Don’t worry, you won’t need a BATCO sheet for this blog. You also don’t need to start dusting off the Clansman gear, or switch the Bowman on (those who know, will know). No, this isn’t a signals lesson but it does provide some important information about supporting soldiers to reduce their alcohol consumption….
Today, many who serve in the military are coming to understand the fact; their personal relationship with alcohol, and the amount they drink, is or has been problematic; for them, their family, their employer, our wider society and possibly their careers.
But, how many of those service personnel actually move forwards from that initial acknowledgement? How many start to make significant changes to their past behaviours? Probably not as many as those who have realised they have an issue. Some are however working towards addressing and reducing the issues created by their excessive alcohol consumption… not only for themselves but also, in providing some much-needed support for their colleagues.
The historic connection between alcohol and the military is well-known. Almost every part of military tradition and social culture, can find an alcohol involvement so, implementing any personal change can be a difficult task. Knowing and understanding that you might be drinking unhealthy amounts is only the starting of that process.
Military Health research shows: Alcohol has historically been used throughout the military to encourage bonding and to deal with stressful experiences. Worryingly, alcohol problems are more common in UK military personnel compared to the general population, with approximately 10% of personnel meeting the criteria for alcohol misuse, compared to just 3% of the general population. (Read More)
Those who serve in the military, often need to build the foundations of their road to recovery on a quagmire of stigma and additional peer pressures, many of which aren’t experienced in other occupations. All manner of additional actual recovery barriers exist (actual or perceived); these can range from friendly ‘banter’ to absolute ridicule, for daring to be different from the rest. And all before you start to consider the cultural and employment factors that can be evident. But even in the army, or the the military as a whole, being different IS increasingly seen as a good thing, you don’t always have to follow the rest of the unthinking sheep!
Lt.Col. Rob Page (RTR), like an increasing number of our serving personnel today, have realised that his drinking was problematic. He was drinking way more than was actually good for him. Once he made that personal choice to change, he also realised that perhaps he could help by developing support for others, as well as himself. That light-bulb moment resulted in the origins and development of 4-Alpha, a peer to peer support network, for questions and issues around alcohol. Operating without judgement or stigma, 4-Alpha aims to support improved well-being across the army (read more).
Rob has shown that change is achievable (for him and others) and for that alone he should be commended and congratulated. Slowly but surely, many of the historic perceptions about soldiers and alcohol, along with many of the past problematic outcomes from their drinking, have begun to change and long my this situation continue to improve.
People make a choice to engage in problematic and addictive behaviours. Everyone has that power of choice and can choose to change unhelpful or harmful behaviours. (smartrecovery.org.uk)
In addition to the 4-Alpha resource, organisations like UK SMART Recovery also provide self-help and mutual-aid support for military personnel; helping them achieve those changes that they want to see.
If you happen to be struggling, to make those changes that you want to see, fire up your preferred method of communication and put a call out on the net… there are good people who will support you – “unknown call-sign say again over!”
Additional Information & Resources
- Read more about Rob’s journey in the February 2020 edition of Soldier Magazine (see HERE).
- Learn more about 4-Alpha (Alliance for Alcohol Awareness in the Army) by visiting their website – www.4-alpha.co.uk – where you will find more information and resources.
- Visit the 4-Alpha Facebook page
- Follow @4Alpha1 on Twitter
- SMART Recovery: a programme of self-help that provides training and tools for people who want to change their problematic behaviours. Support groups are guided by trained facilitators and participants come to help themselves (and each other) by using a range of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), along with useful and effective motivational tools and techniques. (www.smartrecovery.org.uk)
- The secure Drinks:Ration smartphone app, available for Android and iOS, has been designed to help military personnel monitor and manage their alcohol consumption. Find out more at www.drinksration.app