Tom Harrison House have shared the following case study from a recent graduate:
Case Study – WD (Male, age 49)
I joined in April 1989, at age 18, my career lasted until April 2014, so I did 24 years in total with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers as an Aircraft Technician, I was W01 (ASM). I served in England, Germany, Brunei, Hong Kong, Canada, Cyprus, Norway, France, Northern Ireland, Iraq. I absolutely loved it, I grew up in the army and came out when I was 42-year-old with family, a loving wife and child. Being in the army was like being a part of another family. Coming out of the army was the most testing thing I have done in my life. I had my degree, my CV was bursting when I left, I had become a teacher, ASM of the REME instructor school and a Chief Engineer in Canada, I was set in that regard, but coming out of the army left me terrible mentally unstable with anxiety. I was a fish out of water.
On leaving I took some time out to adjust, spending time being the ‘house husband’, doing some DIY about the house and then I got myself a dog and was out walking every day. However, after a few months I soon got bored as well as anxious about my future and the drinking started to increase. Reflecting, I can see how damaging it became and how rapidly it escalated – the fact that I was hiding bottles in spots along my daily dog walks emphasise this. Despite my worsening condition I was able to land a new job which thankfully saw me teamed up with some ex-military co-workers. It was an ideal scenario, a quality role for the Atomic Weapons Establishment within a team that mirrored the same principles and culture that I had enjoyed in the army. This worked well for a number of years where I managed to get some control over my drinking, however, when the organisation went through a significant re-structure this shattered my ‘ideal scenario’ when my co-workers moved on to other opportunities.
I sought solace in the bottle while I went through the daily grind, managing my binging and showing up for work. Inevitably I had my own ‘Wall Street Crash’ as I like to call it, when I had the great idea to treat my family to breakfast in bed and went out to purchase a McDonald’s for us all. As a result of my worsening drinking and my attempts to control it, I had developed epilepsy, and on returning from McD’s I fitted and crashed my car into a ditch some 500 yards from my home. The car was written off but thankfully no-one was hurt, and I managed to walk home with the breakfast intact. 15 minutes later the police knocked on my door having found my car and I was promptly breathalysed; I was three times over the limit. This was to have serious repercussions and I subsequently lost my job, couldn’t keep up on the mortgage payments, so lost my house and my wife and son had had enough of me, so I lost my relationship with them.
This was the catalyst to seek help and my quest to seek funding for treatment. I must have been knocked back approaching double figures, seeking out support from local authorities, charities, regimental associations, etc. The ironic thing is I sat on the decision-making panel of my regimental association when I was Head of Training, so I am left thinking that, now my name pops up and I am chinned off!
All these rejections nearly cost my son his dad. It made me feel like someone had punched me in the chest and took my eye out when I think back. For 24 years, I gave a day’s pay precisely for this, for when soldiers hit the hard rails, there is a pot of money to help them out with and it appears I didn’t even get a look in. Fortunately, Veterans Aid contributed towards a rehab for me in London which I will always be thankful for, as that is when my recovery really got started.
I completed over a full service with the army (22 years) so my army pension commences day 1 of leaving. Because of this, I am not able to gain any form of universal credit, job seekers allowance, minimal housing benefit, I cannot claim ESA, only contributory ESA, and that is it. As far as benefits go, if I had not completed a full term of service with the forces, I would be entitled to them. But because I did and my taxable army pension coming in, if I go to the local councils, they tell me in terms of pension I have more than the minimum requirement that the government says I need to live on. But I have nowhere to live, I have no house. This is why the local authorities, charities, regimental associations, etc. that I approached wouldn’t fund me and I ended up having some form of nervous breakdown in Veterans Aid HQ, following which they funded me to go through Kairos for 3 months residential treatment.
Ultimately it took me two and a half years to access that funding and I, of course, had to fund a bit myself. When I sought help from them again, they said it was too quick out of rehab for them to be able to assist, so I funded myself to Primrose Lodge and that cost £12,500, including detox. Over those 18 months I have spent around £26,000 on travelling, rehabs and accessing treatment. This still hurts, my ex-wife and I had to sell the house and we split it 50/50, so most of the profits I got from the sale of the house have been spend on rehab.
I had three of the four best jobs for a W01, I was Head of the REME Training College, I was on the Aviation Stand Team as well as the Head of Air Engineering in Northern America – despite that résumé and despite being offered another two years on top of twenty two, this didn’t matter, no one would truly help me until I came to Tom Harrison House. This charity displayed a genuine act of kindness, by securing my treatment from their small bursary budget which I will be forever grateful for. I have never claimed one single benefit, so when I found myself in this position, I thought ‘they’ (the government and other veteran agencies) are going to help me in my ‘hour of need’ for what I’ve done for my country, but it feels like they’ve just shut the door in my face – door after door shut in my face. It was crippling me, every week, every month, every day, I could not afford to live.
It is incredible how my sister looked out for me, searching the internet for a possible solution. That is where she found Tom Harrison House and got in touch with Glyn. It seemed such a quick process from there, but I have since realised that Glyn knows how the system works or does not work. He could see that I was in a desperate state that I had been around the houses a few times.
I was in a place where I genuinely believed that if I did not wake up the next day that it would not be a bad thing. I was living in a bedsit, no home no nothing. I had one suitcase at this stage, I just resigned myself that this is my fate, middle of the Covid19 lock down and nowhere to go. When I could not sleep, my psychosis would start, PTSD, sweats, and depression. I felt worthless, a total loss of self-worth, very hard to get up in the morning, I was always sick. I also developed a physical illness for which I had to have surgery and I was no longer capable of thinking clearly. I was on anti-depressants, and my spiral downwards got deeper and deeper. My body had started shutting down, I woke up in hospital one day and my wife told me I was on the ‘death ward’ following another seizure.
It really had got to the point that the thought of not waking up in the morning would make the world a better place. It was a logical decision; I had gone past that. I had no fight left in me, I was emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. My physical health was very poor because I was not eating – I was two and a half stone lighter than my ideal weight. My sister helped me pay for my own alcohol detox in Birkenhead and Glyn picked me up a week later, once I had completed this intervention.
Remembering my arrival at THH it is now so apparent that military specific treatment for me has not been important but fundamental, imperative in my case. The project uses language that I understand and that I am used to; I did 3 months of rehab in London and the word honour was not mentioned once. It is not just the language that is tailored specifically for ex-forces personal but the whole process – the assignment work, the group therapy sessions, the different workshops, I could associate with it all from the get-go. I know what others had been through, the experiences they had encountered and the sights, sounds and smells they had sensed. It is a little band of brothers and sisters; not being detrimental, we have lived quite a different life. Within the first few weeks I sent a text to my soon to be ex-wife, saying that I felt part of a team again, which I had not done since April 2013.
I can say for definite that I would never have reached the stage that I am at now if I was in a non-military treatment centre. I have learnt that I am not worthless and there is something to fight for. Basically, I have been given another shot of life, I have a clear mind and I am staying off the chosen poison. I threw myself into the holistic stuff available, meditation tends to help me to sleep, morning and evening affirming my gratitude, I have found a system which is comfortable and really works for me. When I came in, I would say I did not know who I was, live or die, I really did not care. I do care now, obviously. My physical state is a lot better, I have put on weight, going out for more walks, cooking a lot more, laughing a lot more. Mentally I have now got a clearer understanding, I have got a way of seeing the professionals and seeing the help that I need because of the support from the Bridge House Project (BHP) and THH.
I am a lot calmer; my anxiety levels have dropped. I am over 4 months clean now, and I am sitting here happy, enjoying life, I have got hope, I have not had that for such a long time. Now I have got somewhere safe and secure where I can base myself. A base to set the rest of my life up, I said to Paula there is absolutely no illusion, THH has saved my life. However there have been consequences, most significantly to my family, I am currently in the process of a divorce, both her and my son are still under therapy, both are suffering from depression and on medication. There is collateral damage from this, not just my immediate family. My father has developed Alzheimer’s and dementia and I lost that moment in time. My mother has gone, I no longer speak to my brother, and the extended family. It was hard to re-connect with people due to my self-pity and I had cut off from so many of my lifelong friends. Thankfully, this treatment process has given my son his Dad back, and that is something I will never be able to re pay. I have previously spent my son’s 18th birthday upstairs in bed with two litres of Vodka. I now plan to go to his 21st birthday party. With my ex-wife, even though we are getting a divorce its amicable, 25 years together, not all bad. I have got very dear friends coming back in my life, I am able to help some friends that need assistance as well. Life is good, I never thought I would say that again, I smile in the morning, I find myself singing and dancing to the radio.