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Opinion

PTSD: How I turned my life around on a potter’s wheel

Suffering with alcoholism and PTSD, army veteran Craig Mealing became homeless – but found salvation in pottery

Craig Mealing joined the army when he was 16 and completed tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan during his 23-year service.

After leaving the army, he turned to alcohol and found home life difficult. He was aggressive and had night terrors. He became homeless as a result of his mental health problems and in November 2015 was diagnosed with PTSD.

I thought I was fine but I was drinking to cover up my mental health issues

“When I left the Army in 2013, I was drinking heavily but I still managed to get, and hold down, a good job,” Craig says. “I thought I was fine but really I was using drink to self-medicate and to cover up my mental health issues.

“Alcohol really got a hold of me – I’d go to work, do my job and then come home and drink on my own. It was my partner at the time who said I needed to get help after there were a couple of occasions when I lost it with her.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD but just after this I became homeless as, due to my behaviour at home, my partner had kicked me out.”

It was at a two-week residential course with Combat Stress that Craig first sat behind a potter’s wheel.

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“I first tried out working with clay as part of my occupational therapy,” he says. “One of the occupational therapy technicians helped me get started and that was it, I was hooked.

“For me, working with clay and ceramics is the ideal distraction to keep me off the drink. It’s hard to throw a pot with a can of Foster’s in my hand! I find it relaxing and it helps to reduce my anxiety – all food for helping with the symptoms of PTSD.”

Craig went a step further to take ownership of PTSD, naming his business Pots The Soldier Designed. Items he has made – from mugs to honey pots – can be bought via his website.

“I’ve lost everything but I’m happy with what I have now,” Craig says. “I still have up and down days but I now have plenty of tools to help me. I’d never have thought working with clay could help me so much, but it’s changed my life.”

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