Addiction impacts families in many ways. Knowing how to properly care for a veteran and help them navigate issues related to substance use and/or mental health conditions can be a complex, frustrating and often impossible task for family members. However, family support and involvement can play a major role in a veteran’s recovery.

Treating Veterans Struggling With Substance Use and Co-Occurring Disorders

Substance use disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common dual diagnoses among veterans. When struggling with PTSD, veterans often self-medicate to numb their emotions, reduce anxiety and forget past traumas. While coping through substances may work in the short term, habitual use can quickly become an addiction, increasing concern for family members.  

Often, it’s a family member who convinces a loved one to seek treatment. However, intervention is only the first step to family healing. 

The Goal of Family Involvement in the Recovery Process

Addiction rarely affects only one person and often involves families. When a veteran struggles with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders, the family typically feels: 

  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness

Often referred to as a “family disease,” addiction can cause problems within the family like: 

  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Changes in normal family dynamics 
  • Creating enabling or codependent relationships
  • Domestic abuse
  • Legal or financial trouble
  • Strained relationships

While addressing these issues may be uncomfortable or painful, family involvement in treatment gives the entire family a chance to heal together. 

Although treatment plans may differ, family involvement may include: 

  • Attending family counseling sessions
  • Veteran family support groups
  • Education classes to better understand addiction 

Through counseling and education, family members learn how to properly support the person after treatment, helping ensure long-term sobriety and mental wellness through effective aftercare planning. 

a group of soldiers with american flags on their uniforms.

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

The Recovery Village is an industry-leading treatment provider for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. 

  • Experienced clinicians: Our clinicians are specially trained in trauma-informed care, military culture and treating veteran-specific addiction and mental health needs.
  • Dual diagnosis: We treat addiction and mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety or depression simultaneously for a better recovery.  
  • EMDR: A revolutionary treatment available at several facilities, EMDR therapy alleviates mental pain and emotional recession from trauma, which can lead to better outcomes for your addiction.
  • FORTITUDE: Our specialty track for veterans and first responders at select facilities puts you in exclusive group therapy sessions with your peers. 

If you’re a veteran struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate your VA health insurance and get you the help you need.

The Importance of Family Counseling 

Family counseling may be the difference between relapse and long-term recovery. Individual and group counseling can help veterans understand the connection between destructive thinking patterns and behavior. In fact, research has shown that veterans who struggle with PTSD, but participate in family counseling, are much more likely to recover from their symptoms than veterans who only participate in individual counseling. 

Family counseling can greatly improve a veteran’s recovery chances by:

  • Addressing family dynamics: Through family counseling, clinicians use a family systems theory that looks at dysfunctional family dynamics that may contribute to the veteran’s substance use or mental health concerns. 
  • Allowing veterans to express their emotions freely: Family counseling allows veterans to express their emotions in a controlled setting and can help family members understand the veteran’s emotions.
  • Teaching effective communication techniques: Participants often learn communication techniques for future non-clinical settings. By effectively communicating, understanding one another and making amends for past behavior, family counseling can provide a solid foundation for continual healing.

Defining and Understanding Codependency

Along with counseling, family support typically includes attending educational classes and workshops on recovery, addiction and relapse prevention. Through educational classes, many families find that codependency has played a significant role in addiction. 

Codependency is a pattern of one person enabling a loved one’s destructive behavior. A codependent person’s self-worth may become deeply intertwined behaviorally and emotionally with the addicted person’s destructive behavior. For some family members, codependency becomes an addiction itself. They feel “needed” in this dysfunctional role.

However, continuing a codependent relationship can harm lasting recovery. Family members can better recognize the difference between genuine support and codependent behavior through family therapy, education and behavior modification classes. When the family is involved in the treatment process, they’re better informed and equipped to provide meaningful support in aftercare. 

Family Support Systems in Aftercare 

Early recovery is probably the most dangerous time for a veteran. The transition between an organized, supervised treatment schedule with clinical support and the real world can be daunting. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40–60% of people who receive treatment relapse. However, relapse isn’t a failure, and family support can play a major role in overall treatment success. 

A family’s continued involvement during early recovery may include ensuring their loved one has access to services, including: 

  • Psychiatric services
  • Group meetings
  • Medication management facilities
  • Other aftercare services 

Helping support your loved one’s recovery is important, as is setting personal boundaries. Fulfilling the needs of your loved one while ignoring your own invites codependency. However, through education and counseling, you’ll be better equipped to recognize codependency, communicate with your loved one and continue to navigate the road toward recovery. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

a woman wearing a black shirt and smiling.
Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
a woman with long blonde hair smiling at the camera.
Medically Reviewed By – Danielle Boland
Danielle is licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Read more

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Substance Use”>.” May 18, 2023. Accessed June 7, 2023. 

James Madison University. “Counseling Center: Codependency”><[…]pa[…] Codependency.” June 2023. Accessed June 7, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.