Substance abuse in the Navy, like in all branches of the military, can occur when a person is not expecting it to happen. Drinking is a common type of substance abuse issue, but other sorts of drug use go on, as well.
Navy personnel deal with daily stress and work issues like others do, but they also deal with not knowing when or if they will be called to duty. This may be a combat zone or a wartime experience.
Maybe they have been in those experiences and are now dealing with the repercussions of that from past wars. Addiction does not discriminate against who it touches.
Find out why people in the Navy deal with addiction and how to support their journey of healing.
How it Happens
Sailors and substance abuse occur together for various reasons. Drinking is a common type of substance abuse because there are many people all together in one location, not around family, and with less accountability, in some cases.
Nearly half of sailors may be classified as risky drinkers, taking in more than 4-5 drinks per sitting. With the port of calls being a space for sailors to gather, they sometimes drink too much to deal with the challenges of military life.
Alcohol is cheap, readily available, and legal, so it tends to be used more than other substances. It also tends to be abused more than other substances.
Alcohol use is common in military life, but alcohol abuse is another thing altogether. Binge drinking does not indicate a person has alcohol use disorder but it is one worrisome sign it may occur.
If a person tries to cut back on drinking but cannot stop, spends time drinking to relax more nights than not, continues to drink in spite of health issues or consequences, and drinks so much they cannot perform duties at work, a problem may exist. Risky situations like driving while intoxicated or operating heavy machinery can result in loss of life or limb. It is not worth getting into serious trouble.
Signs of Addiction
When a Navy man or woman has an addiction, they may not be able to control their drinking behavior. Some of the signs they are out of control are cravings, triggers, drinking more than planned, and inability to control use.
Using alcohol more often or in bigger amounts can result in difficulty quitting. Tolerance and dependence will build and, eventually, it will be necessary to seek detox and treatment to get help quitting.
Helping Them Quit
Resources for Navy and Marine Corp exist through public health centers that offer support to them. There is personnel who help identify and refer sailors with substance abuse problems.
This resource is available for treatment and information. Their insurance may cover rehab where needed and offers a list of providers available to people who need it.
Personnel deal with mental health concerns differently and PTSD or other mental health issues need to be addressed with addiction. There are outside resources for Navy personnel, as well, which include detox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment.
This treatment can provide a good foundation for people to deal with the layers of addiction and find support for the journey with the community behind them.
How to Tend to Them
Loved ones often struggle most with how to tend to loved ones. Mental health and substance abuse issues can lead to challenging situations for many people.
Although crisis services may be available, many people may not take advantage of them due to stigma and shame around addiction. Recovery helps veterans with substance use and mental health disorders.
When a family gets stuck on how best to help a loved one, they can turn to thoughts around ways to communicate with the loved one in a positive, affirming manner. This means loved ones should try to avoid blaming or shaming language to them about their addiction.
Focus on them as a person and their health needs. Just because they need help does not mean they are beyond the reach of support services. They may have done things or behaved in ways that were not good for others in the family, but they still need support. Compassionate understanding is crucial in helping a loved one feel secure and understood.
One barrier between families while a loved one attends treatment, and in recovery at home, is how to resolve past and present conflicts within the family. When a loved one struggles with addiction, they need lots of help and support from the individual, group, and family therapy work.
This combination will help them feel connected and supported in a way that brings peace to everyone. Conflict resolution skills can include identifying triggers for everyone, understanding how to navigate past trauma and working with one another to deal with the conflicts in a healthy way.
Sometimes talking is not always best. A person with mental health and addiction challenges may benefit from trying art therapy, work with horses, or yoga.
Try going to these things together and see what a difference it makes to show interest in what they are doing. Go to family support groups for loved ones of those with addiction.
The best care for loved ones in the military is to stop and ask if they are okay. If they seem unlike themselves, exhibit worrisome symptoms or seem to need help, the time to act is now to help them find healing. If they are willing, the time may be right to offer support for their journey of recovery.
Forge is a place to come and recover your life from addiction. We help you reimagine what is possible and create the life you’ve been dreaming of.
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