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Harnessing Military Resilience for Victory Over Addiction

Last Updated: February 9, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Military life creates resilience, shaping the indomitable spirit of veterans who endure prolonged separations from loved ones and confront the harrowing realities of combat. This wellspring of resilience honed through service can be a useful ally against addiction.

Military Resilience, Veterans and Addiction

Military culture forges mental fortitude as a core requirement. Soldiers must deliver peak performance and make monumental sacrifices, fostering a profound and unyielding resilience within them. Researchers have delved into the realm of military resilience, identifying its key features:

  • Military resilience embodies the inner strength necessary to confront the realities of combat.
  • Resilient soldiers adeptly adapt to ever-changing circumstances.
  • Resilience entails finding a glimmer of positivity even amid the bleakest adversities.

Remarkably, the same resilience that empowered veterans to overcome the trials of combat can be a potent force in their journey toward addiction recovery. 

Applying Military Resilience to Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Military resilience encompasses drawing upon social support, employing adaptive coping strategies and surmounting adversity—qualities that prove vital for survival in the military. These same qualities also find application in addiction treatment.

For instance, during the detoxification process, veterans must summon their resilience to combat the negative effects of withdrawal. Similarly, veterans must confront their past traumas during treatment, much like they were required to show determination during combat situations. 

Military Training Messages and Their Role in Sobriety

Military training instills essential messages about commitment and resilience in service members. These messages can also play a crucial role in recovery and maintaining sobriety.

Thriving in the Face of Stressors

The ability to withstand stress is a fundamental requirement of military service. Service members are not just trained to endure stress but to grow through it. This mirrors the resilience needed in addiction recovery, where developing coping skills and engaging in relapse prevention require the capacity to grow in the face of challenges.

Embracing Personal Courage

Personal courage is a core value in the military, especially during risky situations. This same courage can be reframed during addiction treatment. Seeking help for addiction should be viewed as an act of bravery rather than a sign of weakness. 

The Significance of Gratitude

Military resilience training programs emphasize the importance of gratitude. Service members are taught to focus on the positive aspects of life, akin to maintaining a gratitude journal. Gratitude plays a pivotal role in addiction recovery by helping individuals identify their strengths and apply them to maintain sobriety. 

Applying Military Resilience to Achieving Long-Term Recovery

Sustaining long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction undoubtedly demands resilience. Fortunately, the resilience cultivated during military service can be applied effectively in recovery.

For instance, managing triggers that lead to drug and alcohol use necessitates utilizing inner strength. In moments of stress or temptation, resilience can help veterans avoid relapse and develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as seeking social support or employing stress management techniques. When faced with the challenges of entering a treatment program or ceasing substance use that once served as a coping mechanism, veterans can rely on their strength to confront addiction head-on, as if it were their next mission.

When Resilience Alone Isn’t Enough, Professional Treatment Steps In

Personal resilience is a formidable asset, but professional treatment often becomes an essential component of recovery. Taking the courageous step of seeking help is the first stride toward facing drug or alcohol addiction.

For veterans dealing with addiction and co-occurring disorders like PTSD or depression, effective treatment methods are indispensable. In many cases, these conditions are addressed through various approaches:

  • Therapies: Talk therapy, particularly cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE), holds significant value for veterans, particularly those with co-occurring addiction and PTSD. Both forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven beneficial.
  • Medication: Certain medications aid in managing drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy plays a central role in veterans’ treatment programs, offering opportunities to learn from others who have faced similar challenges.

Inpatient Rehab for Veterans: A Strong Foundation

Veterans may find inpatient programs beneficial as they embark on their recovery journey. These programs provide a reprieve from everyday triggers by allowing veterans to reside at a treatment facility. They offer around-the-clock care, structured daily routines, individual and group therapy and recreational activities. Some programs, like the FORTITUDE program, cater exclusively to veterans and first responders, offering specialized group therapy and trauma-informed modalities, including EMDR.

Utilizing VA Health Insurance for Specialized Care

While the VA offers an array of treatment options, there may be situations where specialized care outside the VA system becomes necessary. The VA Community Care Network (CCN) permits veterans to access private, specialized care providers, including addiction rehabilitation centers.

Initiating treatment through CCN involves discussing the “consult creation and review” process with your physician. VA approval is a prerequisite for care, and once approved, CCN covers the associated costs.

Embrace Healing: Seek Help Today

For veterans grappling with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health conditions, embarking on the path to recovery is a noble mission. Veterans can access addiction treatment services through the VA or explore local mental health treatment centers with specialized programs for veterans. Start your journey to recovery with confidence, knowing that the military resilience you’ve cultivated will serve as your guiding light.


Simmons, Angela. “Military Resilience: A Concept Analysis.” Nursing Forum, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2023. 

Adler, Amy; Sowden, Walter. “Resilience in the Military: The Double-Edged Sword of Military Culture.” Military and Veteran Mental Health, 2018. Accessed October 14, 2023.

Chen, Gila. “Does gratitude promote recovery from substance misuse?.” Addiction Research & Theory, 2017. Accessed October 15, 2023. 

National Center for PTSD. “Effective Treatments for PTSD: Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as First Line Treatment.” January 2015. Accessed October 15, 2023.