DVIDS – News – Drug and Alcohol Rehab Counselors: The Steep Road to Helping Others


If you’ve ever met your Substance Abuse and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program (SARP) counselor, you might not know how difficult it is to help others. Some may know that SARP counselors take three months of training, but how many know that SARP training has an average graduation rate of 30%?

First Class Aviation Machinist Journeyman Alberic Mareus knows it. He’s one of ten graduating from his class as of June 2018. Getting to that class was the last stop on a journey that took Mareus almost a year or decades, depending on how you look at him.

Born in a small town outside of Port Au Prince Haiti, Mareus was raised largely by his grandparents. “My grandmother was a city-wide herbalist and midwife, she was a professor of natural medicine,” Mareus explained. “This is where I learned all the basics about herbs and their effects on the central nervous system, and how they might play a role in healing from substance dependence.”

When Mareus left Haiti for the United States in 2001, he spoke French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. He learned English on his own and in 2004, at the age of 24, he spoke it well enough to join the US Navy. He hoped to travel and become a law enforcement officer. “I found out when I was in training camp that I couldn’t go to law enforcement because I wasn’t a US citizen yet, and it wasn’t allowed.” For two years after basic training, Mareus served as an unnamed Seaman in the Deck Department aboard the USS WASP LHD-1.

“When I fulfilled the time requirement, I passed the rate to the Aviation Machinist Mate because I was qualified for it, and that was my best option rather than painting the ship. ”

Over the next twelve years, Mareus assumed responsibilities as Aviation Machinist Mate in a variety of roles, including a four-year assignment with USS Wasp, four years with VAW-120, four years with VRC-40, and three years with NMRTC Portsmouth, VA. For the duration of those years, the home port was Virginia, except for the year he served on guard duty with Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay (JTF-GTMO) in 2011. “In 2010, they were looking for volunteers to go to Iraq or Guantanamo Bay, so I volunteered and was selected.

After serving in the detention center, Mareus again returned to Virginia where he found himself taking a personal and professional inventory. “I was a deacon in my church, working with people recovering from alcohol and drugs and with an outreach program for homeless and at-risk youth. I was also going to school of public health and realized it was time to match my career in the navy with the civilian work I was doing.

Mareus had the necessary Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score to apply, but that was just the start. He also had to demonstrate his English proficiency, prove he had taken composition courses in English, and write and submit a full essay.
After proving he was academically fit, Mareus sought and received a recommendation from a SARP counselor to attend 30-day treatment for an inpatient FCE.

“At the end of the day, the counselors assess your performance on how you handled the experience, to see if you were responsive in any way, potentially due to past trauma.” explained Mareus. “The Navy wants to know how you fare in a treatment environment because, if I carry my own trauma, then I can have a transfer with someone else who has had a similar experience. I can respond in a way that may not be in the best interests of the patient.

It was only after completing the FCE program, with the recommendation of experienced SARP advisers, that Mareus was allowed to apply to the program. He still had months of training to do. “As part of the application process, you have six months to participate in all support groups: NA-Narcotics Anonymous; AA – Alcoholics Anonymous; Excessive eaters; Sex Addiction Anonymous; Joint dependent Anonymous; Support group for gambling addiction and you must attend several meetings for all groups.

Mareus completed meetings each week while working full time as a Mate First Class Aircraft Machinist. “I was very lucky; my command supported me a lot and they allowed me to attend groups on Fridays. ”

Almost a year after making the decision to try, Mareus was selected to attend the three-month Navy Drug Alcohol Addiction Counseling School (NDAACS) in San Diego. “70% drop out or are deselected after the first week, some end up seeking help for themselves with unresolved past issues, be it childhood or adulthood,” Mareus said. “When you’re in an environment where you’re with counselors who’ve been doing this for years, they know when you’re BS. It’s a very intense workout.

Mareus again returned to Virginia, where he served as a SARP advisor for the Portsmouth Naval Hospital for three years before reporting to work in the only other location he had been to before, Guantanamo Bay. Now, as a SARP advisor assigned to the Navy Medical Readiness and Training Command, Mareus is responsible for providing treatment and education to all active duty personnel at the facility. He will soon be conducting his first Prime for Life at Guantanamo Bay. This is an early intervention program formerly known as Impact, a 20-hour, three-day course that takes place in the hospital.

Mareus pointed out that more often than not, those referred to him face more than the incident that usually precedes a dismissal. “I would describe the incident as the tip of the iceberg, other than what everyone saw, what is going on below?” said Mareus. “I want to help the person feel comfortable enough to open up and help me understand so that I can help them help themselves.”

Mareus is under the supervision of Lt. jg Justen Bryant, a registered clinical social worker and head of the behavioral health department of NMRTC GB. Bryant is evaluating individuals after Mareus performs screening for substance use disorders to determine the diagnosis. Prior to Mareus’ arrival, Bryant was responsible for all aspects of substance use disorders and mental health therapy.

“If a ship gets lost at sea, the lighthouse guides it to shore. In drug addiction, the SARP counselor is this beacon. It is a vital and rewarding role that can have lasting generational change. Bryant said.

Mareus believes the work he does is an extension of the lessons his grandmother taught him growing up. “I was brought up believing that if you can touch someone’s heart you can change your mind and that’s where my benevolent aspect comes from.” Mareus added, “I hope people take advantage of the resources available here on the island and remove the stigma associated with seeking help.” “Helping someone help themselves so that they can reaching his full potential is my calling. I am not here to get them into trouble, I am here to help you. The first step is to reach out and it will walk with you.

After working in the profession for three years, SARP counselors can apply for and pass an international certification exam recognized by 40 states, 14 countries, and a dozen federal level certification boards. Currently, the community of Navy Certified Alcohol and Drug Advisors is understaffed. Sailors interested in exploring the program can find more information on the Navy Bureau of Medicine website at: https://www.med.navy.mil/Navy-Medicine-Operational-Training-Command/Surface-Warfare- Medical-Institute / Navy -Drug-and-Alcohol-Counselor-School /

Date taken: 14.12.2021
Date posted: 12.14.2021 13:09
Story ID: 411096
Site: UC
Hometown: PORT OF PEACE, HT

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