Military life is a unique experience, and many veterans will continue to carry the culture, ideas, perspectives, and lessons of their time in service with them, even after their time on active duty has ended. However, while some of the elements of military culture can be a boon to daily life, instilling a sense of camaraderie and a community of peers, there may also be some challenges introduced through these cultures, particularly regarding alcohol use. On-base drinking cultures can be intense, with the use of alcohol sometimes not just being expected but even celebrated as a way to cope with traumas, challenges, and more. However, these kinds of heavy on-base drinking cultures have lasting effects on veterans in civilian life. 

On-Base Drinking in Military Life

The use of alcohol can be common for military personnel. Not only can substances like alcohol be readily accessible on military bases but those joining at a young age may be exposed to these kinds of drinking cultures as their primary perspective of alcohol use. On top of alcohol’s availability and the acceptance of use among military personnel, heavy drinking cultures can also manifest as a result of military personnel looking for ways to process emotional and mental challenges commonplace through military life. 

Because these military cultures may stigmatize the expression of any perceived “weakness” or champion traditionally masculine cultures that eschew discussing emotional challenges, many military personnel may look to placate difficult feelings in other ways, particularly through the use of alcohol to numb the mind of some of these challenges. This can include using alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Survivor’s guilt
  • Loss of time or missing loved ones at home
  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Flashbacks
  • Injury

A heavy on-base drinking culture can also affect military personnel as they attempt to assimilate into military life. Living on base alongside fellow brothers and sisters in arms can cause an individual to adjust their own lives to better acclimate themselves to an established culture. For some military bases, this may introduce both an unhealthy perspective and amount of alcohol, while also enabling its use as a method of self-medicating other challenges, leading to a complicated relationship with the substance. 

Managing Alcohol Use While In Recovery from Drug Use
Managing Alcohol Use While In Recovery from Drug Use

Navigating marijuana, opioid, or meth addiction treatment while also managing alcohol use is important for a sober life. Learn more by calling (866) 390-5070.

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The Lasting Effects of Heavy Alcohol Use and On-Base Drinking Among Veterans

Addressing alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction in veterans is crucial, especially while transitioning out of military service and into civilian life. Depending on how long a person served, regular exposure to a heavy on-base drinking culture can have lasting effects on a person’s physical and mental health. 

The Physical Effects of Alcohol Use

Prolonged and heavy use of alcohol can affect a person’s physical health in several ways. While the immediate physical effects of alcohol like nausea, vomiting, discoordination, and more will pass with time, other effects may persist. Liver damage, cardiovascular damage, compromised immune system, pervasive dehydration, and more are all common among those engaging with alcohol, especially over long periods. 

Even those transitioning out of a heavy on-base drinking culture may continue to experience these ramifications of heavy alcohol use. This can be especially prevalent if an individual has become accustomed to heavy drinking, or developed AUD as a result of their time in service. 

The Emotional Effects of Alcohol Use

However, the physical ramifications of prolonged, heavy alcohol use and addiction are not the only ways that alcohol can have lasting effects. For some veterans, alcohol use can cause the development of other mental health disorders, especially anxiety, depression, mood swings, and even a person’s ability to regulate emotions like anger or frustration. This can have a dangerous, cyclic effect, where a veteran who has been engaged with alcohol will see alcohol as a way to placate these emotions, even if alcohol use itself is also one of the causes of these feelings. 

Alongside these emotional effects of alcohol use, veterans exposed to a heavy on-base drinking culture may be exposed to alcohol as a normalized and accepted self-medication strategy while also being denied the opportunity to explore other options. Even veterans transitioning out of service who may recognize the need for trauma treatment may not feel comfortable with their ability to reach out for help, or may not have practiced ways of communicating the feelings and challenges therein, creating a barrier to treatment and causing these veterans to look again towards alcohol in civilian life to continue to placate these emotions. 

The Role of Medication After Treatment
The Role of Medication After Treatment

Medication can play an important role in managing stress and overcoming mental health disorders. Learn about our luxury treatment in Hawaii.

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Explore Treatment at Hawaii Island Recovery

Trauma, mental health disorders, and each veteran’s experiences in the line of duty do not stay on base, and many veterans bring these experiences and challenges home with them, crossing state and cultural lines. The same is true for a person’s use of alcohol, with these on-base cultures bleeding into and informing their civilian life. Exploring Hawaii Island Recovery’s residential alcohol treatment can empower veterans to address AUD and addiction, and explore the unique experiences, traumas, and challenges that accompany the use of alcohol, for a truly sustainable sober civilian life. 

Hawaii Island Recovery offers dedicated residential alcohol treatment to veterans, curating not just a space to explore alcohol use disorder and its effects on veterans, but also explore the unique traumas and stresses that veterans face that inform such use. Our commitment to veterans extends to creating entire communities, with peers and trauma-informed professionals alike working together alongside culturally competent Hawaiian communities to create a truly unique and holistic approach to sobriety. We are committed to not just instilling the skills to navigate and overcome alcohol use in civilian life but also engaging in truly transformative healing that addresses a plethora of various needs and goals. For information on how we can create a program for you, call (866) 390-5070.