Adam's Story

Adam's Story

Adam came to Alabaré Homes for Veterans following the initial lockdown in 2020. Adam had struggled with alcohol and drug addictions for several years following his medical discharge from the Navy after 15 years of service. I interviewed him in his new flat which we helped him apply for after a period of homelessness. He is immensely grateful for the support we provided, and he is keen to help ensure others do not end up in the same position as he did. This is Adam’s story in his own words.

“In 2012 I was medically discharged from the Navy after 15 years’ service. It was quite brutal. One moment I was in, I went in the office, and they said we're sending you on six months leave. You'll get your pay and that was it. No resettlement or anything. So, I went back to the Northeast. I hadn’t processed it at all, I don’t think. And then my grandad died in 2013 and that’s when I started doing cocaine. It was just social at first, you know, but then I think with my depression, it just made me feel normal, but I didn’t realise it was actually making me worse because cocaine is a suppressant that hides the pain which is why soon I was taking it 7 days a week, as it suppressed all my emotions.

But I wore this mask. Once I shut my front door and I was in my house, I was proper lonely Adam, but outside, I was the person, everyone expected me to be. I used to host the karaoke twice a week and do the quizzes at the pub all the time. I was running a mobile phone shop but I was a fully functioning addict. I could go out and drink 15 pints, do 3 grams of coke and then go to work at eight in the morning and be fine. And I did that for five years.

My mobile phone shop was the least complained about so one day a mystery shopper came in who asked if I’d like to come and work for them and they immediately doubled my salary and gave me a company car and extra holidays. But then they were bought out by BT and all of a sudden it was over and as I hadn’t been there a year, I did not get a redundancy package. By this point, I was spending 2 grand a month on coke, probably more.

So, over the next two years, I emptied my bank account, I was £1500 overdrawn with thousands on credit cards. I moved back in with my parents where the drinking had to stop for a while because I couldn’t hide it. My parents thought I had a gambling addiction. My mam used to throw the word drugs into the conversation, but she was waiting for me to say something.

Once I moved back into my own flat over the road from my parents everything spiralled, the amount I was drinking was just ridiculous. M normal friends asked me to do things but because I'd always say no because I couldn't do it without drugs, they stopped asking me. So, the people I associated with just fueled my habit. Then in December 2019, I nearly killed myself with a drugs overdose, I probably wanted to at the time to be honest.

I had a friend from the navy so at the beginning of lockdown I jumped in the van and went to ask if I could stay.  We went back up north, took a few things from the flat, posted the van keys back through my bosses’ door and the keys for my flat through the letterbox. I didn't tell anyone I was going, and I just left, that was just my way of dealing with it. For me, it was the only way I was going to beat it. My parents reported me missing, they probably thought I was dead and then, as a result, I didn’t learn about my nana dying.

When I got back in contact with my mam, she was upset that I had left but after I explained she understood. At my friends I spent most of the time in my room, getting clean, completely cold turkey. I began giving my mam a call on Saturday nights but one Saturday I didn’t and then early Sunday morning my niece rang me up to tell me that she’d died. Then I blamed myself. 

At the end of August, my mate's son needs to move back in and it was then that I started to notice all this social anxiety that I hadn't seen before because the drugs had been masking it. I wouldn’t come out the bedroom or if someone knocked on the front door I’d think it was, for me, so I got in touch with Shelter and they put me in touch with the British Legion who put me in touch with Alabaré who said come on down we’ve got a room for you.

All I had was a few t-shirts and an X-Box, which I don't know how I’d live without, and a tv, which my mate had given me.  But then my social anxiety really kicked in because of the number of people in the Alabaré house so for the first couple of months I don't think I left my room at all, and then Rachel my support worker grabbed me one day and it all came out.

So, Rachel, my Guardian Angel set up TILS (NHS Veterans' Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison (TIL) Service) and doctor's appointments to get me started and once I had, I knew I wanted to get back to being me before drugs and alcohol, I kind of took over and I just started to run with it. I’d been clean long enough and I was starting to think straight and I started to think that if I let my anxiety take over or define me it’d be so hard to get rid of so I had to get on top of it pretty quickly. I am miles better now. This conversation wouldn't have happened six months ago. Not a chance. 

Everything married up really well.  I got here in March. I started my CBT. I did the Warrior Course in May, started with Cruz Bereavement, started physio and I’ve done some education stuff as well. I'm not thick but when I joined the forces, I hadn’t got a GCSE.

My hope for the future is for no one else to go through what I went through. A lot of the work I’ve done has changed my focus from blaming myself to realising that when I left the Navy, it was just so brutal that I never got over that.

I’ve written a letter to Boris Johnson, I haven’t sent it yet, but saying the forces can’t spend 12 months beating the civvy out of you only to spend zero time putting it back in when you leave! So, what I want to do is help others especially those who like me joined up so young. You know if you leave the services as a single person and you go back to where you're from, you've got no idea, you’ve got no reference. Some haven't had to pay a bill for 10 years because it all comes out of their wages and that’s when they get in debt. While some come out with a real sense of, some people say, it’s a sense of entitlement, but they’re used to being lavish, they’ve got money coming in and they're used to going to exotic places as well, where stuff's cheaper. 

A lot of things are different now, many ships are non-smoking and when you get to port no one goes on a 5 or 6-day bender, in my time that’s all we did. And although they do some talks and stuff on drink and drugs you know it’s really just a tick box exercise. I’d like to see people leaving the service sitting in front of people like me, you know who have gone down that slippery slope and to give them a phone number so that when they realise they’re drinking too much or they’re in that environment of drugs and such like to give them a jolt because you get none of that.

I had no tools when I left, I’ve loads now but I had nothing. You can’t stop people going down that path, but I’d like people to understand the pitfalls. So I’d like to do something that just helps others not get in that situation. I want to give back to the people that have helped me.”

 

What was the main thing that Alabaré gave you?

“Somebody cared. Someone was there to listen and yeah someone cared when I thought no one would or should.”

 

So, what would your message be to other people who are perhaps struggling?

“Don't stay silent. Don't hide it. Just because you think people will treat you differently when they find out.

Don’t be like me not telling my parents because if I had they might have understood and helped me rebuild my life rather than moving to the other end of the country without telling anyone and it wouldn’t have got to the point where you want to end your life. So don't, don't suffer in silence. Don't think people are gonna think differently of you just because you've admitted that got an illness. You’re actually stronger because you’ve admitted it.

I spent so many years suppressing emotions. I was watching The Big Bang Theory the other day the very last episode when Sheldon is giving his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize and I was just crying my eyes out, thinking this is ridiculous it’s supposed to be a comedy! But I realized his speech is about friends and family and because of my mistakes I don’t have any of that.

Yes, so don’t suffer in silence, get some help before it’s too late because you can turn it around. The very fact that I’m here speaking now shows that you can.”

 

So how are you filling your time and what is your plan moving forward?

“So, I’d like to get to university and study social care, and then I’d like to go to the MOD and say, this was me, this is what I‘ve done to fix myself, now is there a job for me, and if not, I’ll do it voluntarily. You know I’m 40 next month, I have literally got a chance to restart my life again.”

 

Thank you Adam for sharing your story.

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