Soldiers and the 12-Step Program

Written by Harbor Oaks Hospital clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC, LPC

sailors-81781_640There are several things to consider when trying to determine what type of treatment will be most effective for a person requiring substance abuse treatment.

An individual’s age, type of substance abuse problem or addiction, and the needs of the person requiring such care all play integral roles in deciphering which and what kind of treatment approach and option that will produce the most favorable treatment outcomes for a person in the long-run.

And while searching for a treatment provider that offers the most effective treatment can see like a daunting task, many providers incorporate approaches that are widely used across all of levels of care. One such approach is the 12-Step model for treating addiction.

The 12-Step Model for Addiction Treatment

This approach, which has also been used to supplement more intensive treatment in the form of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), is frequently implemented in chemical dependency programs and has assisted countless individuals in sustaining their recovery and sobriety long-term.

Among those who have benefited from the 12-Step approach and 12-Step-based programs are special populations that are known to respond well to the fundamental elements of this model for care, namely because of the ample support that this approach encourages among those who are working to maintain sobriety.

Military service members, more specifically, are one example of a special population that can gain a great deal from receiving services that include the 12-Step approach to substance abuse treatment.

The Similar Sense of Camaraderie

veteran-364380_640Men and women serving in the armed forces are keen to adopt the mindset that they are part of a collective whole of members of an elite group of people who share the common goal of protecting the United States of America.

When serving in the military, these individuals must come to rely on one another for support and protection and to ensure that tasks are executed with optimal collaboration. Within 12-Step groups, such as AA or NA, there is similar camaraderie among members.

And while the 12-Step model focuses on maintaining one’s own sobriety and recovery, the communal support that is cornerstone to the nature of support groups is why and how military members are able to adapt to their format so well.

Serving in the Military Is a Unique & Trying Experience

Additionally, and an important thing to know, is that serving in the military is quite a unique experience that is not commonplace for everyone. These brave men and women are often exposed to violence, tragedy, and death and develop a set of survival skills in order to perform the core functions of their jobs.

Because of this factor and the mental health concerns that are known to result after a military member is exposed to trauma, seeking treatment that does not include some element of fostering community can yield poor treatment outcomes when these individuals seek treatment for an addiction or dual diagnosis concerns.

Programs and additional resources that factor in support that is based on the 12-Step model carry a high potential for success for military men and women battling an addiction. Especially within programs that are designed for this special population that adapt the 12-Step model to incorporate verbiage and beliefs that are widely used among those in the military, the results can be highly favorable.

Stopping the Isolation of Post-Deployment Life

soldiers-559761_640Lastly, and most importantly, engaging in a 12-Step treatment program or partaking in AA or NA can ultimately prevent the isolation that frequently occurs for those battling an addiction after returning home from a deployment.

Refraining from socializing or interacting with others is, sadly, common as these individuals sometimes feel as though no one understands what they have gone through or are going through now. Couple those feelings with an addiction and emotional distress and the resulting effects can be quite detrimental.

Having a forum to share one’s struggles with addiction and feeling as though you are not alone can be powerful and springboard a person towards viewing his or her health as something that should be a priority. And, as it has been said, this concept is especially true when programs designed for military members include the 12-Step model and support groups as part of their programming.

Help Is Available for Veterans

When addiction is a factor in a military member’s life, it can often feel as though the grips of chemical dependency cannot be escaped. However, partaking in a program that incorporates the 12-Step model and takes into account the unique needs of military personnel can free these individuals from this seemingly inescapable force.

Numerous treatment options are available that include these necessary elements and have ultimately helped men and women achieve the lasting recovery and sobriety needed to live healthy lives.


About the Author:

“Soldiers and the 12-Step Program” was written by Harbor Oaks Hospital clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC, LPC. Heather has several years of experience working in the field of mental health as a psychotherapist and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Concordia University – Chicago.


About Harbor Oaks Hospital:

Incorporating various treatment methods and modalities within its innovative programming, Harbor Oaks Hospital is an exemplary provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment for people of all ages. The staff of highly-skilled professionals is dedicated to providing care that retains the dignity of each patient, while treating a wide range of chemical dependency concerns and mental health conditions.

With the treatment options that range from intensive inpatient treatment to less restrictive outpatient services, Harbor Oaks is equipped to treat patients requiring several levels of care. Through comprehensive treatment that utilizes evidence-based interventions, Harbor Oaks Hospital is where children, adolescents, adults, and senior adults can achieve the healing that is deserving of all people.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you or someone you love in the military, have you benefited from a 12-Step program? How has this program and structure affected your recovery?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 18th, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com