My name is Jye, I am 30 years old. I was married for nearly 9 years and I have two girls, Lylah 7 and Evelyn 4.
I served 11.5 years in the Royal Australian Air Force as an Armament Technician and spent 4 of those years in Bomb Disposal.
I have struggled with mental ill health for as long as I can remember and battled with addiction really since I joined the RAAF at 18.
I'm proud to tell you, I have just reached 12 months sober and going strong.
I was medically discharged from the RAAF in December 2019 and have recently started a Psychology degree at the University of Newcastle. The goal is to use my military experience with a psychology degree to work with Veterans.
So, I guess I'll go back a little.
I joined the RAAF at 18. The drinking culture within my circle of friends in the RAAF hit me hard. I got caught up in it and didn’t know how to get out of it. If you didn’t drink you were looked at funny, you were on the outside.
I started to value drinks with the boys, valued not missing out on a good time. This didn’t go down well with my partner at the time and put strain on our relationship. Even when I had kids I didn’t stop and change my behaviour. This eventually led to our separation on Easter Sunday in 2019.
The day she left is the day I stopped drinking and I haven’t touched it since. The day she left is also the day I came very close to ending my life. I was walking down a busy road very drunk and was ready to step out in front of a car doing 80km/h. My dad pulled up behind me, put me in the car and 2 days later I was in Lakeside Psychiatric Hospital here in Newcastle. It was during this stay that I decided to give up drinking and turn my life around.
One huge event I haven't mentioned yet is my deployment to the Middle East in 2017/2018. During my deployment, I was in Dubai and my role was Assistant Base Armament Manager. One of my duties was IED response.
Towards the end of my deployment I sustained a back injury from squatting in the gym. I was sent home 2 weeks later. 12 months later I underwent Spinal Fusion Surgery on my L5/S1. I still live with chronic back pain and this is why I was medically discharged in 2019.
Since my back injury, I started seeing a psychologist to assist with adapting to my new life. I could no longer run around with my kids, no longer play sports or lift weights, let alone do the job that I loved. A mixture of painkillers, antidepressants and alcohol led me down a dark path. This is what led me to almost taking my own life.
I was in chronic pain even though I had the surgery, my wife had left and I had no idea what was going to happen to my career.
But.... This is the good part. Since accessing support and getting sober my life has changed in so many different ways.
I completed a bridging course at Uni to get accepted into the Psychology degree. I joined Young Veterans Australia and started a group in Newcastle called Young Veterans Newcastle. The group provides a safe place for Veterans to meet and build relationships with like-minded people. I bought my first house and I am currently in semester 1 of my degree.
My whole outlook on life since getting sober has changed. I see things so clearly now.
When I decided to go 12 months sober, I didn't believe I could do it. My psychiatrist didn’t believe I could do it. I decided to make myself accountable and I announced it on Facebook. I thought if I share my story and my battle it might encourage just one person to do the same. I also started a donations page and raised over $600 for Beyond Blue. It was being public about it and raising the money that got me through it. I didn’t go to any groups, no AA, though I do credit my psychologist for helping me with turning my life around. I like challenges, so I set myself a challenge of 12 months. Now that I’m at 18 months, I have no desire to introduce drugs (and alcohol is a drug) back into my life.
This massive change has resulted in my values changing. I now value my time with the kids more than anything. I have become a much better father. I have my kids 5 nights a fortnight, soon to be 6 nights a fortnight. It's difficult having them on my own, especially with the back pain, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
I have loved seeing the posts on Facebook from LIVIN, it has really encouraged me to continue to speak about my struggles.
I guess I am sharing this with you because I am an open book when it comes to my mental health. I believe by talking about it, your depression/anxiety loses a little of its power over you. It wants you to believe you're alone, that nobody cares but this is so far from the truth.
I will continue to grow my collection of LIVIN gear and spread the message that ‘It Ain’t Weak to Speak’.
Thank you for the work you are doing. I feel the stigma is slowly disappearing, but we still have a lot of work to do, especially in the current climate we find ourselves in.
It's more important than ever for people struggling to reach out.