It has taken until August 2016 to get better. 18 months. In that time, my second marriage has ended, I had my kids taken off me for a whole year, my army career has ended, I’ve been in mental hospital, I’ve suffered with alcoholism. The list is endless.
When people say they hit rock bottom, it’s not true. It’s like you are burning magma. You hit rock bottom, fizzle around a bit, then plummet again. And repeat. Until you grab a hold of yourself and fix yourself. The biggest problem is that until we came along, there’s been no one to act as a guide. No one to say, ‘hey, you think this is bad? This is just the beginning. It’s gonna get a whole lot worse before it gets better’.
I won’t stray into out teaching methodology here though and stick to my story. So when I decided to go and see the doctor, he initially sent me away saying that he only dealt with physical illness, not mental illness. It’d taken so much to build up the courage to go and see him in the first place that I was crushed.
I went home as low as the belly of a snake. My wife came home and asked what happened. Well let me tell you, he never said that to me again. At this point my wife was great, she really fought for me, rang everyone she could trying to get me help. She came to appointments, wrote articles, campaigned. Everything you’d expect. Then it started to turn sour. I was angry. Don’t know what at but I was angry. She felt scared to be in her own home and the police were forever turning up at the house. I needed to get away. An opportunity for a holiday in Great Yarmouth came up and I took it. I took the kids and it had the makings of the break we all needed. Yet I ruined it. We’d argued in the days leading up to it and my head was all over the place. I chose to drink when in charge of the kids and got so drunk that my eldest texted his mum saying that I was acting weird. I’d passed out by the time the police arrived. They stayed until she came and I didn’t see or speak to the kids again until April 2016.
UP AND DOWN
I’d have done the same. Without a doubt. Just recently we have been able to talk again. Properly. We are making good progress. That makes me so happy. I had to go through the courts to see them. The visits started off as two hour supervised visits and have grown. We are up to pretty much pre-incident relations now. We aren’t there yet but we will. This is a key part of my recovery.
I went home alone from the holiday park and my wife said, ‘you can’t stay here’. I was literally a jibbering wreck. I asked her to at least drive me to hospital. She did and I was soon after admitted to the mental health ward of Peterborough Hospital. Following a week there I was transferred to a Personnel Recovery Centre in Colchester (I’ll write a separate blog on these amazing facilities open to serving soldiers and veterans alike) where I spent six weeks. Finally I went to Lilleshall to the Battle Back Centre for a week of adaptive sports. This period is when I began to realise that activity was the key to my happiness.
I finally went home to my wife after this and we soon after went on a lovely trip to Turkey. It was great and we barely argued. But there was a lot of booze involved which always makes your troubles go away. Well delays you facing them.
However as soon as we were home it started again, this time reaching the crescendo which saw social services and police descend on our house and me leaving for good. I went initially to my mum’s house then soon after to New Zealand where my brother and family live. It was great to have a recharge and a new perspective. It was the first time I’d been over there and so we hadn’t seen each other in years. It felt good. But I knew I couldn’t stay so we decided that if I were to return to Manchester, I could do work experience at my brother’s business there. So I had an apartment and a job lined up. It’d all be great. Problem is, love doesn’t let you get away that easily. I was screwed up.
I immersed myself in learning about a new industry, about managing civvies, running a small internet based business. Looking back now, I learned so much which will stand me in good stead for the future. It also separated me mentally from the army. I will not be one of those people pining for the warm embrace of military life. So work wise, I’d be fine. I decided to renovate my own house I’d been renting out for years so that was another project to keep me busy. On top of that I was going through the Families Court to gain access to my boys. I was busy. I think though this was a business that was there simply to stop me thinking. Saying that, I was sorting my life out, tying up loose ends.
One by one, these things came to pass. First I came to the natural conclusion of my therapy. This in turn prompted the Court to agree to progressive access to the boys. But it still wasn’t right? What was going on?
Around this time I found two things. That I could escape with either alcohol or adventure. I didn’t really socialise so could hide my drinking. I didn’t drink anyway near the kids, a rule set by the Court, so I couldn’t hurt anyone but myself. I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t help myself. I’d been to AA meetings, avoided going to pubs, everything. I trained hard, ate well, was doing well. But every so often when I felt on top of the world, I’d slip and start drinking. Feeling lonely as the boys had gone home, feeling lonely cos my wife had arranged to see me then cancelled. Boredom. It couldn’t carry on!
I mentioned adventure too. I went on a multi activity trip to Cyprus where we sailed, sky-dived, climbed, just generally had outdoor fun, and I loved it. I was amongst my people, doing stuff I loved. Everyone felt I was doing so good. That’s why I had a niggle in my head. Why do these people think I’m doing so well when I know how I feel when I’m sat alone drinking. However this was the key to my recovery. Clearly I couldn’t go sky-diving every day for the rest of my life, much as I’d love to. So what’s a more realistic version?
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
It was a few weeks later when I was sat at home after a bout of drinking that I had a realisation. How can you keep doing the same thing and expect different results? I had to make changes, but the changes were on the inside, not external.
The booze was symptomatic rather than the cause. If I found happiness, I wouldn’t need to escape so often. I love being outdoors, I love adventure. It is something I would happily do everyday. Just be outside. I also accepted that I couldn’t manipulate situations in my favour. I’d clearly never been able to so why not just accept it? So I decided my future wasn’t in an office selling car finance. I needed something more fulfilling. I was getting somewhere.
Outdoors, want to help, manifest my own destiny. The veil dropped. In an instant I lost my defiance, my ego, my pride. I finally knew what I wanted in my life. Which is why I’m writing this blog today, spreading the word. I accept that I was a bastard. It wasn’t my intention but it was my action. I hurt a lot of people along the way. Some relationships will recover, some will not. I cannot change the past, but I can make the future better. I can also create the life I want to live. That’s what I’m doing every day now. Just being me, doing what I do best. Being an inspirational leader. That’s not ego by the way, that’s a technical term….seriously!!
I know I have the skills, the contacts, the drive, the determination to make this work and you should all be rooting for me because when it does, it means all those people who need help are getting it. There was a saying or joke at AA about how a bunch of people went up to a piss head sat in a hole and no one could help until another former piss head jumps in with him and says, ‘come on mate, I’ll show you how to get out’. That’s totally true, I’ve been there, caused unknown amounts of chaos and come out the other side. I could either keep running and look after myself or I could go back into the fire and pull some others out.
What would you do? Silly question, I know you’d help……………….
From The Blog
HOW IT BEGAN Growing up I was obsessed with my father’s memorabilia from his time in the Parachute Regiment during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. That along with his stories was enough to confirm to me, as a boy, that I wanted to join the army. It’s a dangerous...