John joined the military aged 21, in June 2003 he was deployed for six months on Optelic 2. During that deployment, his platoon was involved in a number of incidents that would cause him issues in later life.
After returning from Iraq he was placed on the junior non-commissioned officers’ course, but he struggled for no apparent reason, and although he passed the tactics part of the course he started to feel tired whilst coping with nightmares, he couldn’t keep still and due to lack of sleep was managing bouts of anger.
In 2009 the military diagnosed him with PTSD and a year later he was SNLR (Service no longer required).
On leaving the military he turned to drink as a coping mechanism, during the years that followed he would drink himself into oblivion in the hope that it would give his 'head a rest', his drinking was beginning to take its toll and became a problem in itself, leading to blackouts, waking up in police cells – not knowing how/why he had gotten there. During this time, he had tried several jobs, including firefighter on the oil rigs, but he rapidly lost his confidence and along with becoming a criminal justice statistic he also joined the ranks of the unemployed feeling unable to move forward.
In 2017 John attended Combat Stress and whilst there, he heard about the SWV Skihabilitation week, he applied and was successful, attending the 2018 week – in his own words “The ski week was absolutely phenomenal!! It really brought out the best in me, to be in a place like that with the other veterans was such a mind-blowing experience. I came home from Klosters and something had changed in me, just that week of getting physical on the Alps, taking on the challenge of skiing, being with other veterans and meeting the people who run the SWV programmes gave me such a boost. I came home from there and jumped straight on to the mentoring programme offered by SWV”.
Although he was doubtful at first, once he'd spoken to his mentor he knew he had made the right move and that SWV mentoring was going to be hugely positive for him. From their first meeting, he felt he trusted his mentor enough to tell him the truth – about his alcohol issues. His mentor supported him in the decision to go to an AA meeting.
That was in June 2018, and apart from one slip that was his last drink. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, he competed in the 1st SWV Ocean Challenge this summer, his boat won the MS Amlin Yacht Outstanding Seamanship Award for this year’s Round the Island Race, what a difference a year makes, a year before he was looking at life from inside a police cell! Since being with SWV he has been on a number of courses and is now a qualified tree surgeon, he has just completed the Rural Week with Highground which he found really helpful as he is now looking at starting his own tree surgery and gardening service, the rural week is a good opportunity to learn about setting up a business.