and communication anyway.

His road to recovery began in about 1990 and has no end in sight. During this journey, he developed an optimistic belief in himself, shared it, and helped others find hope in themselves by giving to others. His volunteering helped him develop an extensive and loyal support network. In 2004, he received the United States Presidential Silver Medal Award for Community Volunteerism—and then had back surgery.

In 2007, he earned a master’s degree after a triple bypass. He graduated—again alone. During this time he was a teacher, trainer, advisor, coach, and mentor at Job Corps for more than eight years.

Now, he continues to give back his many blessings at a VA medical center.

In his spare time, he’s a volunteer ski guide, a volunteer whitewater guide, and an entertainer year round.

Hope has always and will always move him forward. Not bad for a Dummy. 

This was the short-version story of Larry Buttel, from Dummy to Master’s Degree and Certified Peer Support Specialist and WRAP® Facilitator for the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Last Updated: 12/22/2015