Modern Veterans’ Organizations offer Alternative to alcohol-based socialization.

Full disclosure, I am not much into drinking. It’s never really been a hobby of mine. I remember celebrating pretty heavily when I turned 21, then revisiting some nachos I had consumed earlier that evening, and not too much after that. I am now nine years removed from that day and I can’t really recall any other time in which I was intoxicated. Honestly I saw a lot of cautionary tales growing up that have really stuck with me. Also, I simply can’t stand the taste of most forms of alcohol. Before we get too far along, I want to make it clear that this is not the judgment express. I am flawed. If I were brave enough to post a full body photo of myself you would quickly see that my vice is food. Overeating can be as dangerous as consuming too much alcohol. The reason I am bringing the subject of alcohol up is a recent hashtag search I did on twitter. This led me down a rabbit hole to some pretty interesting numbers.

For anyone who does not know, a hashtag is something used on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites to link common stories. For instances, if I tweet about JJ Watt, and I want other Houston Texans fans to see what I have typed, I will use the hashtag “#WeAreTexans.” (Even though I am from West Virginia, I cheer for the Texans. It’s a complicated story.) When it comes to social media posts regarding this blog, I will use the hashtag #Veterans.  Obviously I want Veterans to read this blog, so this is a great way to spread the word. Today I needed some inspiration for a new blog. I had to get through a bunch of posts in which people were using the hashtag for politics, but then came across post with a photo. The photo grabbed my attention because it was from a recent national brewing corporation that used a returning Vet in a recent campaign. The tweet mentioned that returning combat Veterans are at a higher risk of binge drinking than their civilian counter parts. This post led me to an interesting blog that analyzed alcohol manufactures using Veterans in their marketing campaigns and brought up the topic of responsibility in advertising. An interesting topic and something that I had not thought of before. I would love to expand on this thought, but that is not what this blog is about. This blog however led me to a study in which alcohol consumption rates of returning Vets were compared to that of civilians, and the numbers were somewhat surprising.

Now, I need to point out that recent information on this subject tends to be a little scarce. Most of the info I found on this subject pointed to a survey conducted in 2008. Even though this information is about 6 years old, I doubt if things have improved that much. Honestly the opposite is most likely. So, according to this study, Combat Veterans were 31 percent more likely to have started binge drinking than those not exposed to combat. Six percent of returning combat Veterans started a new habit of heavy weekly drinking and 5 percent developed a drinking-related problem.

I just realized that it has taken a long time to get to the heart of this blog post. I’m not here to say that drinking is bad. If you are an adult and don’t know the negative effects of heavy alcohol consumption then you must have some prime real estate under a rock. However, as an individual who talks to about 150-200 new Veterans every month, I know that alcohol consumption among Veterans is an issue. I have also experienced this first hand with some Veterans I know personally. It’s not really something we can ignore.

Too often the Veterans I speak to daily feel isolated. They have returned home from combat to a bunch of people who can’t relate to what they have been through. If you are dealing with PTSD, or a TBI, then family life and a full time job can be overwhelming. It makes sense that so many Veterans use alcohol as a coping mechanism or as a way to self-medicate. I have talked to so many Vets who use it as a way to escape. There are alternatives out there. There are groups for Veterans returning from recent conflicts that help address the issues facing younger Veterans and offer an alternative to traditional service organizations.

The first organization is one that was established just a few years ago and is quite impressive. They are called the Steel City Vets, and I have personally had the pleasure of working with them in the past. The group as a whole does so much in the Western PA area that I wish I could personally join. They are involved in community projects, organize social gatherings and even do such fun things as golf tournaments and even have famous Veterans and civilian guest speakers. They also attend sporting events like Pittsburgh Steelers games, but I think our Veterans deserve better than that. Football humor aside, the Steel City Vets is a group that I have experienced first-hand, and I highly recommend them for any Veteran who may be living in the western PA area. In fact, they have a great golf tournament coming up on August 10th which would be a great introduction to the group and their members.

Another group that I have worked with quite a bit more is the Veterans Corps at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. This happens to be the school in which I attended while pursuing my undergraduate degrees. In my tenure with the firm I have worked with them for many projects, including our Walk4Vets. This Veterans group is open to student Veterans, and much like the Steel City Vets, they focus on keeping Vets engaged in community activities/outreach, team building trips, and social gatherings. The Veterans corps had some fun activities recently. They had a day at the gun range that also involved a hike and a picnic, and a white water rafting trip just a few weeks ago. I was invited to go on the trip but had to decline because of my fear of death. In the spring they had a great fundraising and a supply drive for our local homeless Veterans.

When I was in high school, and more recently in college, I personally found myself lost at times. It was not until I found a group of individuals with similar experiences that I could relate to that I started finding meaning in what I was doing. In no way am I comparing anything in my life to serving in the military or being in combat. However, I think relating to others who know what you have been through is universal. Groups like these can be very beneficial for transitioning back to civilian life. At the end of the day I want Veterans to know there are several options out there to socialize with other Vets.

If you would like more information about service connecting for alcoholism or would like to discuss your VA disability claim, give us a call. 1-877-526-3457. Also, if you happen to be part of a group like the ones listed above, please share the information in the comments section.

Fight 4 Vets