Pursuing recovery and sobriety comes with trials. While recovery is always possible, finding a helpful community of peers can be instrumental in making the most of one’s time in a treatment program. For veterans, this can be even more essential because nearly one in 15 veterans struggle with substance use disorder (SUD).
Sharing experiences, language, and goals can help veterans feel more connected to others while reinforcing their motivation for continued sobriety. However, cultivating a community of peers for veterans takes effort. It is vital to approach recovery with the right mindset and goals to make the most of these supportive communities.
The Need for Peers
Veterans face unique challenges in the pursuit of sobriety, and peers can make a significant difference in helping veterans connect with others during their healing journey. Even dedicated centers for alcohol and drug treatment can have varying degrees of efficacy depending on many factors.
Feeling like one can connect with others in group therapy, share goals, or comfortably communicate needs and struggles is part of the recovery process. Veterans face unique traumas from their time on active duty. While each veteran’s experience is unique, there are some common challenges many veterans face, such as the after-effects of living in a warzone and the culture shock often experienced during attempts to transition back to civilian life.
Even the most dedicated recovery programs can still have barriers if veterans feel that they cannot communicate their unique experiences with others. This feeling of disconnect, even within a treatment facility, can compromise other recovery practices, with pervasive feelings of resistance, reluctance, or disbelief in the recovery process manifesting as a result. However, connecting veterans with peers who share these experiences can instead open up new opportunities and improve the efficacy of one’s recovery efforts throughout their recovery journey.
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Creating a Sense of Belonging
Each year, about 200,000 veterans of the United States military transition back to civilian life. The experience of returning to civilian life can be very isolating for some veterans. It can be challenging to adjust and connect to others in one’s community.
This feeling of isolation can be actively detrimental to one’s emotional health, further promoting dangerous coping strategies like the use of alcohol or drugs. Effectively overcoming this isolation and creating a true sense of belonging involves connecting with others of shared experience and creating a space where veterans can meet with peers to challenge these notions of loneliness that may otherwise populate their minds.
Veteran Treatment Programs
Connecting with veterans and deconstructing stigmas surrounding recovery is paramount, and peers are instrumental in introducing new perspectives and mindsets based on healing rather than adhering to destructive stigmas. Veteran programs can physically connect an individual with peers actively engaged in challenging the effects of trauma and addiction. These peers can understand the hurdles their fellow veterans face. Seeing others committed to their recovery can be an incredible experience as an individual may not only begin to deconstruct their unnecessary barriers but also find a new belief in their ability to overcome the effects of addiction and trauma in their lives.
Building Connections Based on Shared Interests
Constructing a community of peers for veterans takes many forms. While sharing time in the military can bond people, engaging in a similar culture and perspective can stem further from sharing interests and hobbies. For veterans, creating a community of peers can expand to creating social groups inside and outside a treatment facility.
Connecting with others over sport, music, cinema, or other interests can introduce veterans to new hobbies to fill their civilian life with proven, engaging activities. Learning and participating in various outlets alongside peers can leave one more open to the idea of new experiences while continuing to develop a sense of community.
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Community Based in Communication
A peer group made up of fellow veterans not only helps to deconstruct stigmas and make it easier to reach out for assistance, but veteran-specific language can also be the catalyst to effectively establishing a community. Being able to speak and be heard by peers with similar experiences is a profound experience.
However, communities of peers for veterans can also be cultivated around this language, even educating new ways to express one’s needs and goals. Discussing vulnerable topics like trauma and addiction is difficult as individuals search for the right words or expressions to communicate complex, metaphysical ideas about their experiences. Having peers around to discuss these things in a shared language and understanding can build the communication skills necessary to continue thriving in a veteran-focused recovery environment.
Expanding Your Community
Veteran-focused communities take many forms, and these communities can be found outside the walls of a dedicated treatment facility. Exchanging information and phone numbers or connecting with fellow veterans in digital spaces and online support groups can significantly impact one’s emotional health and sobriety. Finding online forums and embracing digital media can help veterans connect with peers across borders and create an accessible, active community.
Creating and cultivating a community involves many factors, from demographics to culture to language. For veterans, finding the right community of peers and professionals is crucial to an effective, transformative recovery program. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the need not just for educated, dedicated treatment but also the need for an accepting community. Our Hawaii recovery center cultivates an atmosphere of acceptance and support to help you thrive in your own recovery goals, personalizing your journey and helping you connect with like-minded peers. From detox to residential care and ongoing outpatient support, we are committed to serving our veterans in any way possible, providing a space to explore your needs and connect with others. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your needs and goals, call us today at (866) 390-5070.