When the brave and selfless heroes from our armed forces return home, unforeseen difficulties often present themselves as they try to readjust to life stateside. The way many individuals attempt to mask their struggles is by abusing drugs and alcohol. While this is a relatively common practice, it can be an unhealthy way to manage the stress and pressure of post-war life. Drug and alcohol abuse can easily turn into a life-threatening addiction. If you feel drugs are now controlling the decisions in your life, it is time to seek help.
Veteran Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Nearly 40% of veterans who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, according to the National Veterans Foundation. Like much of the civilian population, veterans are also susceptible to the rising opioid crisis. Roughly a third of reported opioid abuse within the service members’ and veterans’ communities are by individuals who suffered an injury during war. This number increases to nearly 60% with heroin use.
Drug and alcohol abuse among veterans can make life far more complicated and difficult than it needs to be. Once people begin to depend upon these substances, they usually start having other issues, such as homelessness, unemployment and criminal activity. While alcohol remains the most common form of abuse, illicit and prescription drug abuse is on the rise. You may have made it through a global war abroad; however, your own personal battle may just be beginning at home when you allow substance abuse to take hold of your life.
PTSD and Substance Abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder (SUD) frequently go hand in hand. Sixty-three percent of veterans with PTSD suffer from some form of SUD, and up to 60% of veterans with PTSD smoke. Up to 50% of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with having at least some type of mental disorder. This often leads to drug and alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism. While this may be common practice among veterans, it will lead to additional problems in your life. Such problems include anxiety, depression, inability to keep a job and relationship issues.
These problems often snowball into even greater issues. Your health can quickly deteriorate when you use alcohol and drugs to cope. Many veterans who find themselves homeless and living on the street start out with PTSD, SUD or mental health concerns. Those with PTSD and SUD are at a high risk of becoming suicide victims. In the past, systems were not in place to help veterans manage their struggles. Today, there are countless ways to seek help so that you do not have to go through your issues alone. It is critical that you take the first step and speak with someone about your challenges since returning home. It does not have to be with the military; however, it needs to be with someone.
Ways to Get Help
As a veteran, you will always have access to various military and veteran affairs services that can help with sobriety and recovery. The services offered are available in the form of mental health, substance abuse and treatment programs. Because substance abuse is often a difficult topic to reveal to the military for many veterans, many choose other channels for seeking recovery and treatment. Regardless of where you receive treatment, the most important aspect is that you seek help.
If you’re not comfortable going through military channels in your effort to become clean and sober, there are several alternative options for getting help. Many people find speaking with a trusted religious or spiritual advisor to be a good place to start. Some companies offer on-site mental health professionals for employees. It is always a good idea to reach out to friends and family even if you’ve alienated them during your period of substance abuse. They are often the ones who care about you most in this world, so they’ll be there once you recover regardless of your past behavior.
You can also pursue government or private-sponsored substance abuse and treatment programs. While government programs often have a waitlist, they tend to be more affordable. You could also consider private programs, which offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Inpatient programs that require living at a rehab clinic allow you to remove yourself from all temptations. Outpatient programs permit patients to come and go to minimize disruption to their daily lives. Ultimately, you’ll have to determine which type of program will be right for you.
Benefits of Recovery
Recovery will transform your life. After you seek out help for addiction and dependency, you’ll start to regain control over your life in every way. Substances will no longer dictate your decision-making abilities. One of the greatest benefits will be the repair that will occur with your relationships. If you’re addicted to and dependent on substances, you likely have damaged many relationships along the way. Recovery allows you to repair and rebuild any relationship damage and alienation you may have caused while under the influence. This is particularly important if you have children.
Another top benefit of sobriety and recovery is that you’ll be free to thrive in your professional life. You’ll be able to keep a job in the long term. This could help lead to better work performance, pay raises and promotions. You’ll also save a significant amount of money. Drug use and alcohol use are expensive habits. Between promotions and savings from no longer purchasing substances, your financial state should also improve. You can even use an app to track your savings by no longer purchasing drugs and alcohol. This will also help lead to a healthier lifestyle. You’ll find it is easier to make healthier food and exercise choices. When you eat right and exercise, you’ll even improve your mental health. Basically, not drinking or using drugs leads to a domino effect of health improvements.
Recovery also teaches you better ways of managing stress and challenges in your life. You’ll learn the triggers in your life that led you to want to abuse substances and the sources of your addiction issues. Everyone becomes addicted or dependent based on different reasons. To prevent relapses, it’s important to understand the reasons why you became addicted. Please note that addiction is an equal-opportunity offender. It can affect absolutely anyone from any background, race, religion, gender, etc. Just remember that you are not alone. Substance abuse affects roughly 21 million people in the U.S. each year.