After having left the army for about 3 years, my drinking got steadily heavier and my self-esteem and moods got worse. I was having nightmares and would awake at all hours, agitated and aggressive and needed to go for a walk to calm down.
It got to the stage that I was afraid to go to sleep.
I would just disappear for days on end, my life was spiralling out of control and to help me cope I started seriously self-medicating with alcohol and at some stage, I became an alcoholic. My health was suffering badly as were all other aspects of my life, and I felt that before long I would be dead.
The final straw came when I found myself on top of a bridge. I swear to this day that the only thing that saved was a sign on the bridge telling me to phone the Samaritans. Once I did, I went to my GP who contacted the Crisis Management Team and I received daily visits from them whilst I received a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression diagnosis. Although the PTSD and depression were being treated, my excessive drinking was not and a few years it later I hit rock bottom.
I eventually found help from the Inclusion Recovery Service, a drug and alcohol misuse service based at the Orion centre in Havant. They agreed to a home detox, however it turned out my liver was too badly damaged and my blood results were too worrying. Instead, I was asked to go to hospital.
It is true to say that much as I wanted to “get fixed”, I had no intention of going, there was no way I would even contemplate this, even though the outcome of continuing to drink was killing me. My key worker at the Orion Centre could see I was getting despondent and was ready to “jack it all in” when he contacted the Queen Alexandra Hospital for assistance.
From my first meeting with the Alcohol Specialist Nurse Service (ASNS) at Queen Alexandra, the professionalism and compassion I received led me to believe that I could do this. I started a home detox and stuck to it, I actually looked forward to my daily visits at the hospital for my check-ups, as I was receiving such valuable help and guidance. They even supported my wife, who was beside herself and needing some help in order to care for me. I was treated like I was a responsible human being rather than the worthless waste of space I believed I had become.
It has taken me a long time to realise that had I swallowed my pride and gone to talk to someone in the beginning I would have saved myself and my family a lot of pain.
Over the years, I have received lots of therapies and courses that helped me to cope and to identify when things aren’t right. I also knew that if I was in trouble or not feeling right, help is only a phone call away and that there are people who will listen and help.
I am now over 4 years sober and my life now has turned around completely from someone who didn’t care whether he lived or died, to someone who has a loving marriage and now a grandad to two beautiful grandchildren. I’m also making a positive contribution to society; I was a Volunteer Recovery Worker and I’m now just starting a new career as a Substance Abuse Recovery Worker. I’m still very active in the Alcoholics Anonymous service.
Having now gone through “the system”, I am only too well aware of how difficult it was to know where to turn to get help. Once I had started to get treatment, I realised just how much help is available. It’s a case of swallowing your pride, not being afraid to ask for help, and talking to someone who can help you or point you in the right direction.
Portsmouth is now gearing up to offer even more help for veterans who need to take care of their wellbeing. Positive Minds will offer drop-in slots, groups and emotional support for people from all walks of life, including those who have spent time in the military. Some of their support will be led by other veterans who have been there, got the t-shirt and are ready to share their experiences to help others.
I believe that had there been something available like Positive Minds that I could have turned to and received some early intervention, then I may not have become as ill as I did.