Real Help for Addicted Vets

Imagine an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. People sit in a group. My name is _________. I’ve been sober for three years. . . . I’ve been sober for six months. . . . I’ve been sober for ten years.

Then one stands and says, “I’ve been coming to these meetings and I’d been sober for two years, but this week I fell. I got drunk two days ago.”

Further, imagine that the other members tell this person he has to leave. He can no longer receive the help and encouragement of the group because he failed–once.

And because of this failure, he becomes homeless.

That’s not how AA works. But that’s what happens to people in addiction programs for US veterans. Vets who are homeless often must leave rehab programs for stumbling once more into the habit that has dogged them and shattered their lives.

And there is a connection between being a vet and being an addict, especially if the vet has served in combat. Becoming an addict is more likely for those who served with bullets flying around them.

Patrick Condrin writes: “Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and addiction have higher rates of substance-related relapses and related hospital admissions, more severe PTSD symptoms, shorter periods of being clean or sober (abstinence), and poor adherence to follow-up treatment.”

So how does putting an addicted vet who’s relapsed out on the streets help him? Or help us as a society with a big drug problem? It doesn’t. It prolongs the problem.

Can we not find a treatment option besides the streets for someone yearning to erase the horrible images of combat from their minds without drugs?

Jesus told us to forgive seven times seventy times. A no-tolerance approach to those who acquired addiction in the service of our country is not serving us well.

And if there’s one thing our nation should do well it is to serve those who’ve shaken up their lives to serve us.

It may be difficult and costly–but it is already costly. And it seems the least we can do even if we do it seven times seventy.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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38 Replies to “Real Help for Addicted Vets”

  1. It is hard to imagine what our vets went through on the battlefield. We need to help them as they struggle to cope with the effects and we need programs to help them deal with addictions. Great post, thanks

  2. Nancy, I have three nephews who have served in the Canadian military. Like most vets, each has had to deal with PTSD upon their return from their tours. Good and consistent help has not always been easy or readily accessible. You make such a good point that providing care for our vets needs to be a priority and while it may seem expensive, it is far more expensive not to provide care. Thanks for the article.

  3. Oh wow, I thought there would be more support for veterans. It shouldn’t be that you fail once and that’s it for you. Perhaps private companies should step in and try setting up an assistance program to help out. Are all the addiction programs for the veterans like this?

    1. As far as I know, Shanique. It’s hard to imagine this approach in any other venue–as in AA, as I mentioned–or Weight Watchers, for instance. Thanks for commenting. God bless!

  4. Nancy, I whole-heartedly agree with this, “A no-tolerance approach to those who acquired addiction in the service of our country is not serving us well. And if there’s one thing our nation should do well it is to serve those who’ve shaken up their lives to serve us.”

    It never ceases to amaze me how veterans can be treated so unfairly and poorly. Shaking my head and rolling my eyes at this new way I learned through your post.

  5. I absolutely agree with you. Do we need to search beyond the government “provided” resources? How can we, as believers and churches, come alongside our brothers and sisters who desperately need help and support? I am a lay leader in a recovery ministry at our church and it one of my greatest prayers to help others receive the healing and recovery I’ve graciously been granted. Praying for discernment and clarity.

    1. Oh, Alynda! That’s a fabulous idea. The government seems to try to help–but seems not to have the heart for true help. May you have clarity, discernment, and opportunity! God bless!

  6. I had no idea! I wonder if it is that way for our Canadian veterans as well? I’ll need to look that up. I serve in a place where many were once addicted yet we’ve made it save enough for them to reveal when they have ‘fallen off the wagon’ as they need a safe place of no judgement to help them in their fight to get healthy in life again.

    1. Thank you, Lynn. Safe enough to say when they’ve fallen. That’s where the Church is to be for everyone. And certainly, addiction recovery programs must be that safe as well. God bless!

  7. It is quite horrible what our vets have lived through and what they continue to live through in memory. The challenges they face are nothing like the typical tragedy.

    I agree we must do more for them. Addiction alone is hard to overcome, it takes a great deal of time; the vets who come through are the ones who have had a person love them as Paul says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). When a vet experiences this kind of tenacious love, I believe there is hope.

    Great topic to digest, Nancy!

    1. Yes, Jessie, I imagine that the worry over maybe getting kicked out would compound the stress involved with overcoming addiction. Thanks and God bless!

  8. I had no idea the programs were so strict. Thank you for raising awareness. My grandpa served in Vietnam, he could never even bring himself to talk about it. We need to find better ways to serve our vets.

  9. When Jesus walked on earth, He lived and walked among sinners and ministered to them, healing them and encouraging them. Instead of focusing on how they landed in this state, let’s focus on providing the solution – the healing power of the Holy Spirit and the anointing to break every yoke.

  10. Dear Nancy!

    This is a topic I know little or nothing about; but I do many people who have struggled with alcoholism, and many of them got great help via AA.

    You blog post got me thinking about all the different addictions we can face in modern life.

    Edna Davidsen

    1. So true, Edna–food issues, pornography, even addiction to our devices. A much bigger problem today than in the past–excepting a few periods, I suspect. Thanks and God bless!

  11. My brother is a vet who has PTSD, and while I’m thankful he hasn’t fallen into the traditional addictions, he still struggles with many things in regards to social activities. He is happiest when surrounded by the cows, goats, chickens, and bulls on his farm. I’m so thankful for the help has received and for those who still fight for him at the VA. Johanna

    1. I’m thankful for that help too, Johanna. And I’m thankful that the farm life leads us to contemplation and perhaps healing from the craziness of the world. Would that more would find their ways there–but that is probably an idea for a different post. Thanks and God bless!

    1. Indeed there does. I can see someone saying–well, if you look the other way as they ingest drugs while in rehab, where will that lead? Probably not back to the streets and quite as much devastation as what we’re seeing now.

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