I was raised in West Cumbria on a council estate where I resided with my sister and our abusive mother. For the majority of my childhood my father remained absent. I’m not looking for sympathy, this is just the way it was. This upbringing lead me to being involved in the local gangs, as they provided me with the family I was looking for. However, by a stroke of luck my grandma got me a job with a local builder as a block paver, I did this for several years. My outlook on life and my mentality during this time was not very nice and I had begun to drink heavily and use steroids. I was your typical Saturday night thug. Due to better understanding, I know this was my way of dealing with the pain, rejection, humiliation and low self esteem I felt from my childhood years.
In 2006 I joined the Army, it had been my plan at 18 but having a good job, girlfriend and young daughter, I had put it off. After the relationship had finished I joined as a Kingsman in the 1st Battalion Duke of Lancashire regiment. The army gave me the family and respect I had been looking for and with the added bonus of a decent wage; I loved it. I was “army barmy” I loved soldiering and I had found my calling, I spent 5 happy years travelling around the world, visiting places like Canada (twice), Belize, Dubai, Germany, Kuwait, USA, Cyprus, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. I also undertook a tour of Iraq.
In 2010 I deployed to Afghanistan as a rifleman/mortar man, we were based in a small patrol base in Nadie Ally South where I spent 7 months. During this time, we come under heavy contact and the battalion started to lose men and suffer serious casualties, in total we suffered 3 dead, 2 amputees (one of those a triple) and a few dozen shot. Many Taliban were also killed.
On my return to the UK I felt different, I can’t explain how but I had it was like a part of me had died. After the “honey moon” period in which I spent 25k in 3 months, reality really hit me hard and things started to go wrong. I was no longer interested in anything. I had lost my drive, my motivation and love for life. I had started to have dreams and flashbacks and suffer from hyper vigilance which left me in a constant state of alert.
Again, I started to drink heavily to help me sleep and take the edge off the hypervigilance. I no longer cared about my career or personal appearance and I was just existing.
I left the army in 2012 after a long and messy discharge, during which I went to Colchester military jail twice, for AWOL. After my last stay in Colchester they picked up on my P.T.S.D but I had already signed my discharge papers and I had left the army. It was not until 2014 that I was officially diagnosed but by then it was way beyond my own self-control. Drinking heavily and poor mental health led me to get into a lot of trouble, leading me to spend 2 years out of the last 3 in prison including a year straight. On leaving prison I came to CalderWood house for the first time and spent 5 week here, I then moved to Centenary Close in Maryport, a place for veterans. I had a nice flat and was undergoing counselling. I was still battling my demons.
I had an interview with combat stress in September, this lead me to a drinking binge which lead to a very violent incident in Maryport where I was staying (a large street fight) and I was sent back to prison.
Normally I would only care about how much gym I can fit into my time but on this occasion, I started a 12-step programme and it opened my eyes to myself. I received letters from Rachel Holliday and my daughter which they kept me going. The judge gave me a chance and gave me a 3-year community order and I come back to CalderWood.
I now fully understand and appreciate the chance I now have at life. I am involved with combat stress and now have a date to attend their 6-week rehabilitation course in Ayr in Scotland. I see my daughter regularly, we go swimming and bowling and speak every day, she is my world.
I plan on doing my COTS card, which is the first scaffolding ticket as that is what I want my future career to be. Thanks to the support from Calderwood House I do believe my future is more positive and I look forward to moving on with my life.