“If it hadn’t been for all the support services and staff at Avondale House who have been involved with my care and my partner, I would either be in a totally different place in life or just not here.”
Craig joined the Royal Logistics Corps in 2006 aged 19 and was also attached to 23 Royal Parachute Engineers and 33 Engineer Regiment EOD 16 Air Assault Brigade. During that time, he served in Afghanistan in 2008 with three separate operational fobs.
Craig admits he had addictions since the age of 14 and often found himself drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. By 2009-2010, his alcohol consumption increased to at least 40 units per week and proved to be his downfall when he was administratively discharged from the Army in 2011.
When he left [the Army], he moved in with his new partner and her parents and they celebrated the birth of their daughter. He worked as a chef which he said was good but due to the long hours and physicality and pressure of the job, he was prescribed medication for an old knee injury.
His addiction started again and he was topping up with pain killers purchasing from chemists as well as individuals. Within months, he was not only using prescribed medication but also street medication, alcohol, and cannabis – smoking at least 12 joints a day, but also class A drugs.
His marriage broke down, mainly due to his addiction and ended up moving in with his father until he found his own flat. Here, he held down a job but was still turning to the addiction to help him get through day to day.
He moved to the North East with his current partner to make a new start and initially, he managed to stop all medication and alcohol until one day when he tried to take his own life.
The crisis team got involved and he was diagnosed with service PTSD. His mental health deteriorated and someone had to be by his side for nine months.
Things took another turn for the worse when he lost his grandmother and brother both within six months. He couldn’t cope and took another overdose.
He managed to reduce his dependency on drugs and alcohol and secured a job for eighteen months until Covid hit and he found himself redundant from his job. He lost his flat due to money issues, his relationship ended and once again, he became dependent on alcohol and drugs.
He was referred to Launchpad’s Avondale House and when a flat became available in January 2021, he moved in. Although he found it difficult at first, he felt ready to work around his mental health.
He said: “That’s when my life turned around for the better. I accepted I needed support and was willing to engage in anything that was offered. I was offered daily one-to-one support with Ann who is the specialist veterans case worker and she referred me to the addiction services. Due to Covid, I received weekly telephone support and was placed for VTILS.
“The crisis team called in the mental health team and I was assessed by a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with childhood PTSD as well as service PTSD. I was placed back on medication and a referral was made for specialist counselling which I am on a waiting list.
“My life has changed so much looking back, I am dealing with my mental health and other issues in my life. I have made good friends within Avondale House. My relationship with my partner is going well. I still have suicidal thoughts but do not act upon them. I am now getting out and about which has increased my self-worth and my self-esteem. I understand that I have mental health issues but with the correct help and support, it can be controlled.”
Craig continued; “If it hadn’t been for all the support services and staff at Avondale House who have been involved with my care and my partner, I would either be in a totally different place in life or just not here.
“It is one of the hardest things for a man and a veteran to ask for help, but I am proof that when you do, help will come. Unfortunately for many veterans, the help comes too late, either they have not asked, or the services are so stretched they are not able to cope with the demand.”
For many of our veteran residents, recent incidents in Afghanistan have opened a lot of old wounds which have been covered over for many years. Our service personal need constant support and not just when they are serving but when they are discharged back into civilian life again to deal with housing, finances, relationship issues, addictions, mental health, and employment and training. These individuals have served their country and have witnessed things that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The least we can do is to help them deal with their issues.