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Overcoming Addiction: Tools for Veterans to Navigate Triggers and Sustain Recovery

Written by The Orlando Recovery Center

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 03/02/2024

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (855) 771-1581 now.

The journey out of addiction involves understanding how to manage triggers for  relapse. Every individual in recovery will face triggers, with veterans facing specific  challenges tied to their experiences in the armed forces. Thankfully, specialized strategies exist for dealing with these triggers, enabling veterans to stay true to their recovery commitment.

Understanding Veterans’ Struggle with Addiction

Transitioning from military to civilian life can present unique challenges, including the battle against addiction. Research indicates that roughly 11% of veterans seeking assistance from the VA meet the criteria for substance use disorders, although the actual prevalence might be higher.

Prevalence rates among male veterans indicate a 10.5% incidence of alcohol use disorder and a 4.8% occurrence of drug use disorder. Among female veterans, these rates slightly decrease to 4.8% and 2.4%, respectively.

The stressors inherent in military service, such as combat exposure and traumatic experiences, can predispose veterans to addiction. Drugs and alcohol often emerge as coping mechanisms to alleviate the physical and emotional pain arising from time in the service.

Navigating Unique Triggers: PTSD and Mental Health Challenges

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stands out as a significant trigger for addiction among veterans, with approximately one-third of those seeking addiction treatment also showing signs of PTSD.

Symptoms associated with PTSD, such as intrusive memories and sleep disturbances, can serve as catalysts for substance use as a means of coping. However, reliance on substances tends to exacerbate underlying mental health conditions over time, intensifying issues like depression.

Addressing Pain-Related Triggers: Managing Service-Connected Injuries

Service-related injuries, frequently treated with opioid pain medications, pose another significant trigger for addiction among veterans. Studies underscore the prevalent prescription of opioids to veterans for managing chronic pain, especially among those living with co-occurring mental health conditions.

Veterans coping with injuries and chronic pain may resort to substance use as a coping mechanism. However, the risk of addiction increases, particularly for individuals concurrently diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health disorders.

Tackling Common Triggers: Shared Obstacles in Recovery

In addition to unique triggers, veterans encounter common relapse triggers such as stress, social isolation, and drug cravings. Fortunately, effective strategies exist to navigate these challenges and maintain sobriety.

Strategies for Coping with Veteran-Specific Triggers

Mitigating PTSD-related triggers requires tailored approaches, including:

  • Seeking support from trusted confidants and family members
  • Engaging in pleasurable hobbies and activities to boost mood
  • Embracing relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga
  • Immersing oneself in the therapeutic benefits of nature through outdoor activities

Navigating Pain-Related Triggers

Veterans grappling with pain-related triggers can utilize alternative pain management strategies, including:

  • Embracing the healing touch of massage therapy to alleviate physical discomfort
  • Cultivating mindfulness practices to foster self-awareness and alleviate stress
  • Utilizing the rehabilitative potential of physical and occupational therapy to enhance functionality
  • Harnessing the holistic benefits of exercise modalities like Tai Chi and yoga to promote overall well-being and pain relief

Building Resilience: General Relapse Prevention Techniques

In addition to veteran-specific strategies, universal relapse prevention techniques play a pivotal role in achieving lasting sobriety: 

  • Participating in support groups such as AA or NA to foster camaraderie and gain insights
  • Prioritizing self-care through holistic lifestyle habits encompassing nutrition, exercise, and restorative sleep
  • Avoiding triggers associated with addiction by using vigilance to identify and avoid risky situations
  • Employing stress management techniques to navigate life’s challenges without coping through substance use

Tools for Managing Triggers

A variety of resources stands ready to assist veterans in navigating addiction and mental health challenges, including:

Supplements, Not Substitutes

While these tools serve as valuable adjuncts to recovery efforts, they do not replace professional treatment. Enrolling in a comprehensive treatment program tailored to veterans’ unique needs is essential for fostering lasting recovery.

Explore Veteran-Centric Treatment

Veterans embarking on the path to addiction recovery can find solace in specialized programs like the FORTITUDE program offered by The Recovery Village. These programs address addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, furnishing personalized support for veterans and first responders. Connect with a Veteran Advocate today to begin your holistic, restorative healing journey. 

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

Our facilities have helped thousands of veterans overcome a drug or alcohol addiction. At Orlando Recovery Center, our treatment programs offer veterans:

  • Veteran Advocates who can navigate the VA on your behalf to enter treatment faster
  • Experienced clinicians trained in military culture and trauma-informed care
  • Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together  
  • EMDR, a revolutionary treatment that alleviates trauma symptoms


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When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

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