Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 10, 2013

Vet launches brewery after fending off PTSD

ACME — Jeff Brooks drowned himself in alcohol after he returned home from a tour in Iraq.

Now, he’s drowning himself in work. And he's confronting his demons head on.

Brooks, 38, is developing a microbrewery on U.S. 131 North in Acme Township, an effort to show other veterans they can overcome war-related post traumatic stress disorder.

“I’ve been in the deepest, darkest places anywhere,” said Brooks, a Gaylord native and Benzie Central High School graduate. “And I want the guys coming back to have someone to look to and say, ‘Man, I can do this'.”

Brooks said he disabled about 300 improvised explosive devices during his time in Iraq in 2003-04, plus thousands more pounds of ordnance. “We just quit counting at some point,” Brooks said.

That experience led to a not-so-happy homecoming. He enjoyed being with family and friends, but he somehow he missed the edge, the inherent danger of disarming bombs nearly every day. Everyday life seemed a bit dull.

In some ways, it was like the latter parts of the film "The Hurt Locker," which also features a bomb technician who struggles to adapt to home life.

"With all of the stuff that I did in Iraq and all the stuff I saw, when I came home, it was really tough," Brooks said. "I had PTSD as bad as anybody could. It was dismal. I was beat down really hard. It's like going from 300 miles an hour to three when you get back here.

“For the next year and a half, I was drunk. Out of 30 days, I was drunk for 30 of them."

It took some honest, tough talk from a friends at local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2780 for Brooks to take a look in the mirror.

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