Beverley Copestake, our SAMAS co-ordinator in Bedfordshire talks to one of our fantastic volunteer’s – Trevor – about his life in the army, living in Holland, his alcohol addiction, and how it led him to become a part of the CLI team.

Trev is an honest and reliable volunteer who gives over and above what’s expected of him on a weekly basis. He goes out of his way for the people he supports and they think he’s brilliant as a result. One of his guys recently dropped a note into the office to say he thought Trev ‘was a Godsend!’

I asked him if he was willing to share some of his life-story with me which we hope can inspire others.

He first spoke about when he was in the army from 1981-1983. He was based in Berlin and he talked about the drinking culture in the armed forces and said that’s when he started to drink.

He recalled going on exercise in mid-winter when the weather was particularly severe. He got frost bite and trench foot and this was further complicated with a genetic blood disorder. It was so bad that it led to him being medically downgraded and he was in hospital for months.  He talked about how he sunk to the depths of depression and the drinking got worse. When he was discharged from hospital, instead of being assigned to a job more fitting to his medical condition, he was put back into a rifle platoon!

He finally left the army in 1984 after time served, and did numerous jobs, saying he just couldn’t settle. He had no support on leaving the army and he was drinking heavily still.

After a few years he started working in a peanut factory which lasted for 10 years and he bought a house and was trying to move on.

Throughout this time his moods would swing from being very high to very low. He left the peanut job and went to Holland saying that he was prone to doing things on a whim. He talked about putting himself in danger on a regular basis when he wanted to get a buzz and nearly killed himself on more than one occasion.

He now knows that it was all part of the symptoms of what was then described as manic depression, or bi-polar disorder now, and the rush to get a buzz was a part of the mood swings.  He said he was all over the place and drinking was ‘not good’ though he says he was still in denial.

He saw several GP’s who sent him for numerous mental health assessments, but he never stayed around long enough to get the result of the tests, so his condition was undiagnosed for years.

Finally, about 12 years ago he went to his GP who referred him to a drug and alcohol support team in Luton to help with his drinking. He was sent for a detox in Luton straight away as things were complicated with his blood condition, and then sent to rehab in Bedford, as he needed treatment and support as soon as possible. While at rehab no-one knew that he had been struggling with bi-polar disorder for many years, until, finally, the assessments all caught up with him and they all confirmed his condition.

After years of struggling, he was finally given medication, which helped him to manage the mood swings and though he still experiences loss of energy he now understands how to manage it.

He says it’s still not plain sailing as he will always have ups and downs but at least now he can manage things. His aims to support others began as soon as he was in rehab, when he became a peer mentor and he’s never looked back.

He currently volunteers with Path 2 Recovery (P2R) in Bedfordshire, as well as with CLI and is regularly available in the community for any of our service users, and directly mentors three.

Of these:

  • One is doing very well after many years accessing support at P2R. After the recent loss of a close family member he’s been ‘graduated’ from one-to-one mentoring and regularly attends the service user group as well as other group activities.
  • Another is also doing brilliantly after years of struggling. He too experienced a family bereavement and is aiming to become a volunteer himself.
  • And the third is preparing to go to rehab and gets support from Trev to get ready for the changes he anticipates on his return.

Trev is a highly valued volunteer with CLI and his support stands out among a team of volunteers who are also outstanding.

Thank you from CLI!