When I left the military, I felt my safety net was cut away from me. It was like, there’s the door thank you very much. It’s been quite a journey – one which I never thought I would end up taking but Launchpad has given me stability. I’m trying to get back into things slowly and yes, there have been highs and lows, but I know I have definitely made the right decision.”
Luke’s journey in life may have looked far different from the one he ended up serving on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan. At 16, he signed a professional contract with Widness Rugby League playing as a stand-off for three years.
He did well at school, achieving 11 GCSE’s and completed his apprenticeship. He also became a dad with a beautiful little girl and said he was ‘living the dream’, but he realised playing professional rugby league was never going to be enough to pay the bills and support his young family so he had an important decision to make.
He was fit and healthy and ready for his next challenge. That challenge was following in his grandad’s footsteps when he signed up for the Parachute Regiment as he felt, at the time, it would be a good steady career.
A year after getting married, he joined the British Army in 2003 and was based at Kirkee Barracks in Colchester. Being sporty and physically strong, his training went really well. He just kept his head down and got on with the job at hand. His partner opted to stay in Widness with their daughter, which he found difficult and admittedly, it put a strain on his marriage.
He completed operational tours of Iraq in 2004/05 and Afghanistan in 2006/07. Not long after Afghanistan, he felt he didn’t want to serve any longer but found it difficult to leave. Fearing the uncertainty civilian life would bring and wondering what he would do to make a living. It was the thought of having responsibilities – he was scared but after the crash and recession, he felt he should stay and see it out longer.
When he came home, he realised life outside the military would be very different. He acknowledges he has underlying mental health issues but would never talk about them – he just bottled it up. He eventually left the army in 2011 and he found the transition difficult. His marriage broke down the following year and he managed to get some agency work but couldn’t settle. He was also doing ad hoc work on building sites but lacked drive. He felt deflated and was living between parents before getting his own place.
He tried to resume his rugby career playing for amateur teams but unfortunately broke his leg. This, he said was the start of his decline.
“I was on painkillers and I was worried what would happen when I came off them because when I was taking them, all my problems went away. When I realised I was going to have to stop taking them, I started getting into drugs. That opened the door to a terrible phase of my life.”
Luke became addictive but he managed to keep it a secret. In 2015, he ended up living in a hostel but found his addiction became worse. He ended up in trouble with the Police and was referred to a military rehab centre in Liverpool. He managed to stay focussed but had another breakdown in 2017/18. He turned to crime to fund his addiction and was caught shoplifting to pay off his debts. In 2019, he was sent to prison but said it was probably the best thing that could have happened.
Some of the prison staff were veterans and he felt he had a bond with them and although he only served six weeks, he felt like being back with the boys. He was released in May 2019 and was referred to Launched. He arrived at Speke House with just a bag of clothes.
“When I got to Launchpad, I had a choice to make. Either I could go back to that life or choose to do something different. With the help of the staff at Launchpad and working with some of their partner agencies, I know I have made the right choice. They have supported me and helped me get my life back on track.
“I’ve made my flat homely. I have a nice TV and a three-piece suite which was passed onto me by some of the other residents who have since moved on. It’s really boosted my confidence and I also volunteer doing jobs around the house. I help down at the allotment and also helped to build a bike shed.
“I would like to get back into the building trade in a couple of years’ time but I just want to take things slow and easy. I’m happy and feel healthy and I still get to see my daughter. I am also building relationships again with my family.
“Launchpad has given me the stability I needed. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to build those relationships which has given me strength to get back into re-focussing my mind and getting active and healthy again.”