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Recovering from a Drug or Alcohol Use Problem

An open alcohol and drug abuse self assessment workbook.

If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, change is possible. It typically takes treatment, support from others, commitment and hard work.

If you’re a service member, you’re not alone. You’ll find treatment and support through your service branch’s substance abuse program. Treatment for military family members struggling with addiction is covered under TRICARE. Eligible veterans can find substance abuse programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Making the decision to change

The first step toward recovery is making the decision to get sober. This means changing familiar behaviors and creating a new lifestyle. If you want to escape a substance that controls your life, you must also:

  • Give up people, places and things that trigger cravings.
  • Become totally honest about your addiction with yourself and others.
  • Learn how to deal with stress in new and healthier ways.

Getting treatment

Treatment helps you rebuild the brain’s connections that have been altered by addiction. Treatment may be intensive and span weeks or months followed by long-term support. There is no single treatment approach that fits everyone’s needs. Treatment may include:

  • Detoxification
  • Medication
  • Inpatient care
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Outpatient service

An effective treatment program will address more than just your substance use problem. At a minimum, you can expect your treatment program to provide:

  • Education and therapy sessions on addiction, getting sober and preventing relapse
  • Counseling to help you develop new coping skills

Self-help groups for drug and alcohol addiction

Joining a support group can be an important part of recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are widely available on military installations and in civilian communities. These follow a 12-step model that involves:

  • Admitting that you cannot control your addiction or compulsion
  • Recognizing a higher power (as you understand it) that can give strength
  • Examining past mistakes with the help of a sponsor (experienced member)
  • Making amends for these mistakes
  • Learning to live a new life free from old, unhealthy habits and behavior
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions

Staying sober

Having support from family and friends, getting involved in new activities like a hobby or volunteering, and taking care of yourself by exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep will help you stay sober.

The Defense Department and the Defense Health Agency provide resources for service members and their families through the following education campaigns:

  • Own Your Limits provides information about the risks of alcohol misuse and suggestions for healthy alternatives to alcohol.
  • Too Much To Lose provides facts about the risks of prescription drug misuse and illegal drug use.
  • YouCanQuit2 provides information and resources to help service members quit tobacco.

If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, start your recovery now by contacting SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) to find the resources or support programs that will be right for you.

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