How to Overcome Substance Abuse as a Veteran

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Have you ever wondered how veterans, the brave individuals who've faced the harsh realities of war, manage to overcome the challenge of substance abuse?

The journey to sobriety is not a simple one, especially when compounded by the unique experiences veterans often face.

This article will explore the complex issues surrounding substance abuse as a veteran, providing practical suggestions and resources that can aid in overcoming addiction.

We'll explore the intertwining issues of PTSD and addiction, the importance of a strong support network, the role of physical activity, and the benefits of professional help.


Trauma & PTSD Counselors

Jennifer Wilson, LPCC, NCC

Jennifer Wilson, LPCC, NCC

Colorado
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Carrie Nelson, MS, LPCC

Carrie Nelson, MS, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Lauren Day, SWC

Lauren Day, SWC

Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Deb Corbitt, LPC

Deb Corbitt, LPC

Colorado
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Katie Bennett, LPCC, NCC

Katie Bennett, LPCC, NCC

Colorado
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Alex Wiley, LPC

Alex Wiley, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Megan Brausam, LPC

Megan Brausam, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439

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Address Co-Occurring Disorders

A significant number of veterans who struggle with substance abuse also battle mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression.

These disorders can exacerbate substance use and create a vicious cycle that's difficult to break without professional help.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), integrated treatment, where both substance abuse and mental health issues are treated simultaneously, is the most effective approach to such cases.

In this context, it's important to seek help from professionals experienced in treating co-occurring disorders.



Seek Professional Help

Overcoming substance abuse as a veteran often requires professional guidance and support.

One highly recommended step is to seek help from Overcomers Counseling, an organization that specializes in providing personalized care and therapy for individuals struggling with addiction.

They understand the unique challenges veterans face, including co-occurring disorders like PTSD, and work to create a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to each individual's needs.

With a team of experienced professionals, Overcomers Counseling can provide the necessary tools and resources to navigate the path to recovery and healthier life.


Stay Active

Staying active is a powerful strategy in combating substance abuse. Physical activity not only improves physical health but also acts as a natural mood enhancer, reducing stress and improving mental health.

For instance, one might consider a veteran who struggled with alcohol addiction after returning from duty.

This individual found solace in taking up running and weightlifting as part of their recovery process.

These physical activities provided an outlet for stress, helped establish a healthier daily routine, and over time, significantly decreased the cravings for abusive substances.

Activities not only boost physical health but also provide effective management of underlying issues like anxiety and depression.

The discipline required to maintain a regular exercise regimen also spilled over into other areas of life, making it easier to resist the temptations.

Regular engagement in these physical activities fostered a sense of purpose and accomplishment, creating a positive feedback loop that reinforced the commitment to sobriety. 


Utilize Support Systems

Support groups provide a safe space where individuals can share their experiences, struggles, and achievements with others who are going through similar situations.

For instance, a veteran who was battling an opioid addiction joined a local support group for substance abuse recovery.

Through regular meetings and open conversations, this individual found strength in the shared experiences and learned valuable coping strategies from peers who were also on the path to recovery.

The camaraderie fostered in these groups can often provide the emotional support necessary to overcome addiction.

Online communities can also serve as powerful support systems. Digital platforms allow us to connect with other veterans across the country, sharing stories, advice, and encouragement.

The 24/7 accessibility of these online groups meant that support was available whenever it was needed, providing an invaluable resource during difficult moments.



Understand the Risks

PTSD can increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder as individuals may turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate or escape their psychological distress.

Acknowledging these risks can lead to early intervention, which is key in preventing the escalation of substance abuse.

Veterans should be aware that frequent and heavy substance use, changes in behavior, neglecting responsibilities, and increasing tolerance to substances are all signs of a potential substance use disorder.

When these signs are understood and recognized early on, it can prompt immediate action, such as reaching out to healthcare professionals or support groups.

The sooner help is sought, the better the chances of overcoming addiction and leading a healthier life. 


Manage Stress

Here are some stress management techniques that veterans can use to cope with triggers:

  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing can help calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels.

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body, which can help reduce physical stress.

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Focusing on the present moment without judgment can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

  • Balanced Diet: Eating a healthy diet can improve overall health and well-being, which can help manage stress levels.

  • Adequate Sleep: Ensuring you get enough sleep can help your body and mind recover, reducing stress and improving overall health.

  • Therapy or Counseling: Speaking with a mental health professional can provide strategies to manage stress effectively.

  • Join a Support Group: Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges can provide comfort and practical advice.

  • Practice Yoga or Tai Chi: These practices combine deep breathing, meditation, and slow movements, which can help reduce stress.

  • Use Relaxation Apps: There are several apps available that offer guided meditations, soothing sounds, and other relaxation tools.

  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both can exacerbate stress and anxiety and disrupt sleep patterns.

  • Practice Gratitude: Taking time each day to write down or think about what you are grateful for can help shift focus from negative thoughts and reduce stress.

  • Spend Time in Nature: Spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood.

  • Adopt a Hobby: Engaging in activities you enjoy can act as a distraction from stress and provide a sense of accomplishment.


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Conclusion

Overcoming substance abuse as a veteran is a journey that requires determination, support, and the right resources.

It's important to understand that substance use often coexists with other mental health issues like PTSD, which need to be addressed simultaneously.

By seeking professional help, utilizing support systems, staying active, understanding the risks, and addressing underlying issues, veterans can make significant strides toward recovery.

Leveraging veteran-specific resources can also provide tailored assistance during this process.

The road to recovery is not a straight path, and each step made in the battle against substance abuse counts as a personal victory. 


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July 17th, 2024

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