Veterans returning home from military duty are still faced with many challenges stemming from their military careers. Trauma, PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and much more can all follow veterans home, continuing to affect daily life, with many of these challenges going unaddressed. Pervasive and destructive stigmas are common barriers to veterans reaching out for professional treatment regarding these experiences, leaving many to attempt to self-medicate these challenges with addictive substances. Self-medicating with alcohol is a common, yet destructive, practice among veterans. However, there are always recovery options to explore, and Hawaii Island Recovery’s alcohol treatment centers in Hawaii can help address the challenges of veteran life and substance use in tandem.

Common Challenges Among Veterans

An unhealthy relationship with alcohol among veterans does not develop in isolation, with many using it to address other poignant challenges. Understanding the challenges that inform self-medicating with alcohol can empower veterans and their families to better create an effective treatment plan. 

Military personnel live a vastly different lifestyle than their civilian counterparts. Not only does the call of duty regularly place military personnel in high-stress and traumatic situations but military culture can also be filled with its own stresses, challenges, and influences regarding the use of addictive substances. Some of the challenges that can inform attempts at self-medicating with alcohol for veterans include:

  • Transition stress and culture shock
  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or panic disorder
  • Survivor’s guilt
  • Flashbacks
  • Physical injury or chronic aches and pains
  • Inability or unwillingness to express emotional needs
  • Feeling a lack of support
  • Military sexual trauma (MST)

Veterans may also experience a combination of these challenges and may feel the need to do anything to purge such negative feelings from themselves. Self-medicating with alcohol can purport to be a fast-acting way to numb the senses to many of these challenges, even if just temporarily, despite its otherwise negative effects. 

Likewise, many veterans self-medicating with alcohol may be aware of the negative effects of alcohol on their health but will engage with it anyway due to these pervasive challenges. Understanding the full range of dangers of self-medicating with alcohol can be the catalyst to pursuing professional treatment for a more sustainable and effective healing journey. 

Alcohol Blackout
Alcohol Blackout: Effects of Binge Drinking

Although the majority of people who drink keep it within normal levels, binge drinking seems to be on the rise. This dangerous drinking behavior leads to a number of side effects, from poor decision-making to alcohol blackout. What exactly is alcohol blackout and what causes it to happen?

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The Dangers of Self-Medicating With Alcohol

Self-medicating with alcohol can be highly destructive to a veteran’s mental, physical, and emotional health. However, it can also compromise other areas of healing, making it difficult to truly address, confront, and overcome traumatic experiences, mental health disorders, and more. Working with dedicated professionals like those at Hawaii Island Recovery can be the best approach to not only addressing each veteran’s relationship with alcohol but also creating a plan to overcome the challenges and traumas that initially informed its use. 

Further Compromising Mental Health

Anxiety, depression, panic, guilt, and more are all common among veterans following their time in service, and these feelings often continue to impact daily life even long after an individual has been discharged from active duty. While alcohol can cause a veteran to temporarily forget about these difficult feelings or past experiences, that doesn’t mean that alcohol is making them go away. Rather, as the effects of alcohol subside, increased feelings of anxiety, depression, panic, guilt, and more are common, as well as increased difficulty regulating emotions like anger, frustration, or sadness, further necessitating the need for professional treatment. 

Compromised Coping Strategies

Self-medicating with alcohol also means that veterans may not be developing other, healthier coping strategies. Not only can alcohol prevent these strategies from being practiced but even veterans making an active effort to create new coping strategies while still self-medicating with alcohol can have these efforts compromised, making it difficult to find a truly sustainable way to process these intense emotions and challenges. 

Isolation and Strained Relationships

Alcohol can also cause many veterans to become further isolated in their challenges. Not only can social functions be neglected in favor of using alcohol but these feelings of isolation can extend to even close friends and family. However, the destructive effects of alcohol are never truly isolated, and the families and friends of those engaging with alcohol also experience its effects, straining these relationships, birthing misunderstanding or distrust, and creating a cycle of isolation and alcohol use that can quickly develop into addiction. 

How Drug and Alcohol Use Becomes So Destructive In a Veteran's Life?
How Drug and Alcohol Use Becomes So Destructive In a Veteran’s Life?

Drug and alcohol use can manifest in a myriad of ways. We champion the opportunity to tend to not just the use of drugs or alcohol, but the lifestyles, mentalities, social needs, and spiritual needs in recovery. For more information, call (866) 390-5070.

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The Financial Impact of Self-Medicating With Alcohol

Addiction is costly, not just to a person’s mental and physical health, relationships, and more but also to a person’s finances. Veterans self-medicating complex challenges with alcohol can find that such regular use, especially as addiction develops and more and more alcohol is used, can have a profound effect on their financial security. For some, diverting funds from other areas to purchase more alcohol is common, compromising budgets for rent, groceries, or other necessities. Others may lose out on job opportunities or find it difficult to maintain consistent employment as alcohol use continues to impact daily life. 

Self-medicating with alcohol can be exceptionally dangerous. However, for many veterans, it is also a common practice. If you or your veteran loved one are overcoming the effects of trauma and mental health disorders and self-medicating with alcohol, our alcohol treatment centers in Hawaii can help you today. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we create a dedicated veteran community to help veterans connect with peers and trauma-informed professionals to ensure the most pertinent, supportive, and destigmatized recovery environment possible. Each program is also personalized to fit your unique needs and goals, working to explore mental, emotional, and spiritual healing throughout your journey. For more information on how we can help you, call to speak to us today at (866) 390-5070.