Dear veteran,

You’re our neighbor, friend or family member. You’ve done immeasurable good for our country and community, and been through strenuous circumstances to uphold our nation’s principles. And you have a sense of duty that extends far beyond your time of service.

This Veterans Day, we’re thankful for your service and sacrifices. We know that your duty doesn’t end after you hang up your helmet or stow away a medal for safekeeping. For those who’ve been in combat, the physical, emotional and mental scars of battle are real. For many, they never fade. While some wounds are visible, others can be buried deep within the recesses of your heart and mind. They can resurface in the form of nightmares or tremors. They can creep into your mind at traffic lights. They can manifest themselves in flashbacks on the Fourth of July. They can consume you at home when you have one glass too many alone at night.

The unseen effects of service are often overlooked and misunderstood. Issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and substance abuse can be haunting and isolating. But your health is important and extends far beyond the physical. It’s a balance between understanding the emotional weight of service and the psychological impact of potentially life-altering situations and events. Your mental health is at the center of your being, and defines every aspect of your daily life.

For every moment you’ve felt alone, and every instance you’ve been afraid to admit you’ve struggled, there is a lifetime worth of kindness and understanding for what you’ve been through. You may have felt betrayed by your own emotions, unable to comprehend your feelings or overwhelmed by a substance that lets you cope. You are not alone, and you never have been. You don’t have to “toughen up” or hide the pain. It’s real, it’s there, and without the right resources, it can be dangerous.

You’re Not Alone: A Letter to Veterans Who’ve Dealt With PTSD, Depression or Addiction

When the voice inside your head says you’re not good enough, remind it that you have value beyond measure. When expectations cloud your reality, know that you are on your own journey that cannot be dictated by the experiences of others. When substance abuse limits your potential, remember that strength goes far beyond muscles and willpower. It’s a part of your core. It lies in your ability to find beauty in the smallest things, and your willingness to help others despite all odds. Strength is in your heart, and it is magnified when shared with others.

You are enough. Your service is just as meaningful as your life. And your struggle does not define you. With the knowledge of your self-worth and the support of your country, family and friends, you can live your life in a way that will make you and those you’ve served with proud.

From all of us at The Recovery Village, thank you for your service.

Substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders don’t have to be fought alone. If you’re a military veteran struggling with addiction alongside PTSD or other mental health issues, reach out to The Recovery Village to speak with someone who cares.

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