06 March 2024

Finding purpose after the Army: Jamie's life at sea

Jamie, client, Cornwall 2
My time on drugs hammered home that I wasn't going to be a success, now I know it's not true. I wish I could have done this years ago.

Jamie, Cornwall

Jamie's story

WithYou in Cornwall offers support for the Armed Forces community alongside drug and alcohol services. The support helps with various other challenges such as mental health and housing, by partnering with other veterans’ networks to provide wraparound support.

Jamie has been abstinent from drug use since March 2022, and now spends most of his time sailing out at sea and spending time with other veterans thanks to the charity, Turn To Starboard.

Turn To Starboard gives veterans an avenue to learn nautical skills and progress through the sailing ranks as well as providing short-term accommodation.

Where did it all start?

“I come from a long line of soldiers. My grandad, my great-grandad. I can trace ties all the way back to Crimea. I was never going to be a soldier. My dad didn't see that in me - that was my older brother. But when I wanted to join the fire service, we decided to join the Army Air Corps instead because you get driver training and other things that would be handy. I was never going to make a career of it - I wish I had stayed now - I would have done things differently. I was very immature. I thought I was missing something.

“I used recreational drugs before the Army. When I left, I took drugs again and started to use ones I shouldn't - heroin and cocaine. And I was heavily involved due to heavy bereavement. Heroin was a good painkiller. It turned my life upside down. 

“I worked very hard, had loads of semi-skilled jobs like building work … anything I could do to keep funds coming and a roof over my head. I was in prison too - I did a fair bit of time." 

“In 2015, my long-term partner died of cancer. I was with her for 17 years. I used it as justification to stay using. When I tried to stop and reduce my use, I started having problems. I would do well 99% of the time, but then I would find an excuse to use and end up on the way to A&E.

"I had another partner who helped me realise life was worth living. That was the start of me being serious and making moves to get away from heroin."

What support did you seek?

“I wouldn't be here if it wasn’t for WithYou. Everything they do is awesome. It was their prescribing that kept me out of hospital and out of the morgue. It diverted me away from what I was doing and made me focus on something else to sort myself out. My Recovery Worker, Lucy, steered me in the right direction."  

What is life like now?

“My time on shore is mercifully short. I'm mostly at sea. There’s nothing sneaky about the sea. You don't get lured into situations - it’s black and white. Do it right or get wet!

“I've been abstinent since March 2022. I don't recognise who I am anymore. I was so used to seeing myself actively in use. My time on drugs hammered home that I wasn't going to be a success, now I know it's not true. I wish I could have done this years ago. I've got an ability to knuckle down and do things I never thought possible. 

“The sea is the cure. You go out there and you're going back to the elements - wind, water. You respect the sea, she respects you. Take it back to basics.” 

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