“Out of the Tunnel: Doug Abernethy is Called to be a Counselor ”
This series of stories about a Fairfield Bay resident, Doug Abernethy, originally focused on his years as an original member of the U.S. Special Forces, the forerunner of such elite units as the Green Berets, the Navy Seals, Delta Force, and Rangers. We wrote about his many dangerous assignments during the years 1958-1962, from guarding President Eisenhower during an assassination attempt in Tehran, to raiding the camps of communist insurgents in South Africa, and his twelve months of brutal combat in the jungles of Vietnam.
As Doug’s story continued, however, it shifted dramatically away from his military adventures to his battle with emotions rocked by trauma – well known as PTSD (Post Trauma Symptom Disorder) surfacing out of his Vietnam experience. We told how he reacted to his trauma by distancing himself from people, and how he was beset with self-anger and paranoia. We described the fruitless, destructive attempts he used to escape these haunting emotions: the drinking and brawling with a motorcycle gang that made his pit of despair only deeper.
We told of Doug’s journey for inner peace begun in 1968 after six wasted, unrelieved years, when he observed a change in a fellow biker – a change that he desperately wanted. Believing that such a change might be was possible for himself, Doug set off to find it, motivated by his intense desire to change coupled with enough self-discipline to set aside his drinking, and also, a deep desire to help his soldier buddies who were also likewise plagued by PTSD. He would use his gifted intellectual abilities, his fortitude, and his burning hunger for knowledge that could release him from his inner turmoil. Beneath Doug was a solid but unfinished spiritual base derived from his home life, being raised by godly parents and grandparents.
Continuing his story, we wrote of his years of studying, as he accumulated over 186 hours of college credits, earning first a B.S. and then a Masters in Counseling. Beginning in 1976, as a licensed counselor, Doug sought out and served many different counseling populations, ranging from sexually abused teenagers, to hardened violent criminals, to military personnel with PTSD, to heroin addicts. Applying his academic studies and his field work, Doug had acquired an effective base for counseling a vast number of disorders and he was highly regarded and sought after by every organization he ever worked for including the military, federal and state institutions, and private counseling centers.
While Doug’s work over twenty-five years benefitted hundreds – perhaps thousands – of afflicted people and their families, it also was instrumental in his own healing.
One powerful and absolutely essential concept that Doug used in treating mental health and addiction disorders was the need for forgiveness, so as to remove the self-condemning, destructive weight of guilt – deserved or false – that plagued his clients – and Doug himself. A sense of guilt – a guilty conscience – works to disturb the mental picture a person has of himself: unresolved guilt can engulf a person, drowning them in feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing, which feelings when acted out often cause problems. These contaminated acts can range from aggressive, anti-social behavior to self-destructive escape venues such as alcoholism and drug addiction – with everything in between.
Whether the guilt is deserved or not, it must be resolved for emotional healing and inner peace to take place. Last week we told how, in 1991, Doug finally and fully found the always present forgiveness from God and himself. Today, as Doug looks back on his life, he sees how God had been preparing him for the ministry of counseling, allowing him to go through some very trying experiences, so that he could be a blessing to many suffering souls. Indeed, Doug has not disappointed God.
Next Week: Doug puts up his counseling “Shingle” in the F.B. Trailer Park.