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‘As an alcoholic, I’d taken things right to the edge and I needed to rebuild my life in gradual steps. The help I received from WWTW was incredible. My EA, Alex, was always there for me - She listened, she did lots of work on my behalf and then she pointed me in the right direction. She got it spot on and I cannot thank her enough for that.’
Matt joined the Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1983 at the age of 16. As a young infantryman, he successfully achieved a course in Signals and when his Company was out on exercises, he was often employed as a motorcycle despatch rider to carry messages in the dark (and with no lights!) to Main Command.
In 1988, after 5 years’ service, Matt decided to leave the army. He went to work for his father who was a carpenter and shop fitter.
Matt eventually left the family business and went out on his own – he worked hard and developed a long and successful career as a shop fitter. He learned about running a business and management and at the height of his career, he had ten subcontractors working for him.
Unfortunately, it was during this period that Matt began to drink. At first it was social drinking – the odd pint after work and at the weekends - but this gradually increased until it spiralled out of control and he was drinking all day every day.
‘I’d always been one of the lads down the pub drinking and it had been part of army life. One night, a friend said to me “I know you like a drink Matt and you have a grip on it now but be careful that it doesn’t get a grip on you.” It was a warning and he was right, that’s exactly what happened.’
And so began a destructive chain of events … Firstly, as a result of his drinking, Matt’s marriage ended in divorce. He then moved into a flat and met a new partner but eventually that relationship broke down too. He lost all his work and then as a result his flat as he was no longer able to pay the bills.
A friend suggested that Matt should apply to VetsAid in London for accommodation and he was subsequently given a room in Belvedere House, a hostel for veterans. From there, Matt referred himself - first to SPACES (Single Person’s Accommodation Centre for Ex- Services) and then on to Mike Jackson House (MJH), where he moved in June 2018.
Despite being supported both at MJH and at a local alcohol service, Matt’s extreme drinking continued and he no longer looked after himself. The situation came to a head in January when Matt had collapsed and was extremely unwell. An ambulance was called and he was rushed to hospital where he stayed for several weeks.
Eventually Matt recovered and was keen to re-engage with society and work and so at the beginning of 2020 he met with Alex, his Employment Advisor at WWTW.
Alex and Matt met on a weekly basis and worked on his CV and helped him to make some key decisions - although Matt was very motivated he was unsure about what he wanted to do or how to get started. Matt’s previous role had been very physical and therefore he wanted to start as a volunteer and then gradually go back into employment.
Alex researched some possible ideas and then put Matt in contact with Age UK’s Men in Sheds – a community-led initiative that offers free space and facilities for men of all ages to regularly get together to socialise and to share and practice their woodworking skills. Matt now attends several times a week to work on his woodwork projects.
‘My Employment Advisor was amazing and found out about Men in Sheds for me. It’s been brilliant. We have our own projects but everyone mucks in together and we have a good laugh and banter. I like the feeling of working on a project again – it’s a really, really good feeling.’
Matt has started renovating old scaffold boards and turns them into fantastic, bespoke shelving and furniture. Alex has been working closely with Matt to help him find ways to advertise his products and to create a business plan. He has already received orders from friends and family and has a growing list of customers. The Men in Sheds workshop plans to move into bigger premises in the summer and Matt is really looking forward to having the new facilities to work in.