As many of us leave the U.S. military we often leave with a few bad habits or medical conditions. These habits or conditions seem to follow us for years after our service, and at times become major issues.

Along with a few extra pounds and elevated blood pressure, our use of alcohol also seems to stay with us after we get out.

This article is meant to inform other veterans and those who love veterans of what to look for if they feel like their drinking has become a problem.

This article is not meant to diagnosis, treat, or take the place of your medical provider in anyway. The article is intended to help by providing information on a subject that has affected many veterans.

Like anything else in life, too much of something is never a good idea. So how do we know if our drinking has become a problem?


Understanding the Reasons Behind Why You are Drinking


I have been known to have a drink or two. The questions in when does it become a problem – or is it even a problem?

As a veteran and medical professional, I wanted to share a few things to look for in your own drinking to help determine if it is more than causal and heading towards and addiction.

Drinking alcohol is often done to relieve stress after a hard days work, or to relax and kick-back on a weekend. Having a cold beer during a football game or when you are done working in the yard on the weekend can be a satisfying way to enjoy yourself.

When this habit changes from being able to enjoy a drink or two, and moves towards dependency on a chemical, there is a problem.

Many times, we don’t realize the transformation in our behavior and how it affects the people around us.

The other problem with alcohol is it affects each of us is differently. Some people can have a drink every now and then with no affect while others can become dependent upon the alcohol very quickly.

How do you know if you are heading down the wrong road when it comes to alcohol?

A good first step is to have this addressed and evaluated by your doctor.

In the medical world we use assessments to tell us a lot about our patients. These assessments often tell us when we need to look further into an issue.

Like with everything else there is not a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to how much drinking we should or should not do. As medical providers, we have to look for any problems that might arise from these drinking levels.


Using the CAGE Assessment to Evaluate Drinking Levels


The CAGE assessment is one of the tools that we use to assess someone’s drinking. It is a quick 4 question survey you can ask yourself to see if there is the potential for a problem with your drinking.

C- Have you ever felt like you should Cut down on your drinking?

A- Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

G- Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?

E- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye-opener)? (Ewing, 1984).

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, then there is a potential problem with your drinking, and you should consider talking with your medical provider.

John Hopkins Healthcare also says that answering “yes” to one or more of these questions should initiate your medical provider to look closer at your drinking.


Understanding Why Someone Drinks Alcohol


As veterans we have a higher potential for abusing alcohol because of the relief it gives us from a very stressful lifestyle. Many times, veterans use alcohol as an escape from both physical and mental pain or anguish we have suffered during our military service.

In the book Unbroken by: Laura Hillenbrand, she describes the trials Louie Zamperini faced as a WWII POW as well as his later use and abuse of alcohol to cope with these horrible experiences.

Louie later turned towards his faith and was able to stop drinking and forgive his captors for the horrible way he was treated and abused.

Our own experiences as veterans do not have to be as horrible or heroic as Louie’s, but we often find ourselves using alcohol to help “deal” with pain, stress or anxiety. Many veterans deal with PTSD and the use of alcohol is often thrown into the mix in order to privately deal with these issues.

Having a chemical may mask a problem, but is never the correct way to deal with an issue or problem. Talking with your doctor or provider to better understanding the reason for the drinking is the real key recovery.

No one wants to become dependent on a chemical that can have detrimental effects on the body – adding physical anguish to these other emotional areas of concern.


Detrimental Effects of Drinking


As we all know there are many detrimental effects that alcohol can have on the body.  The CDC reports that drinking alcohol increases your risk of getting six different types of cancer, along with increased risk for heart disease, liver disease, and stroke.

Alcohol can also play a major part in suicidal attempts and depression.

So, what do we do? Make sure you are safe with your drinking – if you choose to drink. Also, make sure you are not becoming dependent or have to drink in order to function in your daily activities.

If your drinking is taking control over you, there is help. Your healthcare provider can assist you with medical options to help you stop drinking. There are also very successful programs that you may choose to enroll in, such as Alcoholic Anonymous.

Every day, All Things Veteran strives to help make things better for our veterans. If your drinking is holding you back or is becoming detrimental in your life, there is help out there.

Please feel free to contact us at or email me directly at We want every veteran to be safe and healthy. Sometimes that starts with a simple conversation.

Jacob Sanderson AGACNP, FNP