Transition From Military to Civilian Life: How to Avoid and Overcome Addiction

Returning home after serving your country can feel like stepping into a different world. The structured environment and camaraderie of the military are suddenly replaced with the uncertainties of civilian life. You might find yourself unable to find employment or reconnect with family and friends, all while struggling with the physical or mental impacts of […]

Returning home after serving your country can feel like stepping into a different world. The structured environment and camaraderie of the military are suddenly replaced with the uncertainties of civilian life. You might find yourself unable to find employment or reconnect with family and friends, all while struggling with the physical or mental impacts of your service. Since the transition from military to civilian life is anything but easy, an outstanding number of veterans end up seeking comfort in illicit, or at the very least, addictive substances.

If you have gone down this unfortunate road, seeking help from the We Level Up California rehab facility is one of the best ways to overcome this life-wrecking habit. After all, we understand the difficulties and can offer guidance towards a lasting solution. But first, let’s address how veteran reintegration contributes to addiction in the first place, how to avoid becoming addicted, and what to do if, despite all, you fall victim to substance abuse.

The challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life

Adjusting to civilian life after military is hard. More often than not, such a transition is accompanied by challenges that can profoundly affect your mental and emotional well-being. These challenges include:

  1. Loss of purpose
  2. Mental health concerns
  3. Difficulty relating to civilians
  4. Employment challenges
  5. Adjusting to less structure
A man praying that everything will be alright during the transition from military to civilian life
One of the main issues veterans face when adjusting to civilian life after military is the overall lack of purpose.

Loss of purpose

In the military, you are part of a highly structured system with clear goals and a defined role. This structure gives you a strong sense of purpose. Once you return to civilian life, it is expected to feel a void where this structure once was. You might find it hard to identify a new purpose or feel uncertain about your societal role. This sudden shift can lead to feelings of emptiness and a struggle to find meaning in everyday life.

Mental health concerns

Veteran mental health and substance abuse are interconnected issues. You could find yourself dealing with anything from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following your time in the military. As these can overwhelm you quite rapidly, it’s possible you’ll turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to cope.

Statistically speaking, 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD deal with substance use disorder at the same time. This directly points to the correlation between trauma and substance abuse.

Difficulty relating to civilians

If you are having difficulty transitioning from military to civilian life, it could be due to other people’s inability to relate to you, but also your inability to relate to those who haven’t served. The experiences and challenges of military life are unique, and it can feel like those who haven’t experienced them just cannot fully grasp what you have gone through. This might make you feel isolated, misunderstood, and undervalued by other people.

Employment challenges

Finding a job is another issue that further complicates the difficult transition from military to civilian life. You have undoubtedly gained valuable skills and experiences while serving our country, but you must learn how to translate them directly to civilian jobs. As doing so can be complex and require time, you might end up either underemployed or unemployed, leading to frustration and possible addiction in the making.

Adjusting to less structure

In the military, your daily life is defined by routine and a clear hierarchy. This structure helps you feel everything is in order and predictable. Once you leave the service, the lack of this structure can be disorienting. You might feel lost without the familiar routine and command chain. Also, you might struggle to establish a new daily rhythm or to make decisions that were previously made for you.

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Why turning to substance use is not a solution as you transition from military to civilian Life

You might feel that the only way to deal with the struggles of reintegration is by using a substance that provides you relief. However, substance abuse typically leads to more significant issues and isn’t a sustainable way of coping with addiction. Let’s explore why using substances is not a solution by taking a look at those widely abused:

  • Alcohol: While it might seem like a way to relax or escape stress, excessive alcohol use can lead to health issues. Furthermore, it leads to addiction and can worsen certain health conditions. It can also impact your relationships and your ability to maintain employment.
  • Opioids: Opioids such as heroin can be particularly dangerous due to their high risk of addiction and overdose. Opioid misuse can start innocently, sometimes from prescribed medication for pain, but can quickly become a dependency, warranting a prescription drug detox in California.
  • Stimulants: Using stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine might feel like a way to gain energy or focus, but they can lead to serious health risks, including heart problems. Additionally, using stimulants can induce anxiety or paranoia.
  • Marijuana: While often viewed as less harmful, marijuana can still lead to dependency and can affect your mental clarity, motivation, and overall health. Marijuana use also shows the connection between mental health issues and substance abuse. 28.7% of veterans with mental health issues use it, compared to just 13.3% of those without.
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How to combat substance abuse that results from military transition to civilian life?

Even though substance abuse grants you a feeling of relief, you need to be aware that it is not a real solution. It won’t help you successfully face the challenges of reintegration. To help you become substance-free, we have the following therapeutic solutions:

  1. Dual diagnosis treatment
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  3. Group therapy
  4. Holistic therapies
  5. Personalized treatment plans

Dual diagnosis treatment

Substance abuse and mental health issues often occur together. For instance, PTSD might lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism and the other way around. Therefore, you may require dual diagnosis treatment to treat both conditions simultaneously. This approach addresses the whole picture and improves your chance of successful recovery.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

If the root cause of your addiction is stress, you could be a good candidate for cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It equips you with practical coping skills and strategies to manage stress. This will help you avoid triggers for substance use. By breaking down overwhelming problems into smaller, more manageable parts, we help you see how your thoughts affect your feelings and behaviors and how to shift them toward a more positive and realistic perspective.

Group therapy

In addition to individual therapy, help is also provided through group therapy and peer support. Group therapy grants you a supportive space to share your experiences with others who understand what you are going through. This type of therapy creates a sense of community and belonging, which can be incredibly valuable, especially if you feel isolated. In group therapy, you are receiving support and giving it, which can be empowering and healing. It helps you realize that you are not alone in your struggles and that others share similar experiences and feelings.

A man that's successfully handling his transition from military to civilian life
For a successful transition from military to civilian life that encompasses no drugs or alcohol, group therapy may be necessary.

Holistic therapies

Holistic therapies like meditation, yoga, and acupuncture aim to heal your mind and body. They give you a way to manage stress and improve your overall well-being. Holistic therapy often complements other forms of treatment. These practices can help you understand yourself more deeply and be self-aware. They allow you to stay calm and center your mind. Holistic therapies are not meant to replace the standard alcohol detox California patients need to go through, though. Nevertheless, they are a great complement that can help ensure lasting sobriety.

Personalized treatment plans

At the end of the day, your journey to recovery is your own. As such, it is entirely unique. So, when staying at our meth rehab California facility, we make it our mission to create an entirely individualized treatment plan. We combine various therapies and consider your specific challenges, preferences, and goals, all so we can provide the most effective treatment for your situation.

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How to prevent SUD during the veteran transition to civilian life

Once the addiction has become a part of your daily life, the best course of action is to enroll in a cocaine detox center California holds in high regard, or rather, a facility that treats various types of SUDs. However, if you are merely thinking about starting using, here are the actions you can take to prevent falling victim to substance abuse.

  • Don’t wait to seek help. If you feel you are at risk of substance abuse, or even if you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important to get support. The earlier you get it, the better. Regular check-ins at Veterans Affairs facilities, discussing your concerns during medical appointments, or reaching out to friends and families for help can make a big difference.
  • If you are struggling with, say, negative thoughts and believe the only way to combat these lies in drugs or at the bottom of the bottle, think about attending therapy or substance abuse counseling for veterans. Use the resources available at veteran alcohol rehab and drug rehab facilities, community clinics, and through non-profit organizations. These services are there to support veteran substance abuse prevention, so use them to stop the problem from escalating into a bigger one.
  • Connecting with fellow veterans who understand your experiences can be incredibly beneficial. You wouldn’t believe the power the encouraging words for addicts can have! Look for group therapy sessions, peer-led support groups, or one-on-one mentorship programs. These groups provide a safe space to share your experiences, learn coping strategies, and feel supported by those who truly understand.
  • Seek employment assistance programs to help you translate your military skills to the civilian job market. Also, attend anything from resume-building workshops to job fairs and networking events with veteran-friendly employers. A stable job provides financial security and a sense of purpose, which helps you prevent substance abuse as you transition from military to civilian life.

Can you work in California while adjusting to civilian life after military?

You can and you should! Having a steady job will help you reintegrate into society after your service. In 2021, California was home to 1.35 million veterans, comprising 1.23 million men and 118,000 women. This large community of veterans shows that many people like you have successfully overcome the difficult transition from military to civilian life!

Additionally, recent research highlights that employers highly value the hard and soft skills you have gained during your service. Skills like technical work experience, resilience, and leadership are in demand in the civilian workforce. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 612,400 veterans were actively working in California in December 2021. This goes to show that the whole transition can be highly profitable. Additionally, with our help, you can stay clear of substances and make sound decisions that help you build a stable, rewarding life after your service.

Stay sober and rebuild your life post-military

You will certainly face challenges while trying to transition from military to civilian life. At times, these will make you feel as if the only way out is through substances. However, keep in mind that using is never a solution. While substances provide some relief, that is only temporary. Meanwhile, the damage they inflict on your body can become permanent. No matter how hard it is to say no to drugs, alcohol, or both after returning from service, you need to stay strong. Reach out to us for support, and we’ll teach you that the challenges you’ll face are merely obstacles that, with a strong will, you’ll get through soon enough.

  1. | Veterans Affairs. (n.d.).
  2. Executive Summary – California,

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