No matter how much you dreamed of it during your tour of duty, you can’t ever really go home again after active military service. Especially for combat vets, the experiences you have on the front lines changed you to your core. For many, that includes new habits when it comes to drugs and alcohol. One recent study found that 43% of active duty personnel reported binge drinking behavior, for example, and returning vets were at high risk of misusing alcohol and prescription painkillers.
Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol might seem like an easy solution to your pain in the moment; but before too long they can make your life unrecognizable. If you’re a vet and addiction is stealing your freedom and ruining your life day by day, we can help. Here’s how to get started with drug and alcohol addiction recovery for veterans.
Veteran Addiction Recovery Tip 1: Recognize that you’re not alone.
The fact that you were screened for PTSD and addiction at the end of your deployment proves that the military knows these are major issues – even if they’re still shrouded in shame. Studies suggest that roughly 10% of veterans suffer from addiction, with higher rates among younger vets. No matter what you’re feeling or what kinds of symptoms you are experiencing, you need to know that it’s not your fault and you’re not alone.
Veteran Addiction Recovery Tip 2: Understand the complexity of your situation.
It’s not really the drinking or using that’s the problem: It’s the trauma or mental wellness problems underneath it. Substance misuse is a symptom of deeper emotional, mental, and behavioral issues.
For example, one recent study found that among veterans seeking help for substance abuse, more than 1/3 were also suffering from PTSD.
Veteran Addiction Recovery Tip 3: Believe in the possibility of a better life.
No one can ever take back what you experienced on the front lines, and you don’t have to forget it in order to live a happy life. In fact, you can’t forget it, no matter how many substances you consume. PTSD has no “cure,” but today we have many different innovative modalities that have been proven to relieve the symptoms of PTSD to the extent that those suffering it can live a “normal” life.
For example, recent years have seen the rise of EMDR, or eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing. In this therapy, a trained counselor will flicker lights or use other bilateral visual stimuli while you think about difficult memories and discuss how you want to see them in the future. The science behind it all is truly fascinating, but the outcome is that patients often can achieve a peaceful perspective on a once-troubling event. You won’t forget your memories, but they won’t have such a hold on you. One VA study found that just 12 EMDR sessions reduced symptoms in 78% of PTSD patients.
Veteran Addiction Recovery Tip 4: Be prepared to follow direction.
Recovery from addiction is possible for anyone. We have the scientific data and the experience – both personal and professional – to prove it. Trust the process and the findings of those who’ve come before, and you can be a success story, too.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be shuttled into a cookie-cutter program. Every client at Acqua receives their own customized treatment plan to fit their needs and goals.
Veteran Addiction Recovery Tip 5: Ask for help.
If there’s one thing that veterans know, it’s that you can go fast alone, but far together. You’ve already seen how far battling your demons alone will take you. Perhaps now is the time to ask for help.