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A Military Way of Life

MY name is Jim and I’m an alcoholic. I was in the British Army from the age of 18. In order to join the Army, you have to go through a series of medicals, interviews, tests and selection processes. I passed my tests, selection and medicals, not a problem. However, the interviews where a different matter, I just did not have the confidence in an interview. Three times I had my final interview with the recruitment office Commanding Officer, and three times I was told I’m not confident enough. Really wanting to join the Army I was feeling disheartened. But I booked my interview for a fourth time, this time I popped to the pub before the interview and had a bottle of beer (thankfully just the one). I walked into the office with confidence, I spoke freely and meaningfully. I finally got past that difficult process.

I completed my training, just. Nearly being removed from training in the last few weeks due to drinking at the wrong time and place. Thankfully I was allowed to pass out from training. I joined my battalion in May 2004, the week of an important football match. I was looking forward to watching my beloved home team on TV. So, with a group of guys I did not know I started drinking and drinking and drinking. I passed out, cracking my head open on a sink and had to be put to bed by these people. The next morning was horrendous, the feeling of guilt and shame and not even remembering much about the football.

Sadly, that was not the only time I behaved and felt like that during my time in the Army. Many times I felt like that. Even at times being put on a drink-watch to ensure I didn’t drink, that didn’t work. I had also been having trouble of a medical kind. And when I was told I was going to be medically discharged from the army the thought came to me that I could drink when and how I liked if I left the army. I didn’t fight it and was discharged.

I came out with a nice pay-out and went back home to live with my Nan. That is when life became a mission, I struggled for a number of years not knowing how to cope with life. I had come from the military being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it, my life had been run for me I just had to be there. But now I was on my own to manage my own life and I was in a mess getting worse day by day. I changed jobs almost on a weekly basis, changed relationships, moved around the country and generally changed everything in my life to try to change the way that I felt. Nothing worked.

In 2012 after losing my career and drifting for years, I moved to Plymouth - another attempt to change the way that I felt. After a short period, I was feeling the same as before, my mental and physical health were going down the pan. Starting to feel that maybe alcohol was not only my answer to life, the only thing that brought any colour to it, but maybe also part of the problem. It was suggested to me that I went to a few meetings of AA, see if I could identify. I did identify and got myself a sponsor and was given some suggestions to do on a daily basis. I could get it straight away as I felt I would be able to drink again after a period of leaving it alone.

After drinking again for around ten months, life was getting systematically and progressively worse. I was pulling my hair out, why can’t I cope with life like everybody else does? Why had I been dealt such a bad hand? I came back into AA, got myself another sponsor. Something was different as I started doing the suggestions I was asked to do on a daily basis, like a dying man. My thinking was starting to tell me I was dying. On this basis the thought of alcohol was removed in a few days and life started getting better and better daily. I was coming to the realisation that I was the problem and I couldn’t manage my life on my terms. Step Three became such an important part of my life and recovery. I was seeing that all through my life I had times where I was running my life and times where I was handing my will and life over to something, God, Army etc. In this I could see every time I was running the show, life was very hard and a struggle. Alcohol was the only solution to life. When I turn my will and life over, life was working out, I was able to live life on life’s terms. I was no longer a prey to misery and depression; I knew how to handle situations that used to baffle me. Life started taking on new meaning. Great things started happening, I got into employment, I got into a relationship that I’ve been in for five years and got married. I’ve had a son, run my own business and worked my way through the service structure.

I live a blessed and fantastic life today as a result of the Twelve Step Programme outlined in the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), with the help of a sponsor, the only other person I need to be completely honest with. And to get into the middle of a great home group. Somewhere I can call home and feel safe. As long as I keep turning my will and life over to a Higher Power of my understanding in a daily basis, I do not need to fear picking up another alcoholic drink again.