Reintegration Challenges Veterans Face and How They Contribute to Substance Abuse

reintegration challenges veterans faceOur country’s veterans committed their lives to service and protection of our freedom and safety. While these heroes face unimaginable stress, danger, and challenges during their service, many face even more challenges when it’s time to reintegrate into society.

The challenges of reintegration can leave veterans feeling discouraged, isolated, or without structure and purpose. For some, it may also lead to substance abuse.

This article will explore the link between veterans and substance abuse, focusing primarily on the challenges of reintegration. If you or a veteran in your life struggles with substance abuse, you are not alone. Reach out to the team at Alamo Behavioral Health to learn about our supportive addiction treatment programs or for support at any stage of your recovery.

Reintegration Challenges Veterans Face

Veterans have experiences and challenges that civilians may not be aware of. These challenges are unique to people who have served in the military and can significantly impact the way veterans are able to reintegrate into society and function long after their service is complete.

Here are some of the reintegration challenges veterans face.

Lack of purpose

Life in military service centers on service and teamwork. Each unit member is valued for their contributions and plays a vital role in every mission. After returning to civilian life, many veterans struggle with a lack of purpose and may struggle to identify how they fit into their families, workplaces, and communities.

Mental health and emotional challenges

Veterans may struggle with anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, and trauma during reintegration. This can cause problems in family life, work, social relationships, and other aspects of life.

Relating to civilians

Civilians often have no understanding of what military life is like or veterans’ experiences. For some, this lack of awareness can lead to feelings of frustration or isolation.

Reconnecting with family

Veterans sometimes face challenges when rejoining their family unit. Some veterans return to a family dynamic that has shifted or changed significantly or struggle to reconnect with civilian family members who cannot understand the impact military service has made on their lives. Veterans often need to adapt to changing roles, schedules, and routines that can feel unfamiliar or stressful.

Finding community

Military personnel and their families often receive significant support during relocations. Veterans may struggle to settle in a new location or find a new community when military service concludes. They may have few friends or social support and feel isolated.

Preparing for work

Veterans may have little to no experience looking for a civilian job if they’ve had a long career in the military. They may need to build a resume by translating their military experiences into civilian terms, develop new strategies for finding available work, practice interviewing skills, and more.

Returning to work

Veterans returning from deployment with the National Guard or Reserve may have to return to work very quickly after returning home–sometimes in just a few days. The transition from military service to civilian employment can be jarring. Veterans may need time to reestablish old skills and routines. They may also struggle with the social aspect of work or adjusting to changes in how work is done.


Life in the military is highly structured, with a clearly defined chain of command. The lack of structure can feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable for veterans. They must often develop their own structure or adapt to a more flexible, ambiguous atmosphere.

Basic needs

There are few choices in the military when it comes to basic needs. In most cases, clothing, food, bedding, and more are standardized and provided to military personnel. Choosing and providing basic needs, such as housing, clothing, and food, can be overwhelming for some veterans.


Veterans often have higher rates of chronic physical pain than the general public. Injuries, repetitive use, and the lasting impact of trauma can contribute to physical pain that disrupts veterans’ lives.

Each veteran’s challenges can vary, but many of our nation’s heroes return home with feelings of isolation, stress, and overwhelm. Support, care, and treatment for physical and emotional pain are essential to a smooth transition back into civilian life. However, few veterans receive the support they need during this challenging period.

How Do Reintegration Challenges Contribute to Substance Abuse Among Veterans?

The unique reintegration challenges veterans face can make life feel overwhelming. Many veterans may face barriers when seeking treatment for stress, trauma, anxiety, and other problems. Some of these barriers include:

However, when veterans do not receive the help and support they need to manage challenges in healthy ways, they are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.

Using substances to relieve emotional and physical pain is called “self-medication.” Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief from acute pain of emotional and physical challenges, but it can also lead to substance abuse and addiction.

When someone uses drugs or alcohol repeatedly or heavily, their body can develop a physical dependence on these subjects. Once someone develops an addiction, it can be nearly impossible to safely stop using these substances without medically-supported detox and treatment.

Find Support Now

If you or a veteran in your life needs treatment for substance abuse, you are not alone. The compassionate treatment and support you need are available at Alamo Behavioral Health. We offer veterans treatment programs tailored to address reintegration challenges and other issues veterans face. Call now to learn more about our programs or to schedule an intake appointment.

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Seeking help at Alamo Behavioral Health was the single best decision of my life. The clinical team is amazing, and other staff members are friendly and really do their best to create a supportive environment. I have a long way to go, but I know that I'm not alone, thanks to everyone at Alamo.

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