Interventionist Runs 14th Ironman for Addicted Vets

By Jennifer Matesa 11/03/11

Veterans are widely afflicted by trauma and addiction—and one interventionist is putting his body on the line to help them in Florida this weekend.

Iron man Dan Cronin

Dan Cronin, a 61-year-old addiction interventionist, will run his 14th Ironman triathlon in Panama City, Florida, on Saturday. He's raising funds for Veterans Healing Initiative (VHI), a California-based nonprofit that moves veterans with drug problems out of jail and into treatment. The organization, he tells The Fix, is running out of money. “The troops are giving their lives for us, and a lot of them aren't getting taken care of." Cronin wants to prevent what he saw Vietnam do to his generation: “A lot of those guys came back damaged and we never did anything for them.”

Cronin raced his first Ironman on a dare 12 years ago, and he has 20 years' experience as a drug and alcohol counselor, as well as more than 20 years' sobriety. For the past three years he's been a volunteer member of VHI’s clinical advisory board. So far, Cronin's raised more than $28,000 in sponsorship for his Florida race, and if he beats his personal best of 11:49:42, some sponsors will double their donations—100% of which go toward VHI’s work with vets.

VHI is affiliated with treatment programs across the country, including some specifically designed for women veterans. They handle 90-100 cases a month and place vets into the most appropriate treatment settings, says Jonathan Gervasi, a spokesman for Cronin’s private intervention consulting business. “The majority of VHI's vets who are suffering from substance abuse and PTSD have come from Iraq and Afghanistan.” PTSD is reportedly rampant among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In 2009 the US Army reported 230 suicides—160 of them active-duty troops—and more than 1,700 known suicide attempts. Increasing numbers of soldiers turn to drugs, especially prescription painkillers, to alleviate traumatic stress. The army reported more than 106,000 self-referrals for prescription drug problems in 2009, and 74 overdoses. To learn more about Cronin’s race, or to donate, visit VHI’s website.

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Jennifer Matesa is a Voice Award Fellow at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is the author of the blog Guinevere Gets Sober. She is the author of several books, including the non-fiction, The Recovering Body, about physical and spiritual fitness for living clean and sober. You can find Jennifer on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.