Home Mental Health & Well-Being Ukraine Conflict Awakens PTSD and Can Trigger Relapse in Recovering Veterans

Ukraine Conflict Awakens PTSD and Can Trigger Relapse in Recovering Veterans

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At Confidential Recovery, an outpatient substance abuse treatment center in San Diego, Veterans meet several times a week in a group setting to strengthen their recovery from alcohol or other substances.  These men and women have formed a bond with each other in this safe space to discuss their experiences and ongoing recovery.

For these veterans, exposure to the recent events in the Ukraine can be difficult to process.  As every news outlet frequently displays imagery of conflict and injury, Veterans can re-experience vivid memories and traumatic experiences from their own service. Along with these painful memories, comes the temptation to relapse on drugs or alcohol.

‘Trauma gets buried deep in our subconscious, and even after years of counseling or therapy, can be triggered,’ says Jay Wylie, a veteran himself, and operations manager at Confidential Recovery. ‘When you see burned-out cars and smoldering buildings on the news, it can awaken feelings of fear and helplessness.’

The end of the afghanistan conflict also triggered trauma in veterans

US veterans are more closely connected to, and affected by, the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Almost a million U.S. Veterans participated in that conflict.  According to The Brookings Institute, Afghanistan Veterans are angry about the withdrawal, with 73% of them reporting that they feel betrayed, and 67% reporting feelings of humiliation.

Veterans of the US military can experience a sense of shame and guilt when they hear the arguments and commentary about both the Afghanistan conflict or Ukraine war, as many struggle with finding meaning of their service, and feel betrayed by the country they were willing to put their lives at risk to defend.

How confidential recovery manages these symptoms

The counselors at Confidential Recovery recommend limiting exposure to the media coverage, and staying connected to friends, family, and your recovery support system. At the outpatient rehab, that frequently happens in the form of group counselling sessions.

‘First of all, it’s helpful to acknowledge these feelings and speak out to the other Veterans, because there is relief in knowing that you are not alone in these types of feelings,’ says Jay Wylie. ‘Then, beyond the group counseling setting, mindfulness activities and experiential therapy can be great to help our Veterans maintain a sense of well-being.’

How you can support a veteran in your life

Veterans are at higher risk for suicide, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and substance addiction. Check in with any Veteran in your life to see how they are doing, and listen to what they say. Be sure to maintain a non-judgmental attitude, and give them your full attention.

Encourage a veteran to get help before they need it

Make sure that any Veteran in your life is aware that there is help available if they are struggling with emotions of any kind. It can also be helpful to get involved in a support group even if they feel like they are doing okay.  They can help others, and have an established support lifeline if their PTSD (or anxiety, or depression) starts to present itself. 

The VA offers an around the clock Veterans Crisis Line that provides help and crisis support – even for veterans not enrolled in its health care network. (The phone number is 800-273-8255.)  San Diego based Veterans and family can get in contact with Confidential Recovery at (619) 452-1200.

About Confidential Recovery

Scott H. Silverman was addicted to alcohol and illegal drugs when he ‘hit bottom’, and pursued treatment in 1984. He’s been helping others recover from addiction ever since. In 2014, he founded Confidential Recovery, a drug treatment programe in San Diego that specialises in helping Veterans, first responders, and executives overcome substance abuse. You can reach them at (619) 452-1200, or by visiting the Confidential Recovery website.

Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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