Veterans provide a crucial service to our country and make up the heart of many communities. While it is essential to take time to celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of veterans, it can still be difficult to truly address veteran needs. From substance abuse to traumatic experiences while in service or on base, many veterans carry an extraordinary burden throughout their time on active duty and into civilian life. Exploring Paul’s journey as a veteran is crucial to understanding not just the myriad of challenges veterans face – such as substance abuse and trauma to veteran suicide – but also understanding the role of hope in Hawaii Island Recovery’s approach to healing.

The Many Forms of Trauma Among Veterans

Trauma can profoundly impact a person’s behaviors, attitudes, worldview, and even their perceptions of themselves. While trauma can manifest in anyone’s life, veterans of any branch of the armed forces can be at an increased risk of experiencing traumatic events from their time in service. Like Paul, these experiences in the line of duty can follow every veteran back to home soil, continuing to impact daily veteran and civilian life. 

Veterans put their bodies and minds on the line in service to their country, and the effects of navigating life-threatening situations and challenges of military life fundamentally affect veterans’ mentalities and shape their experiences. Compared to civilian counterparts, veterans are more likely to experience trauma and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can have lasting impacts on their mental health or substance use, even in civilian life. 

Navigating Active Warzones

Veterans like Paul are not only tasked with overcoming physical challenges and intense training, but many veterans have also seen the harrows of war in an active warzone firsthand. Paul, being a celebrated veteran and having served in operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, and Gothic Serpent, still carries the experiences and tragedy that often accompany these missions. 

Veterans who have seen war and navigated life-threatening situations can come home with an entirely new perspective and mentality, and some veterans who are deployed on tour do not necessarily come home as the same person due to trauma, moral injury, and more. The traumas of an active warzone can recontextualize each veteran’s experiences and bring difficult memories, panic, flashbacks, and more into civilian life. Depending on each person, these symptoms can be intense and demand professional attention to address.

Relapse Prevention Strategies for Sober Veterans
Relapse Prevention Strategies for Sober Veterans

Overcoming addiction as a veteran is difficult, and having established, effective, and comprehensive relapse prevention strategies in veteran life is crucial to avoid re-engaging with drugs or alcohol. For more information on our dedicated veteran programs and unique approach to our Hawaii rehabilitation, or if you have any questions about your next step, call (866) 390-5070.

More info

Survivor’s Guilt Among Veterans

While experiencing life-threatening situations in the line of duty can lead to lasting traumas and flashbacks in many veterans, it is not the only challenge that these deployments can present. Even those who come home from active duty can experience intense survivor’s guilt – the guilt that comes with surviving life-threatening situations where other brothers and sisters in arms did not. Some common symptoms of survivor’s guilt include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Compromised sense of self-worth
  • Feeling “stuck” in the past

Many veterans may constantly relive the situations that led to another’s death in their heads and blame themselves for either actions taken that they perceive led to the death of another, or actions that could have been taken to prevent such an outcome. These intense feelings of guilt and blame are often unfair toward veterans experiencing survivor’s guilt, and the depression therein can be wholly debilitating. 

Intense and unaddressed survivor’s guilt can also lead some veterans to question the value of their own lives and inform suicidal ideation. Some veterans may believe that they should have been the ones to sacrifice their lives in the line of duty, while others with survivor’s guilt may question why their lives were spared, enduring ongoing guilt and damage to personal spiritual beliefs. 

Trauma On-Base

In addition to the traumatic experiences on tour, many veterans may also have to overcome traumatic experiences in training or on base. One of these most profound traumatic experiences is military sexual trauma (MST). MST is any kind of unwanted sexual advances conducted on a military base, from unwanted comments about a person’s body to unwanted touching, rape, and more.

Both men and women in the military can be victims of MST. Meanwhile, these experiences can continue to impact veterans even after they return to civilian life and are no longer on base. 

Other veterans may experience trauma throughout training. For some, military culture can be difficult to adjust to which can cause military personnel to feel forced to make changes to their identity to fit in, especially among LGBTQ+ service members, usually to accommodate a traditional masculine culture. Others may experience injuries in training that can affect both bodies and minds as each person puts everything on the line when responding to the call of duty.

Prescription Drug Addiction Among Veterans
Prescription Drug Addiction Among Veterans

The use of prescription drugs among veterans is common. From proven substance use treatment practices to community engagement and spiritual healing, we offer a comprehensive approach to a transformed and sober future for veterans of the armed forces. For more information on how we can personalize a treatment plan for you, call us today at (866) 390-5070.

More info

The Normalcy of Trauma Among Military Families

Some military personnel may have already experienced trauma in their lives before joining the military. Military families like Paul’s may have multiple members in service, and living life as part of a military family from childhood can be extraordinarily difficult. For some, constantly moving around can make it difficult to build meaningful connections, while for others like Paul, experiencing profound loss can be prevalent from an early age. The fear of not knowing if a loved one will return home can be devastating and fundamentally shape a person’s perspectives and inform further traumatic experiences. 

Trauma and Substance Abuse

Paul’s journey to a promising future was filled with not only personal traumas but also the use of addictive substances birthed from his experiences. For many veterans, the use of drugs or alcohol is common to cope with trauma and its continued effects on each veteran’s mental health and compromised feelings of self-worth. Even Paul had found that alcohol could be used to numb feelings of loss or trauma at a young age, exploring its effects by the age of 14, which informed its continued use as a coping mechanism throughout his time in the military. 

Those who have experienced trauma can be more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to push down or avoid painful memories and challenging emotions like anxiety, panic, depression, and more. However, substance abuse can also further these difficult feelings, bringing about increased emotional turmoil and starting a cycle of abuse that can be wholly destructive to a person’s daily life and overall health.

Exploring substance abuse as a coping strategy is common among veterans and active service members alike. This may be caused by an inability or unwillingness to express emotional vulnerability due to social expectations or military culture, or through a compromised sense of self-worth that can make veterans disregard the personal cost of substance abuse and the damage it can do to their personal relationships, mental health, and physical health. 

Substance Abuse Among Veterans

The use of drugs and alcohol can be common among military veterans, both to “take the edge off,” as well as to cope with any number of mental health disorders or traumatic memories stemming from their time in service. However, how veterans are exposed to addictive substances can vary. Addressing how substance abuse may manifest in each veteran’s life is crucial for creating an effective treatment and recovery plan at Hawaii Island Recovery. 

Coping With Challenges

The most common use of drugs or alcohol results from the trying lifestyles that military personnel must live. Substance abuse may take place not only to cope with the stresses of active duty but also to address the challenges during the transition to civilian life. 

First, many veterans may be reluctant to reach out for personal or professional help to address trauma, anxiety, depression, or substance abuse following their time in service, with many continuing to instead promote a visage of stability, strength, and avoidance of expressing any perceived weakness or vulnerability. 

Veterans may also feel alone in overcoming many of the challenges they face. Feeling isolated from others who share a person’s life experiences and transitioning to a new civilian culture can be exceptionally difficult, and many veterans may feel disconnected from communities, civilian peers, or even family members following their experiences in service. This can add even more barriers to veterans who would otherwise benefit from treatment if they feel they would not be understood or cannot meaningfully connect with others in a treatment and recovery space. 

Finding peers at Hawaii Island Recovery’s dedicated veteran program is essential, with veterans like Paul being able to challenge these beliefs when surrounded by others who truly understand and can empathize with the challenges that veterans must overcome. 

Substance Abuse With Prescription Painkillers

Prescription drugs are also common in many veterans’ lives. For many, continued aches, pains, and more from injuries and strains from a person’s time on active duty can continue to affect civilian life, and an introduction to prescription drugs and painkillers can further inform substance abuse among veterans. 

Depending on the individual, some veterans may also begin to engage in self-harm following these addictive prescriptions to procure more of the substances. Likewise, engaging in “doctor shopping,” or seeing multiple doctors to fill multiple prescriptions or find a doctor who will refill prescription painkillers to further substance abuse, can also be common.

Treating Trauma and Substance Abuse to Prevent Veteran Suicide

Left untreated, trauma and substance abuse can lead to truly devastating outcomes, and professional treatment is paramount to effectively address these challenges. Among the unfortunate possibilities of untreated substance abuse and PTSD includes veteran suicide – something that is all too common and affects not just veterans themselves but also their entire families and greater communities. 

Paul’s journey with veteran suicide is just as profound as his journey with substance abuse and trauma, with his grandfather dying by suicide when Paul was 14. Additionally, Paul’s experiences with substance abuse and trauma had led to a disregard for his own well-being and life before finding treatment at Hawaii Island Recovery, with considerations of suicide already manifesting in daily life.

Veteran suicide is unfortunately common, with feelings of guilt and compromised self-worth alongside mental health disorders and substance abuse, all working in concert to create truly difficult situations for many veterans navigating civilian life. Finding effective treatment and empowering veterans to pursue such treatment for themselves is paramount to preventing the most devastating outcomes. 

While loss can be painfully familiar for veterans and military families, such feelings of loss can extend to every other part of each veteran’s life. Paul’s experiences with loss in childhood as well as in service impacted how he viewed himself, becoming less considerate of his own well-being, or even his life. Professional treatment to not only establish practices to challenge trauma and substance abuse but to also address personal and spiritual healing is all part of a truly effective and life-saving recovery. 

Wanting Treatment for Trauma and Substance Abuse

For many veterans, pervasive feelings of guilt, doubt, shame, and a compromised sense of self-worth can all affect each veteran’s willingness or belief in themselves and the efficacy of potential treatment efforts. With veterans like Paul, it can be difficult to truly want help because if a person does not believe they are “worthy” of a healthy life, and a loss of hope can make it difficult for an individual to care about how much pain they go through. 

Pervasive feelings of guilt among veterans can also make it difficult for many veterans navigating trauma and substance abuse to believe they are “allowed” to live a healthy life, and feelings of hopelessness and more are what they somehow “deserve.” 

Lastly, some veterans may not believe in the possibility of change in the first place, even if they acknowledge that they may benefit from professional treatment to overcome trauma and substance abuse in civilian life. This can be informed by a pervasive disconnect from peers, while others may believe that their traumatic experiences or use of drugs or alcohol are somehow beyond help. 

However, wanting treatment for oneself is paramount, and committing to Hawaii Island Recovery’s dedicated veteran treatment programs can effectively challenge many of these notions among veterans. Even approaching Hawaii Island Recovery with a mentality of “what is there to lose by trying?” as Paul did can lead to finding not just peers and a truly empathetic and understanding community but can also introduce something that many veterans may struggle without through their recovery from trauma or substance abuse: hope. 

The Importance of Embracing Hope in Treatment

Hope is a powerful thing, but it can also be something that is easily lost in the face of trauma and substance abuse. Seeing peers who are overcoming similar challenges and connecting with others can be an incredible experience, and instill a belief that change is not only possible but also achievable. 

However, experiencing hope in this way like Paul has at Hawaii Island Recovery also means truly understanding what recovery can mean for veterans, even those navigating the most intense challenges in their lives. It is essential to have hope that not only can a person effectively cease the use of drugs or alcohol but can also truly thrive, be happy, and find fulfillment in veteran life despite the challenges in life that have led to this point. 

For veterans, it is normal to feel doubt about oneself in the face of substance abuse and a deluge of traumatic experiences. However, Paul is a testament to how change is possible for oneself, having found hope and possibility for his own future. This kind of healing – healing that goes beyond finding new coping strategies and addresses substance abuse and trauma as well as spiritual and social care and more – is necessary for a truly transformative recovery. 

Hawaii Island Recovery’s Approach to Healing

Holistic treatment options and empathy permeate Hawaii Island Recovery’s dedicated veteran substance abuse treatment in Hawaii and are what makes treatment effective. Not only can veterans meet peers who have served and sacrificed in the line of duty as well but they can also find empathy in staff who know intimately the challenges of substance abuse and its effects on daily life. 

Combining effective trauma-informed therapy with proven therapeutic techniques, individual and group therapy, experiential therapies, and a holistic approach that incorporates spiritual healing and empathy into daily life is always possible.

Paul’s journey is wrought with challenges throughout each part of his life, from experiencing loss at an early age to navigating challenges throughout military life and beyond. While the challenges veterans face are incredibly profound, change is always possible. Finding the right community where each veteran feels they belong and can find new hope for their change and possibility is crucial. Paul’s journey was a difficult one, but it is also a story that speaks to the heart of Hawaii Island Recovery’s mission to support those who have sacrificed in the line of duty and can be a testament to the change that is waiting. 

The challenges that Paul faced throughout his life are profound but are also shared among many veterans from any branch of the armed forces. Hawaii Island Recovery is dedicated to not just addressing these challenges among the veteran community but engaging in truly transformative and profound healing on a physical, emotional, social, and spiritual level. Each veteran program is designed for each individual, ensuring the most effective practices and approaches for each individual. Change and healing from trauma, substance abuse, survivor’s guilt, and more is difficult but always possible. For more information on how we can help you take the first step into effective substance abuse treatment in Hawaii, call to speak to us today at (866) 390-5070.