Military service can be very stressful at times for both the military member and the family. Families are separated and military members sometimes serve in war zones and are deployed for long periods of time which can increase anxiety and stress. It is not uncommon for military members to turn to alcohol use to deal with anger, guilt or resentment for this which can quickly escalate to excessive alcohol use to help them deal with the stress. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine reported that alcohol use among military members has turned into a "public health crisis."
Military alcohol treatment help that has been used for many decades by the Pentagon has been criticized as being ineffective at helping military members overcome their alcohol use. As much as 27 percent of active duty members have excessive alcohol use and more than 47 percent reported to binge drink. The Department of Defense reports that they spend nearly $600 million on alcohol treatment for service members. Further, TriCare - the military's health provider estimated that there are more than 10.8 million individuals in the U.S. that participate in underage drinking.
A reason why most active duty service members (men and women) are likely not to seek military alcohol treatment help is because alcohol dependency goes against the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and labels the behavior as immoral. In a profession where getting caught with a DUI will end your military career, many military service members conceal their excessive alcohol use, or at least no one talks about it until it is a "military problem."
However, as recent events involving alcohol use and military personnel have been brought to the surface, the incentive for military leaders to report excessive alcohol use and make an effort to refer the military member in question to a military approved alcohol treatment center has begun to emerge. Where civilian corporations have been using the Employee Assistance Plan for years, the military is just beginning to catch on and encourage military alcohol treatment help. The military's position has always been that alcohol use is something that you can control and if it interferes with your military service, and then you are not in compliance with the UCMJ.
Many individuals serving in the military find that when they get out of the service they struggle with finding a job or adjusting to civilian life. In these cases, alcohol use that went undetected or unquestioned while they served on active duty may now become a problem.
Military alcohol treatment help was created to focus on the particulars that military members face and to help them overcome their alcohol use and makes it possible for them be successful in their future careers. The Veterans Administration has played a significant role in helping active duty, retired active duty and former military members get the help they need. Unfortunately at times treatment is lacking results at best, and reinforces the idea of an incurable brain disease. This mentality is limiting and can prevent a military member from truly fixing their alcohol problem.
Military members can find a true solution to alcohol use in a non-12 step, non-treatment program such as the alternative program Freedom Model Retreats, which has extensively worked with military members and helped them change their lives for over 23 years.