Ben’s Story

For the purposes of confidentiality and anonymity, we have called this soldier Ben.

In 1996, Ben joined The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF). He was just a young man in his 20s who had his whole life ahead of him. Life as a soldier started with training in Bassingbourn, before moving onto Catterick, which took just over six months. He was posted to Germany straight away and settled in well – loving his time in the Fusiliers as well as his new environment.

Ben had started drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis at the age of 15 which led on to the use of other drugs. Even while serving, he used it on a regular basis, which led to him being marched to the guard room on many occasions, as he was on duty under the influence.

While in Germany, he was posted to Bosnia in 1997 and loved every minute of this, feeling part of a team and doing a job that he felt fulfilled. The camaraderie made him feel part of a family and a strong team. They were happy times with good friends and said if he could go back, he would.

Having been in Germany for two years, he found love, and within a year they became parents, which was the start of a relationship which lasted 18 years, both while he was serving in the Army and out of the Army.

Ben left the Fusiliers in 2000 as being in service did not work well alongside his relationship. He married in 2003 and by that time, they already had two children with more on the way.

In 2006 and now in civilian life, Ben’s mental health took a massive blow when he found himself redundant after working in the job for over two years and became unemployed. He did accept another job offer but found that he could not hold this job down. Married with many children to support, Ben turned to the two things he had used to make him feel better since the age of 15, alcohol and cannabis. As a stay-at-home dad, he found that he had even more time on his hands which led to a steady increase of alcohol and cannabis use. Ben was prescribed anti-depressants but due to his alcohol and drug use, which often led to blackouts, the medication did not work the way it should.

Between 2006 and 2020, due to his addictions and his depressive mood, his marriage suffered, looking back now it was oblivious of what was going on in his life including his relationship and his children bur Ben could not see the damage that he was doing to his and his family’s life.

He was eventually sectioned in 2020 after suffering from hallucinations when he decided that he had enough. He then decided to stop drinking, cutting it out totally without reduction which led to severe withdrawal. He decided he needed to change his life but tried without professional support. After being on a secure ward while still in Germany for 6 weeks, his wife informed him that their marriage was over, and he could not return to the family home.

When he was discharged from clinic, he found himself homeless so decided to return to England and stay with his parents. Ben found this very difficult after being away from home for over 20 years and living in a different country.

It only lasted four months, but in 2020 when travel restrictions were lifted due to Covid, he returned to Germany as he missed his children. Ben managed to find accommodation as well as employment, but once again, his demons resurfaced. He found himself drinking and using cannabis to the extreme that he was again sectioned under the Mental Health Act due to experiencing suicidal thoughts.

While residing in the clinic for the second time which lasted this time 12 weeks, he started a new relationship but unfortunately, that ended as he experienced another episode of severe mental health issues and was once again sectioned while in Germany. This was the third time this had happened in the space of 18 months and Ben knew that he needed professional support and help in many areas of his life.

He was given information about Launchpad while he was still living in Germany and he was offered accommodation at Avondale House.

He said: “I was overjoyed by the fact that someone had listened to me and was willing to offer the support and accommodation I needed to start a new chapter in my life.

“I very much appreciate Launchpad for giving me a steering step. Arrangements were made through the Royal British Legion to organize my flights from Germany to Newcastle and I started a new life with the help and support of the staff at Avondale, especially my caseworker Ann Rees who has supported me throughout my stay.

“When I arrived at the house, my addictions were severe. I was spending at least £400 a month on alcohol and cannabis but soon realized that if I found myself in a bad place, I knew all I had to do was knock on the office door or call Ann and I would receive the help and support that I needed.”

Ben was referred to the local addiction service in Newcastle to receive support and after many years of alcohol and drug abuse, he is now clean and free from drug use and only limited alcohol use.

He said: “This is the first time since the age of 15 I have not used drugs and it feels like I have started all over again.”

After another relationship breakdown, Ben decided that he needed to start a new chapter in his life and felt it was time to find his own accommodation. He has since moved into a lovely flat and is moving on with his life.

Now in his forties, Ben said: “At this point in my life, looking back, I made some bad decisions but hopefully I can move on from them and with the continued support from Launchpad and the Fusiliers Association, I’m looking forward for the first time in years and feel proud of what I have achieved within the space of two years.

“I know that I will fight my demons for the rest of my life but hopefully I will learn to take control and live a full and happy life.”