I’m a Dog in a Cage
From the Armed Forces to Drugs, Alcohol, Porn, Sex Dungeons and the French Foreign Legion. Fellow veteran James Hamilton-Bing has shared with us what I consider to be one the most extraordinary transitions from soldier to civilian.
What made you join the Army at such a young age?
“All of the men in my family have a military background and I’ve always enjoyed running around and being an idiot”.
Did you enjoy your time in the Army?
“I really enjoyed the Army at first but as time went on things changed. You know that guy who doesn’t fear to put his hand up and say ‘hang on a minute boss, that’s f**king out of line‘, well that guy was me. The Army has changed over the years and I preferred the old school methods of disciplinary action like stepping into the office to receive a kick in, whereas these days, there is so much bullsh*t like the ‘Agai 67′ System and this Yellow Card crap”.
“The Army became very political and I was always that guy standing up for the blokes which didn’t go down well with other ranks, in fact, they took a disliking to me. They considered me to be a gob-s**te”.
Is this why you decided to leave the Armed Forces?
“I had many ‘Gucci’ experiences during my time serving, such as being fortunate enough to be a part of the COP platoon (Close Observation Platoon) on Op Telic 13 in Iraq. The COP course revived my enthusiasm for the Army and that was when I really got back into it. We did a couple decent ops on tour but things soon turned back to bulls**t, so I signed off”.
“On return from Iraq, my boss offered me an opportunity to attend the Sniper course, but on the back of that, I met a bird and then everything went downhill. I signed off once again but this time for good”.
“This new girl in my life was very manipulative. I was drinking a lot in Battalion, partying every weekend and dodging every MDT (Mandatory Drugs Test) here, there and everywhere. When I was coming home on leave, I was bang on the drink and drugs, and I believe this girlfriend of mine was feeding off it. It was a horrible relationship and she basically manipulated me into leaving the Army”.
“I came home on leave and she managed to get her nails into me which led to me going AWOL (Absent Without Leave). I was arrested for fighting and then the military police drove all the way from Paderborn, Germany to pick me up from the Police station in Cornwall. We drove all the way up the 303 and pulled into a service station where I popped smoke, ran, and hitchhiked home wearing board shorts and flip-flops”.
“Two weeks later, the Police picked me up again. I had just got out the bath and walked into my walk-in wardrobe where the police found me naked and then arrested me. I finished my Army career spending fifty-seven days in the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC)”.
On leaving MCTC and terminating his service with the Armed Forces, James returned to alcohol, drugs, a manipulative girlfriend and more….
“It was a horrible and toxic relationship. I’m a dog in a cage and if you keep on poking me and rearing me into a corner, sooner or later, I’m going to bite back, and that’s exactly what happened. I got a fourteen-month sentence for domestic violence”.
“I obviously ended that relationship and begun to wonder ‘what the f**k am I going to do with myself’? I got into a bit of escorting and from there I found work in the porn industry. I moved to London and lived there for a while but it was too much for me so I returned to Cornwall and formed a male strip company, which was doing really well till I had enough and decided to sell the company on”.
“I then met my now fiance, everything was sweet although I was still finding it hard to adjust to the civilian world. I continued to mask all of my problems through alcohol and I became very submerged in drugs. I was living a ‘Johnny Big Bollocks’ lifestyle, no wallet, just a massive stack of cash. I was so arrogant, I was basically just being a prick”.
“I rented a sex dungeon in Cornwall and began filming porn. I had been in front of the camera before but now I wanted to be behind the camera and do my own thing. We were hiring out the sex dungeon to other mistresses and their clients and actually earning good money. After plummeting into a deep pit of crime, I was sentenced to five years in prison. However, after serving nineteen months, I won my appeal”.
How does it feel to be back out and into the civilian world once again?
“Really good, I’ve been out three weeks and settling in well. Nineteen months behind bars is quite some time and I’ve completely changed my ways. I’ve engaged in so many courses and I didn’t realise before that I was actually suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)”.
“When I went to prison, I had two shrinks visit me, one from the military and one civilian who has done a lot of work with the military. They discovered that my past behaviour was all PTSD related and I feel so much better for knowing that. They identified why I was acting the way I was and they highlighted that PTSD was the underlining problem to all of my issues. I was originally masking it with the alcohol and drugs but going through a detox period in prison and dealing with PTSD head-on has made me a hell of a better person”.
“I’ve come out of jail now pinching myself because I don’t even recognise the man I am today. I haven’t lived with this person before”.
Imagin how different the transition from soldier to civilian would have been for James if only his PTSD was identified earlier.
“I’m now going down the road with no crime – I’ve not touched a drop of alcohol and drugs don’t even occur to me anymore. I’ve even cut out all of the negative people in my previous life and I have now started a new veterans community called ‘Zero Alpha Events‘. I feel like civilians don’t really understand our issues and from my experience, they have only ever led me into s**t”.
“My close friend who I grew up with was blown up real bad inside a Mastiff (Military Armoured Vehicle) and all of his colleagues, unfortunately, died in that incident except for him. He has really been suffering ever since, but thankfully, I’ve been able to guide him down the right path and prevent him from going down the same road as I have been. I’m trying to create a network to provide support like this for veterans in the South-West”.
We fully support veteran networks like this here at Veterans Network. We encourage veterans to support each other because we really are the ones who truly understand each other’s demons.
I really believe veterans supporting veterans is the way forward.
“It’s amazing how we can all openly talk about it now whereas before there was so much stigma attached to mental health, like being placed in a pigeon hole by others who would say things like; you’re f**king weak“.
Veterans didn’t really know how to open up about their mental health issues because no one had really spoken about mental health before. It must have been really hard for those first few veterans to pipe up about their issues and say ‘do you know what, something is not right here and my head is in the wrong place’. I personally feel like the ball has been rolling ever since.
It is fair to say James has had one hell of a journey through his transition from the Armed Forces to the Civilian World.
“I’ve spent many dark nights out till the early hours of the morning for three days straight on massive benders. During my time dealing drugs, I had a bust-up with my Mrs, packed a bag and flew to France. Within four hours, I was in Paris and sleeping on the guardroom floor of Fort de Nogent, home to the French Foreign Legion. They gave me the new name of David Hunter but I was only there for two weeks because they discovered in my medical that I had a dodgy heart, probably linked to my drug consumption over the years”.
Have you ever received any support from the Armed Forces through this extraordinary transition?
“I’ve received help from military charities such as PTSD Resolution who helped me during my prison time very well, Cruse Bereavement and that was a good one for me. I also touched base with SSAFA and I have recently attended The Warrior Programme in Newton Abbot Devon. The Warrior Programme is a three-day event and it’s completely free”.
“PTSD is so big. People have this perception of PTSD consisting of nightmares and triggers but it’s really a much wider spectrum. I’ve been told that I have Parasuicidal Behaviour which means if I was to go skydiving and the instructor was to tell me to pull my chute at three-thousand feet, I’d turn around and say ‘f**k you, I’m pulling my chute at two-thousand feet‘ like I have something to prove, hence why I got into crime”.
“I don’t really suffer from nightmares because I sleep like a log, but unexpected bangs really get to me. There are so many different forms of PTSD and anything can trigger it. I was driving along the motorway the other day with my Mrs and we were behind a cattle truck full of dead cows and the stink took me straight back to Basara”.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone leaving the Armed Forces, what would you say?
“Stick with your own kind, stick with Veterans. Your ‘civvy’ mates are not your real mates, they won’t understand you. It’s taken me a long time to realise it, but Veterans are the only ones who really ever stand by your side and will be there for you when you need the support. I was in prison for nineteen months and the only friend to ever write to me during that time was a Veteran”. – James Hamilton-Bing
If you have been affected by this blog or if you have found common ground with James’s experience, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or you can discuss it in the Veterans Network Forum. You are also welcome to reach out and get in touch with the Veterans Network team who will be more than happy to speak with you.
In the meantime, check out Zero Alpha Events for opportunities to meet with other veterans in the South-West.
Written by Jamie and fellow Veteran James Hamilton-Bing