Jimmy identifies as an alcoholic; he started drinking socially as a youngster and heavily during his military career and when enjoying the world of football. He confesses that it crept up on him. He says he was in denial partly as he did not want to associate himself with a stereotypical alcoholic sleeping on park benches. Now, he recognises that he is no better and that they sadly share the same illness.
Over the years, being an alcoholic has played a large part in Jimmy losing his home, two wives, and contact with his grown-up children following six years in the Royal Air Force, which he left in 1986. Now in his 60s, he has recently returned to North Wales and is trying to rebuild his family. Jimmy says he loved his wives dearly, but ultimately, he loved his alcohol more, “when it gets a grip on you, it hasn’t got a cut-off point. The only cut-off point is when you say enough is enough,” says Jimmy. Unfortunately for Jimmy, he had to be at rock bottom, where he was struggling with suicidal thoughts and huge bouts of psychosis before he could do that.
Following a period of struggle where he also lost access to his young grandson, who lived with him and his wife, he went into rehab but found he was homeless on release. With nowhere to go, he turned to support groups during lockdown, but finding the right service was tricky as those offered were not dry houses, and he suffered a significant relapse. Despite knowing he was in deep trouble, he repeatedly tried to get into rehab but found that his criminal history made that more of a struggle. Eventually, by accessing the veteran’s network, he got onto a 12-step programme in Bournemouth upon leaving London, where he surrendered to his illness. He has been sober for 21 months, and he is fully committed to the programme, “no alcoholic can do sobriety alone. They need a solid foundation and constant connection, plus they need to recognise that it is a lifetime illness that is not curable, but it is treatable. There is no magic wand.”
Today, Jimmy is living with Alabaré Homes for Veterans in North Wales. His wife lives close by with their grandson, and he is gradually building bridges with his family and getting to know his grandson again through once-a-week telephone contact. “I have to realise that I am doing the programme, but I also have to recognise that everyone else around me is not. I have to give time, time and realise that at any point, I may face a tsunami of emotions.”
Today, Jimmy attends AA meetings several times a week and is also seeing his wife regularly. He is a determined individual who is a great role model. “I am eternally grateful for the help that Alabaré has provided; it’s amazing, the accommodation is fantastic, and it’s a nice house. Everyone has been very supportive of my life right now, but it is all about recovery, but I do the art sessions, and I get fresh air on a daily basis.”
Jimmy was recently on a local radio station that covers North Wales, being interviewed and talking about his recovery because he wants to reach others if it is something they are battling. When talking about his continued work with Alcoholics Anonymous, Jimmy says, “It’s pulled me back to the person I was before the addiction got hold of me. I’ve always cared for others, but once I got into the thick of it, it totally changed me. I want people to understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Only once I had accepted that I was an alcoholic could I start my journey back.”
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