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The Power of Military Resilience in Overcoming Addiction for Veterans

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (360) 857-0007 now.

Military life is synonymous with resilience. Veterans, accustomed to enduring prolonged separations from loved ones and facing the stressors of combat, have honed their inner strength to navigate life’s challenges. For veterans battling drug and alcohol addiction, the resilience forged during their service can be a potent force in their journey to recovery.

Military Resilience, Veterans and the Fight Against Addiction

Deeply ingrained in military culture is the demand for unwavering mental toughness. Service members bear the weight of duty, often making sacrifices for their commitments. These pressures naturally cultivate resilience. Researchers have analyzed the facets of military resilience, offering the following insights:

  • Military resilience represents the inner fortitude required to confront the unique trials of combat.
  • Resilient soldiers demonstrate the capacity to adapt seamlessly to changing circumstances.
  • Resilience also encompasses the ability to maintain a positive mindset amid adverse situations.

Remarkably, the very resilience that enabled veterans to withstand the harsh realities of combat can be a formidable asset when they’re living with addiction.

Applying Military Resilience to the Path of Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation

Military resilience encompasses the reliance on social support, the adoption of healthy coping mechanisms and the ability to overcome adversity—qualities vital for survival in the military. These same qualities prove invaluable in addiction treatment.

For instance, during the detoxification process, veterans must summon their resilience to combat the negative effects of withdrawal. Similarly, veterans must confront their past traumas during treatment, mirroring the determination required during combat.

Military Training Messages and Their Role in Sustaining Sobriety

Military training imparts crucial messages about dedication and resilience to service members. These messages play a pivotal role in recovery and the maintenance of sobriety.

Thriving Amid Stressors

The ability to withstand stress is a fundamental requirement of military service. Service members are trained not just to endure stress but to thrive and evolve through it. This mirrors the resilience needed in addiction recovery, where developing coping skills and engaging in relapse prevention require the capacity to flourish in the face of challenges.

Embracing Personal Courage

Personal courage is a core value in the military, especially during risky situations. This same courage can be reframed during addiction treatment. Seeking help for addiction should be viewed as an act of bravery rather than a sign of weakness. 

The Significance of Gratitude

Military resilience training programs emphasize the importance of gratitude. Service members are taught to focus on the positive aspects of life, comparable to writing in a gratitude journal. Gratitude plays a pivotal role in addiction recovery by helping individuals identify their strengths and apply them to maintain sobriety. 

Applying Military Resilience to Achieving Long-Term Recovery

Sustaining long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction undoubtedly demands resilience. Fortunately, the resilience cultivated during military service can be effectively utilized in recovery.

For instance, managing triggers that lead to drug and alcohol use necessitates utilizing inner strength. In moments of stress or temptation, resilience can help veterans avoid relapse and develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as seeking social support or employing stress management techniques. When confronted with the challenges of entering a treatment program or ceasing substance use that once served as a coping mechanism, veterans can rely on their strength to confront addiction head-on, as if it were their next mission.

When Resilience Alone Isn’t Enough, Professional Treatment Steps In

Personal resilience is a formidable asset, but professional treatment often becomes an essential component of recovery. Taking the courageous step of seeking help is the first stride toward overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.

For veterans dealing with addiction and co-occurring disorders like PTSD or depression, effective treatment methods are indispensable. In many cases, these conditions are treated through various approaches:

  • Therapies: Talk therapy, particularly cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE), holds value for veterans, particularly those with co-occurring addiction and PTSD. Both forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven beneficial.
  • Medication: Certain medications aid in managing drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy plays a central role in veterans’ treatment programs, offering opportunities to learn from others who have faced similar challenges.

Inpatient Rehab for Veterans: A Strong Foundation

Veterans may find inpatient programs beneficial as they embark on their recovery journey. These programs remove veterans from everyday triggers by allowing them to reside on-site at a treatment facility. After completing an inpatient program, many veterans transition into an outpatient program within their community.

In inpatient rehab, veterans receive around-the-clock care within a structured daily routine. They participate in various services, including individual and group therapy, medication management and engagement in recreational activities like yoga and art therapy. Some programs, such as the FORTITUDE program, offer exclusive group therapy for veterans and first responders. The staff is trained in trauma-informed modalities, including EMDR. 

Leveraging VA Health Insurance for Private, Specialized Care

While the VA offers a wide array of treatment options, there may be instances where accessing care outside the VA is necessary. Thankfully, the VA Community Care Network (CCN) facilitates access to private, specialized care providers, including addiction rehabilitation centers.

To seek treatment through a CCN provider, initiate the “consult creation and review” process with your physician. Receiving prior approval from the VA is essential before pursuing care from a CCN provider, and if care is approved,  the VA will cover the cost of these services.

Take the First Step Toward Healing: Seek Help Today

If you’re grappling with substance use disorder or co-occurring mental health conditions, reaching out for treatment marks the initial step toward recovery. Whether through the VA or local mental health treatment centers offering specialized programs for veterans, embarking on this journey may seem daunting. Nevertheless, remember that the military resilience cultivated within you has uniquely prepared you for this transformative moment.

View Sources

Simmons, Angela. “Military Resilience: A Concept Analysis.” Nursing Forum, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2023. 

Adler, Amy; Sowden, Walter. “Resilience in the Military: The Double-Edged Sword of Military Culture.” Military and Veteran Mental Health, 2018. Accessed October 14, 2023.

Chen, Gila. “Does gratitude promote recovery from substance misuse?.” Addiction Research & Theory, 2017. Accessed October 15, 2023. 

National Center for PTSD. “Effective Treatments for PTSD: Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as First Line Treatment.” January 2015. Accessed October 15, 2023.