Women who serve in the military are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse. They experience the trauma of military service, not only witnessing or participating in combat but are also subjected to sexual harassment and assault, resulting in higher than average levels of trauma. Due to their experiences, female veterans have a much higher rate of addiction than typical female civilians. Can veterans with addiction achieve sobriety?
Women Who Serve In Spite of Trauma
Females who serve in the military serve fearlessly in the face of traumatic events from all around them. In addition to the stress of being deployed and the trauma that comes from witnessing or participating in combat, women face a very harsh environment as a gender minority in the military.
Not only are women in the military discriminated against due to gender, but they are also commonly sexually harassed and even assaulted by their male peers and superiors. This additional trauma makes service extremely difficult, but many women fight through and serve in spite of all of the pain.
Surviving During Service
Women on active duty must obey a strict code of discipline that includes a zero-tolerance policy for illicit drugs, with a punishment of dishonorable discharge. Despite feeling numb or in pain while serving in the military, they manage to cope and survive during their service without abusing substances.
After leaving the military, however, the trauma can actually worsen, becoming Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) As the symptoms of PTSD interfere more with daily life and become more debilitating, veterans may turn to substances to try to cope. Due to much higher instances and intensity of trauma experienced by female veterans, they also experience a much higher rate of substance use disorder than their civilian peers.
Dealing With Addiction as a Veteran
As a veteran, there is often less structure mandated in your day-to-day life. If you have PTSD, it can worsen quickly, and when you add an addiction, life can become extremely unmanageable. Trying to cope with trauma or PTSD and addiction as a veteran can be very lonely and isolating. Few people understand your experiences or why you are behaving like this. You may not even understand what is happening to yourself or why you are behaving like this. As the symptoms of PTSD worsen and the addiction worsens, you may realize that change is needed. You may realize that you need to find sobriety and healing.
Healing From Addiction for Life
In order to heal from addiction, you will need to find the treatment that works with you and allows you to become sober and heal from your trauma or PTSD. During the treatment process, you will receive both individual and group therapy. The purpose of this therapy is to identify and heal from the root of your pain, the reason you began using substances. For most female veterans, this is due to trauma.
Your trauma will be addressed within your treatment program, and you will begin to heal, even from childhood trauma. This can take some time and patience as your body is also healing from the effects of substance abuse. You may need to continue therapy after treatment to heal completely, but healing is possible. By addressing both your trauma and your addiction together, you can find lasting healing for the rest of your life.
The Need for Trauma-Informed Care
In a study published in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation in 2017, the authors noted that female veterans struggled to access appropriate care within the Veterans Administration system due to high rates of PTSD, childhood sexual abuse, military sexual trauma, and domestic violence, and might feel uncomfortable discussing traumatic experiences in male-dominated treatment settings. They also found that female veterans participating in gender-specific programs for women were more likely to engage in treatment and were more receptive to treatment.
These findings highlight the need for trauma-informed care for military veterans. Women will heal more effectively and thoroughly when they feel safe and heard. Having access to trauma-specific treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is also significantly helpful in the healing of trauma and PTSD.
Female veterans can find sobriety even after enduring trauma or PTSD and trying to cope by using substances. Just because you suffered more trauma and more intense trauma than the average civilian woman does not mean that you cannot heal. Nor does having an addiction prevent you from becoming sober and healthy again. The tools for sobriety are already within you; you simply need a guide to help show you the way.
Can veterans with addiction achieve sobriety? Women who have survived unimaginable trauma during their military service may develop PTSD and seek to cope by using substances. For female veterans who develop an addiction, healing by using trauma-informed care can help you heal from both trauma and addiction. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is located in Costa Mesa, California, conveniently located near multiple Southern California military bases. Our residential program offers treatment for women with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We offer trauma-informed care for veterans so you can feel safe and collaborate in the healing process. We are authorized to accept TRICARE insurance and have experience treating women who have served in the military. Our facility is a calm refuge of peace and healing. Let The Ho Tai Way help you find your way again. Contact us today at (714) 581-3974.