With the turn of the new year comes the chance for another fresh start, and veterans can benefit from creating and adhering to a New Year’s resolution. The stresses of transitioning out of military life and establishing a new civilian lifestyle are difficult. However, veterans may also be facing a combination of trauma, addiction, stress, and much more, with new stresses and old traumas affecting each veteran’s mental and emotional health. Using the new year to set new goals can provide an element of structure and direction that veterans can benefit from in their ongoing recovery journey.
The Importance of New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s resolutions can seem rather performative, notorious for lofty promises only to be forgotten before the end of January. However, for veterans navigating the profound change and challenges of establishing a healthy civilian life, these resolutions can be a powerful recovery tool. Trauma, PTSD, addiction, depression, and much more are all common for veterans as they fundamentally change their lifestyles to fit a non-military atmosphere. New Year’s resolutions can provide a clear goal and structure for each person’s recovery efforts. Learning to set effective goals can make a huge difference in each individual’s success and motivation throughout the new year.
Setting Goals for Veterans
Veterans have a unique set of needs and challenges following their time in service. Setting effective, veteran-specific goals is a practiced skill. Ensuring that each goal is not only realistic but able to be measured, built upon, and celebrated can make for the most effective resolutions for veterans of the armed forces.
Make Resolutions Personal
Veterans face a unique set of challenges. Committing to a New Year’s resolution involves distancing oneself from the more performative nature that these resolutions sometimes carry. Overcoming addiction, navigating trauma and PTSD, or adjusting to the transition stresses of daily civilian life carry a unique set of experiences and perspectives. Setting personal goals to address each of these challenges is paramount.
It is very difficult to truly commit to a goal if it does not feel wholly personal to one’s own goals and ambitions. Setting a resolution means looking not only at the personal challenges veterans face but also at the changes they want for themselves in daily life. Personalized resolutions devoid of the influence of the opinions of others, prevalent stigmas, or other barriers can empower veterans to set goals pertinent to their interests and needs.
Goals for Overcoming Substance Use
The use of drugs or alcohol among veterans is common. Many veterans leaving the armed forces may enter civilian life with an unhealthy relationship with these addictive and destructive substances. For some, the use of prescription painkillers resulting from injuries incurred in the line of duty can inform the development of addiction. Others may carry an unhealthy drinking culture from military life back into their civilian routine. As a result, addressing the use of these substances is crucial.
However, setting generic goals like “beat addiction” can be unrealistic and are often impossible to measure. Even those who have attained stable sobriety may still experience urges and cravings on a regular basis and are continuously adapting new and effective relapse prevention plans.
On the other hand, setting goals like “start a detox program” can be much clearer in their implementation. These goals can also provide structure for how one can measure and recognize when such a resolution has been achieved. Working with family to locate dedicated veteran-specific treatment programs can also ensure that one’s efforts are rewarded with the most pertinent strategies and communities possible.
Veterans of the armed forces are also often faced with intense feelings of isolation upon returning to civilian life. It can be exceptionally difficult for veterans to connect with civilians given their profoundly different life experiences, perspectives, and attitudes. However, this does not mean that veterans are without their own social needs. Having a goal to locate and engage with a veteran community can be a great way to challenge these feelings of isolation.
Setting a resolution to attend a local veteran community meeting or social event, or even to more actively connect with family, can all be greatly beneficial. Resolutions like “make one phone call a day” can be easily measured, and can encourage veterans to tend to their own social needs while building meaningful relationships in civilian life.
Keep Focus Throughout the Year
It can be easy to lose track of a resolution as the year dredges on. However, staying focused on a resolution throughout all months is necessary to see these goals through. Taking time to celebrate when measurable parts of one’s resolution are accomplished, or when taking major strides, is paramount. Not only does celebrating success reinforce how profound even smaller accomplishments can be, but it also continues to highlight each veteran’s overarching year-long goals, ensuring they never fall out of focus.
Working alongside professional treatment programs and veteran peers can help each individual stay accountable for their resolution year-round. These programs can also provide the necessary perspective and support for accomplishing these goals and each milestone that leads up to them.
A New Year’s resolution can be a powerful recovery tool for veterans. However, utilizing them effectively is a practiced skill. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we are both sympathetic to the unique challenges that veterans face on a daily basis and prepared to help you create the most effective and personal strategy for your recovery from trauma, addiction, or co-occurring disorders. Our veteran recovery program and big island substance abuse center are available to you to create your own best path to a healthy future, all while connecting you with veteran peers. For more information on our effective drug and alcohol rehab centers in Hawaii, or how we can personalize your time with us, call (866) 390-5070 today.