Veterans of the armed forces face unique challenges. Between feelings of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and the prevalence of addiction among veterans, it can be challenging to find the proper support. Due to the complexity of each of these conditions, professional support is often required to facilitate long-lasting healing and recovery, especially for veterans. No question that finding the motivation and strength to explore one’s vulnerabilities can be tough. However, it is a necessary step for accepting help and fostering wellness in one’s life. 

The Barriers Veterans Face

Veterans have unique needs when it comes to effective healing. Whether a veteran is coping with the effects of addiction or navigating mental health disorders, veterans’ perspectives demand a personalized healing approach. However, for many veterans, seeking professional help can pose several additional barriers – the first is that one has to open up to uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability. 

The fact is that military culture can make it difficult to ask for help. Despite many operations being team efforts in the military, there is still a stigma about asking for help. The expectation for armed forces members to be physically and mentally strong is dangerously common. As a result, many veterans will carry this mentality into civilian life. Living in a culture that stigmatizes asking for help or showing weakness can make it difficult to reach out for help. 

Others may feel they have somehow “failed” if they need professional help for addiction or other mental health disorders. This kind of barrier can be difficult to overcome. Access to effective support through a community of peers is crucial for deconstructing these dangerous notions.

The Need to Explore Vulnerability

Vulnerability comes in many forms. While it can indicate that one is at physical risk, its definition is not tied to only this. Instead, veterans struggling with addiction, trauma, or mental health disorders can also experience emotional vulnerability. This commonly forms guilt, shame, anxiety, or more as one admits they need professional help to cope with past traumatic experiences.

However, the idea that each individual should be able to tackle all situations themselves is often steeped in unfair expectations. Expecting oneself to understand the complexities of trauma or substance use and overcome their trials in isolation is deeply unfair. Additionally, doing so often results in worsening feelings of anxiety, stress, and more. Exploring vulnerability is necessary for helping each individual identify, understand, and overcome these complex trials. 

The Benefits of Vulnerability

Opening up about one’s struggles is difficult. However, feelings of discomfort that result from vulnerability can pose several benefits for one’s long-term recovery. For some, discussing personal struggles and experiences can allow an individual to connect with others on a personal level. In turn, they can develop effective and important relationships with peers who may share similar experiences. Others may need to embrace vulnerability to convey their trauma or addiction story to professionals. This enables professionals to create the most effective and personalized treatment approach for their clients. 

Practicing Vulnerability

Vulnerability takes practice. For veterans of the armed forces, it is necessary to unlearn many cultural norms or mentalities first established during one’s time on active duty. However, this can take time. Thankfully, there are daily practices that one can use to get comfortable with the idea of opening up. To fully reap the benefits of vulnerability, one must be willing to learn how to explore their vulnerable feelings. 

Learn to Ask for Help

Asking for help is rarely ever easy. However, it is possible to normalize asking for help as one learns how to be more vulnerable. Asking for assistance doesn’t have to immediately come with such heavy topics as trauma or alcohol and depression treatment. Instead, asking for help around the house, with a smaller personal problem, or looking for guidance on daily activities such as cooking tips can highlight the positive aid that others can provide. Normalizing asking for assistance with simple tasks can help an individual adopt this mentality when it comes to more personal and larger stresses in life, including one’s goals for overcoming addiction or the effects of trauma

Try Something New

Trying something like exploring a new hobby is a great way to practice vulnerability. Attempting new activities can make veterans more comfortable making mistakes, specifically without worrying about unhealthy perceptions or expectations. Learning how to request guidance from others can be instrumental in strengthening one’s confidence and putting aside any unhealthy mentalities regarding one’s healing. 

Express Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful thing in recovery. By regularly expressing gratitude, one can become more aware of the positive contributions and help that others provide. Additionally, expressing gratitude can help deconstruct some of the barriers to asking for assistance. Finally, keeping a gratitude journal or just taking time to thank one person a day for their efforts can scaffold the right mentality for making the most of one’s time in professional healing programs. 

Expressing vulnerability is a difficult task, especially for veterans of the armed forces. However, we at Hawaii Island Recovery are dedicated to creating a safe and supportive space for you to explore your needs in recovery. Our effective drug and alcohol treatment centers in Hawaii are designed to be personalized to your specific needs and goals, all while introducing you to a supportive community of peers and professionals alike. From residential treatment to ongoing outpatient support, we can help you explore several therapeutic opportunities, from individual and group therapy to new cultural experiences, natural and ocean-based therapies, and much more. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (866) 390-5070.