Last Christmas was a very different affair for wounded veteran David Teague. Struggling to cope with crippling anxiety, he would barely leave his home.
Less than 12 months later, and thanks to a partnership between Help for Heroes and our Heritage Heroes programme, he will be spending this Christmas in full-time employment and with a newborn son.
David, 27, was only 16 when he joined the Royal Engineers in 2005. Hoping to see the world and learn a trade, he spent five years abroad in Germany, did two tours of Afghanistan and was also deployed to Jordan and Austria.
His life was turned upside down when, following his return from Afghanistan, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From being active, outgoing and playing army rugby, he found himself feeling constantly on edge and anxious and he started to withdraw from society.
"I lost confidence and couldn’t make decisions for myself. I had massive social anxiety being around people. I was a bit of a loner if I’m honest, I didn’t have many friends. But I liked it that way, I kept myself to myself. It was really difficult for my family because I wasn’t the man they used to know. My children kept seeing the angry version of Dad. My wife kept saying she wanted her husband back because I was massively different," said David Teague.
Earlier this year, David spent time on the Heritage Heroes programme, a partnership between us and Help for Heroes. Heritage Heroes is an ambitious canal restoration and career recovery programme for wounded, injured or sick servicemen, women and veterans. David took part in the first phase of the project in the Cotswolds. This was the platform he needed to get back on track.
The project, made possible by £500,000 funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to train wounded, injured and sick service personnel, veterans and their families for an accredited qualification as they restore forgotten canals across the country.
Being part of the project was a huge benefit to David’s recovery and just one month after it finished, he landed a job as a delivery driver with online supermarket, Ocado.
David explained: "Heritage Heroes was the best thing I ever did because it got me out of the house and back into a routine. It gave me something to aim for and brought me back to the real world. I started socialising again and that was a huge thing for me. All of us doing it, we had different injuries but yet we were all in the same boat. It encouraged me to put myself out there again.
"It took me a long time to turn a corner and be in the right place but it’s finally happened. If it wasn’t for Help for Heroes support and the confidence they gave me, I never would have secured a job I love. I needed to get myself sorted otherwise I’d have ended up on the streets. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone because I realised I needed to provide for, and support my family."
David is now looking forward to Christmas and new year with his wife Danica, daughter Claire-Florence and their newborn son Ben-William.
"If you’d have told me 12 months ago I’d be this happy, I’d have said there was no chance. I was in such a bad state. I’m nowhere near the person I used to be and I have a sense of purpose. All I wanted to do was get to a stage where I can support my family again. I’ve reached that and more, all thanks to Help for Heroes and Heritage Heroes.
"2017 is looking bright for me. Ocado have offered me more opportunities to keep climbing the ladder which is a massive boost for me and I’m excited about what is ahead."