While active members of the military and veterans of the armed forces are celebrated members of their communities, they also face many challenges while on active duty and after being discharged. However, between navigating traumatic experiences and establishing a new civilian lifestyle, many veterans also face an entire change in culture and identity. 

Coping with these changes following service is incredibly stressful. Making the transition from active military duty to veteran civilian life is a challenge that about 200,000 service members face every year, making it a challenging time for many. 

Understanding the Importance of Military Culture

Just as different demographics have their own cultures, language, and nuance, members of all military branches are similarly exposed to a unique culture on duty. For many, military life and its culture are intimately linked to their identity, whether they joined following high school, college, or any other time. 

Military culture is a prevalent part of life, between regimented on-base atmospheres and the skills and routines instilled during an individual’s time in the armed forces. These experiences and environments are not easily replicated outside of the military space. Those who have lived through this culture can be met with many barriers when leaving the military. 

While some may find they are unable to communicate with non-veteran personnel effectively, others may feel a distinct lack of camaraderie when like-minded brothers or sisters in arms no longer surround them. Even being a successfully discharged and celebrated veteran can be met with feelings of loss. 

An individual may feel as if their identity formed in the military is lost or distant from the civilian lifestyle they now find themselves in. Some veterans may even feel confused about their own identity and how it fits into their communities, leading to even greater feelings of isolation or abandonment.

The Dangers of Losing Identity

Veterans face a challenge during this transition to civilian life, and there is no simple way to navigate these changes. This sudden change in environment and culture can be filled with feelings of isolation. An individual may feel neglected, rejected, or misunderstood by these newfound communities, leading to depression, anxiety, isolation, and more. 

An individual’s family may also feel difficult to communicate with, even if they are taking active steps to better understand their challenges, experiences, and needs. All of these can beget any number of unhealthy, self-destructive coping strategies as an individual feels alone in their battle over acceptance and identity. 

Coupled with traumatic experiences from active duty, veterans face a mixture of unique stresses and can find it difficult to locate the proper support and community to face these challenges.

Loss of Identity, Addiction, and Mental Health Issues

The use of addictive substances like drugs or alcohol, behavioral addictions like gambling, or even the continued depression and trauma leading to feelings of isolation bring further difficulties during this transition as an individual is challenged by their own identity. 

Facing these challenges in isolation is exceptionally difficult. Addiction and other self-destructive behaviors are common among veterans of the armed forces. This loneliness can even develop into self-destructive thoughts or suicidal ideation if left unaddressed. 

However, others may feel limited by their military identity. While it may be healthy to try to relinquish an individual’s experiences due to the prevalence of military sexual trauma, toxic or abusive chains of command, harassment, moral injury, and more, it can create its own difficulties. An individual may feel left without an identity while being asked to transition into civilian life, making it difficult to find a concrete direction or pursue the help needed during this time. 

Finding Your Identity 

A military identity can be held very close to an individual’s being. It can be challenging to relinquish this identity and culture even after leaving the military. However, there are resources available to help veterans make this transition safely. 

Using Digital Media

First, utilizing digital media is instrumental in connecting with others. Feeling alone in an individual’s community or identity is difficult. It is common to feel as if an individual isn’t accepted or understood. Digital spaces can help veterans connect with veterans who can share in these struggles and transitions, working to validate one another’s identity rather than feeling ostracized by it.

Finding Shared Hobbies

Others may feel limited by their time in the military by either feeling judged based on preconceived expectations or defined solely by their veteran status and time in military service. However, being a member of the armed forces is only part of an individual’s identity. 

While military identity can be an essential part of a person, each individual will still have their own interests and hobbies outside of this perception. Looking for peers that share these interests rather than basing their feelings of acceptance based on shared military experience can be a bridge to finding a new kind of community. 

Finding Support Programs

Lastly, dedicated veteran support programs connect individuals with peers who can share in communication and experience. Locating these programs – whether through online searches or a center for alcohol and drug treatment – can provide individuals with the support they need to heal from their experiences in active duty while creating a community and atmosphere of understanding and acceptance. 

While active members of the military and veterans of the armed forces are celebrated members of their communities, they also face many challenges while on active duty and after being discharged. However, between navigating traumatic experiences and establishing a new civilian lifestyle, many veterans also face an entire change in culture and identity. 

Coping with these changes following service is incredibly stressful. Making the transition from active military duty to veteran civilian life is a challenge that about 200,000 service members face every year, making it a challenging time for many. 

Understanding the Importance of Military Culture

Just as different demographics have their own cultures, language, and nuance, members of all military branches are similarly exposed to a unique culture on duty. For many, military life and its culture are intimately linked to their identity, whether they joined following high school, college, or any other time. 

Military culture is a prevalent part of life, between regimented on-base atmospheres and the skills and routines instilled during an individual’s time in the armed forces. These experiences and environments are not easily replicated outside of the military space. Those who have lived through this culture can be met with many barriers when leaving the military. 

While some may find they are unable to communicate with non-veteran personnel effectively, others may feel a distinct lack of camaraderie when like-minded brothers or sisters in arms no longer surround them. Even being a successfully discharged and celebrated veteran can be met with feelings of loss. 

An individual may feel as if their identity formed in the military is lost or distant from the civilian lifestyle they now find themselves in. Some veterans may even feel confused about their own identity and how it fits into their communities, leading to even greater feelings of isolation or abandonment.

The Dangers of Losing Identity

Veterans face a challenge during this transition to civilian life, and there is no simple way to navigate these changes. This sudden change in environment and culture can be filled with feelings of isolation. An individual may feel neglected, rejected, or misunderstood by these newfound communities, leading to depression, anxiety, isolation, and more. 

An individual’s family may also feel difficult to communicate with, even if they are taking active steps to better understand their challenges, experiences, and needs. All of these can beget any number of unhealthy, self-destructive coping strategies as an individual feels alone in their battle over acceptance and identity. 

Coupled with traumatic experiences from active duty, veterans face a mixture of unique stresses and can find it difficult to locate the proper support and community to face these challenges.

Loss of Identity, Addiction, and Mental Health Issues

The use of addictive substances like drugs or alcohol, behavioral addictions like gambling, or even the continued depression and trauma leading to feelings of isolation bring further difficulties during this transition as an individual is challenged by their own identity. 

Facing these challenges in isolation is exceptionally difficult. Addiction and other self-destructive behaviors are common among veterans of the armed forces. This loneliness can even develop into self-destructive thoughts or suicidal ideation if left unaddressed. 

However, others may feel limited by their military identity. While it may be healthy to try to relinquish an individual’s experiences due to the prevalence of military sexual trauma, toxic or abusive chains of command, harassment, moral injury, and more, it can create its own difficulties. An individual may feel left without an identity while being asked to transition into civilian life, making it difficult to find a concrete direction or pursue the help needed during this time. 

Finding Your Identity 

A military identity can be held very close to an individual’s being. It can be challenging to relinquish this identity and culture even after leaving the military. However, there are resources available to help veterans make this transition safely. 

Using Digital Media

First, utilizing digital media is instrumental in connecting with others. Feeling alone in an individual’s community or identity is difficult. It is common to feel as if an individual isn’t accepted or understood. Digital spaces can help veterans connect with veterans who can share in these struggles and transitions, working to validate one another’s identity rather than feeling ostracized by it.

Finding Shared Hobbies

Others may feel limited by their time in the military by either feeling judged based on preconceived expectations or defined solely by their veteran status and time in military service. However, being a member of the armed forces is only part of an individual’s identity. 

While military identity can be an essential part of a person, each individual will still have their own interests and hobbies outside of this perception. Looking for peers that share these interests rather than basing their feelings of acceptance based on shared military experience can be a bridge to finding a new kind of community. 

Finding Support Programs

Lastly, dedicated veteran support programs connect individuals with peers who can share in communication and experience. Locating these programs – whether through online searches or a center for alcohol and drug treatment – can provide individuals with the support they need to heal from their experiences in active duty while creating a community and atmosphere of understanding and acceptance. 

Coping with a changing identity as you begin your life as a veteran is challenging. We at Hawaii Island Recovery are prepared to help. We understand the difficult stresses that veterans face on a regular basis, and our dedicated veteran-focused program is ready to help you through your needs and goals during this time. With a comfortable and accepting atmosphere, a dedicated community of like-minded peers, and trauma-informed professionals all waiting to help you, you can learn to embrace your identity while being a celebrated member of our community. Your time at our rehab in Hawaii is personalized to fit your needs, addressing any self-destructive behaviors and emotional stresses that you face while creating your own set of best practices for a healthy daily life. For more information on how we can help you cope with your changing identity after service, call us today at (866) 390-5070.