Less than a year ago, 52-year-old Neil arrived at The Salvation Army’s addiction treatment program in Winnipeg terrorized by flashbacks from his military days, he was addicted to alcohol and 50 pounds underweight.
“There were behaviours I couldn’t stop—even though I desperately wanted to,” says Neil. “After more than a decade of battling PTSD and alcoholism, I had to save myself.”
The Downward Spiral
Five years after Neil left the military, PTSD reared its ugly head. In an attempt to numb the pain of unspeakable scenes he witnessed and the horrific things he did, he turned to alcohol.
“Life started to fall apart,” says Neil. “Up until that point I’d never done anything bad. I was always the good guy who didn’t get into any trouble. Now my nerves were completely shot. I was depressed, easily blew up, couldn’t be around people and was drunk all the time.”
Neil’s erratic behaviour cost him everything—his marriage, his children and home. To cope with the aftermath he studied culinary arts. He’d always wanted to be a chef and soon that dream would become reality. But what was intended to be a step forward, was several steps back.
“The restaurant business is fueled by alcohol,” says Neil. “It’s a party atmosphere with alcohol on every menu. I drank to excess. Then, when PTSD claimed my concentration and memory, I couldn’t do my job properly and removed myself from the industry. I needed help.”
In December 2014 Neil walked through the doors of The Salvation Army’s Booth Centre in Winnipeg and enrolled in its Anchorage Addiction Treatment Program.
“The program provides a spectrum of services to men and women battling addictions,” says Viktoria Westgate, program coordinator. “Our aim is to facilitate personal development, mental wellness and the achievement of an addiction-free lifestyle.”
With hard work and perseverance Neil has been sober for 11 months, graduated from the primary-care program and is in aftercare. He is in better general health, feels levelheaded and is in control of his actions and finances.
“I’m extremely happy at this point in my life,” says Neil. “This program is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Neil reminds us that the road to wellness hasn’t been easy and that professionals are still trying to fine-tune his medications to help with nightmares and flashbacks. In December, following aftercare, Neil will move into a sober living environment not far from the centre. Then he plans to move to B.C. to be with his children.
“My kids are proud of me now,” says Neil. “That’s big!”