Ex-military veteran credits WithYou for his alcohol recovery

To mark this year’s Armed Forces Day, Graham, an ex-military veteran in Cornwall, is urging serving personnel, veterans and families to seek support with any challenges they may be experiencing in relation to drugs, alcohol or their mental health.

Armed Forces Day

WithYou offers tailored support to members of the armed forces community who are experiencing challenges with drugs or alcohol. By acknowledging their unique experiences, specific needs and military identity, WithYou is able to better enhance their drug and alcohol recovery.

Graham approached WithYou in 2020. Graham’s eldest son had recently passed away, and as the country went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he began to experience severe challenges with alcohol.

‘It was a very traumatic and sad time, and I didn’t deal with it,’ explains Graham. ‘I started making excuses as to why “it’s okay” to have a drink during the day.

‘This went on through lockdown, and it just got worse and worse until I was at a point where I’d stopped drinking for enjoyment – the depression and anxiety was really high. The only way that I could get on top of it was to have a drink – I stopped drinking beer and started drinking vodka to subdue the anxiety.’

Graham’s relationship with alcohol started during his military career as a coping mechanism
Graham’s relationship with alcohol started during his military career as a coping mechanism

Graham’s relationship with alcohol started during his military career as a coping mechanism. ‘Being in the army, no matter where we went, what we did, we always had a drink – it was a given,’ says Graham.

‘Drinking was an enabler – it was used as a way to decompress: if you had a problem, or you’d get back from somewhere, you went out with your mates to the pub to sort it out.

‘After leaving the army, I experienced quite acute anxiety, and I sought counselling for it instead of medication. I received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – which worked – but all the way along, I carried on drinking.

‘Looking back, I can see that the drinking was ramping up, always. It was the go-to: if something went wrong, you drank. If something went well, you drank.’

With the support of his partner, Graham found a rehab centre, which he describes as an ‘amazing experience’. To aid his recovery further, Graham’s partner contacted WithYou’s Armed Forces Community Programme.

‘Mark, the armed forces lead in Cornwall, has been my primary contact at WithYou, alongside Alan, my recovery worker, who is also ex-forces. Both of them have been so supportive and good to talk to. Mark encouraged me to go along to a session with ex-veterans,’ explains Graham. ‘He gave me the confidence to speak openly to like-minded veterans who were on their own recovery journey. I really enjoyed listening to other people’s experiences, and it made me realise that we are all in the same boat.

Armed Forces Day support‘The support that I have received from WithYou has been different to what I have received elsewhere. It’s very accessible, no matter what you need support with, it’s there. Mark and the rest of the team are always a phone call away.

‘There’s personalised support for ex-veterans, which I haven’t experienced anywhere else – the events that are available to us, such as the “Walk and Talks” and the drop-in sessions are brilliant. They’re tailored specifically for veterans, by veterans.

‘Having the ability to speak to like-minded individuals with similar experiences is invaluable. A lot of the veterans that I’ve met have been a similar age to myself with a variety of different experiences in the forces, and with their own unique challenges: from suffering with PTSD to having their battles with alcohol.

‘Another thing that it has shown me is that I want to give back to WithYou for the support that I’ve received – I’m currently volunteering and facilitating MAP groups, but my passion is to become a recovery worker at WithYou.’

Commenting on the importance of supporting members of the armed forces community, Andy Craze, National Armed Forces Programme Lead at WithYou, said: ‘We’ve developed a dedicated programme at WithYou which provides specialist support for veterans and their families.

‘Veterans have given their lives to their country, and we are proud to play a small part in improving access to the support that they and their families deserve.’

Find more information about WithYou’s armed forces community programme here

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