Military Non-Drinkers

During your military careers, how were people who needed to stop drinking because of alcoholism, but were full-time members of the armed forces, treated by their colleagues?

Were they shunned, or helped, or did it make no difference?

How would you have treated a fellow soldier who announced that he had stopped drinking because he couldn't control it anymore? What was the prevailing attitude towards such people during the time you were in the forces?

Just curious really, but I wanted more of a serious discussion hence raising here rather than the NAAFI.
 
I think there was only 1 guy I knew of who was probably what would be a “proper” alcoholic.

He’d been put in the officers mess, and I vaguely remember that he might have been sent to rehab (but could be mistaken).

At first the attitude was one where people wanted to help him get help, but it became evident that he didn’t want to help himself which is when people started to lose patience with him.

I believe he was eventually kicked out.
 

Rab_C

LE
In an RN SR’s (SNCO) Mess if you said you were an alky people would leave you alone however, if you just said you were a non drinker everyone would try and force a drink on you. In my early time in the RN there were quite a few functioning and non functioning alcoholics hiding in messes, at the end of my time it was pretty unusual to see people drinking at sea.
 
P Wing at RVH Netley was the military drying out establishment. Whilst it dealt with psychiatric patients of sll types, the majority were alcoholics.

So yes - they were helped.
 
I think that the perception of drinking in the under 25s has certainly changed. A lot of my junior sailors and officers are more concerned with WiFi connectivity and getting to the gym than they are drinking.
 
I was privileged to have a young SCOTS Cpl under my command once. His was a typical story - when sober, he was an absolutely excellent soldier. Probably one of the best I had ever met. Fit, keen, well squared away. You'd want him in your Pl in a scrap, for sure.

When drunk, he was a nightmare. He couldn't cope with peacetime. He got bored, and restless, and drank and caused trouble. He fought the RPs, the local CIVPOL, other lads

My biggest gripe - that still annoys me to this day - was that there was no formal mechanism for me to ban him from drinking; legal advice at the time (and probably still is) was that any such order was illegal - an infringement of his rights. But everyone could see he needed something like this - he knew it, I knew it, even the local CIVPOL knew it. Because he was a soldier. And he was good at following orders.

Long story short, we went against that advice and issued the order as part of a 3MWO. The system really does not help soldiers sometimes.
 

theoriginalphantom

MIA
Book Reviewer
There were a couple of people I was aware of at my first unit who'd been for treatment, one just went back to his old ways and was pretty much shunned the other was mocked by some, helped by others.

As time went on though not drinking to excess was more normal. There were exceptions such as Sgt *** B***s who had 'conjuctavitits' for at least 9 months. He was sweating bullets when I was duty barman and refused to serve him alcohol. Later on he tried to write 'gay' in my CR and spent a very uncomfortable couple of hours with the OC, and the RSM. To be fair he was probably drunk when he wrote it

I worked with a member of this site who i've not seen in a long time - looks like Roy Chubby Brown (has the right accent and used to play up on the fact) I didn't know he was a proper alcoholic until a couple of years after he left. he got treatment for his 'bottle of spirits a day' habit. Bosnia messed him up.

Then there were those who wouldn't accept help.
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I think there were more than a few bods in the TA Sqn I was with (around 2002 to 2007) who were borderline at the best of times. Their numbers certainly petered out as the decade went on and efforts to reform the TA went on. Though, in reality, they mostly just jacked it all in as they got too old or bored of the BS. As the whole Sqn was a joke by 2005 with more nepotism and bullying than before.

The heavy drinkers tended to be those we'd have a plan in place to deal with once they passed out, otherwise you just left them to put the stuff away as they liked. Most were, if I had to put a name to it all, functioning alcoholics who had been in GW1 and were either long term TA or ex-reg.

I'm a non-drinker now, with a few favorite N/A beers that I have from time to time. However, I couldn't imagine trying to be teetotal/dry while with the Sqn, it wasn't something that would have been very easy due to the attitudes that were there at the time. Even a few colleagues nowadays in the MoD get a bit arrsey if you choose to be non-drinking on socials.
 
Non Drinkers or minimum drinkers are steadily growing throughout the Army.

Helps that Messes can be asked to provide non alcoholic beers/wine/spirits for purchase and functions as well.

Noone minds, it's a personal choice.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A6003 using Tapatalk
 
I'm glad that people got help if they wanted it.

Wanting it is the crucial point though because even if someone really does wish to stop, the fear of the social impact on them can prevent them asking for help, and it goes on and on until something happens. Heavy drinkers will learn to moderate, alcoholics on the other hand will keep going until complete collapse of health and/or life.

I was curious because some of the stories on here about BAOR days in the 70's and 80's might have led to social peer pressure getting in the way of getting and staying sober (phrases like "he was a good laugh on the lash" etc) if someone wanted sobriety.

Mind, if someone wants it badly enough, they will.
 
Cyprus through the 80s was fairly frightening in hindsight. At the time it just seemed lads being piss heads. The not drinking thing never came up during the bits I remember.
 
During your military careers, how were people who needed to stop drinking because of alcoholism, but were full-time members of the armed forces, treated by their colleagues?

As party poopers.
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
We had regular visits from a CPN, one of the lads was removed from duties due to alcohol abuse - not drink as it wasn't easy to come by, but injection swabs under the tongue...
Two people knew about it but said / did nothing, they were also removed from duties very soon after. This was in Afghanistan mid to late 2006.
 
I was privileged to have a young SCOTS Cpl under my command once. His was a typical story - when sober, he was an absolutely excellent soldier. Probably one of the best I had ever met. Fit, keen, well squared away. You'd want him in your Pl in a scrap, for sure.

When drunk, he was a nightmare. He couldn't cope with peacetime. He got bored, and restless, and drank and caused trouble. He fought the RPs, the local CIVPOL, other lads

My biggest gripe - that still annoys me to this day - was that there was no formal mechanism for me to ban him from drinking; legal advice at the time (and probably still is) was that any such order was illegal - an infringement of his rights. But everyone could see he needed something like this - he knew it, I knew it, even the local CIVPOL knew it. Because he was a soldier. And he was good at following orders.

Long story short, we went against that advice and issued the order as part of a 3MWO. The system really does not help soldiers sometimes.
On Herrick 6 we got a new company commander who had previously been in the Australian Army.

He said that they used to send blokes with drinking problems to man an RRB (or something similar) in the arse end of nowhere for a few months to help them get sober.
 

CC_TA

LE
I've been off the sauce for over a year now. (and before that last drink I'd had seven drinks in three and a half years.)
I was at the high end of the drunk scale, get in off the piss at 0500, up at 0630 for a pre PT Redbull & Stella.
Still have to avoid most socials as I really want a drink when everyone is on the steam but I've managed to avoid the temptation for now. I still get people that try the "one won't hurt" ...oh yes it will

Luckily covid, exercises, ranges and a couple op tours have kept me out the mess for the past two and a bit years.

... a drinking ban on deployment has helped too.
 
Whilst in lines, weeknights would regularly see upwards of 6-10 pints consumed nightly, with the exception of Monday nights (block night), the intake was probably reduced to around 4 pints on those nights, the unit club was shut, so we would have to use the NAAFI. Weekends consisted of starting at lunch time in the unit club, continuing in the Company common area after it closed for the afternoon. Picking back up at opening time, heading down town around 2300, hitting various clubs and bars and ending up the 24 hour bar until around 0900 the following day. Then back to lines, brunch, shower, 2-3 hours of gonk, rinse and repeat until the early hours Monday morning.
I don't think I was physically dependant on ETOH, as I stopped the day I left depot for the straße, but between that, and women, it certainly destroyed a promising career, leaving at 11 as opposed to 22+. Up and down the rank ladder, the last couple of years became an open ended 252. Peer pressure? Possibly. Cheap booze, a drinking culture? Most definitely!
I do know of 4 or 5 full blown alkies during this period. One ended AWOL, Collie and out (a real stereo typical punchy drunk), one pulled the pin after his 6 (again, typical punchy drunk), one that had the best case of delerium tremons I have ever seen, and one that made it to Sgt in 22.
In not one case was rehab ever an option, always punitive punishment. The drinking culture flowed from the top down, the biggest piss heads formed the core senior NCO group, with part time officer participation. It was an expected, encouraged behavior, that did not benefit the individual or the group. Although BAOR was a total blast from the social perspective, in retrospect it was incredibly damaging to a lot of blokes.
The non drinkers were totally shunned, and frequently the subject of harassment.
Before going to BAOR, my UK unit was completely phys focused, and that, combined with the price of booze prohibited prolonged continuous drinking feats.
 
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Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Whilst in lines, weeknights would regularly see upwards of 6-10 pints consumed nightly, with the exception of Monday nights (block night), the intake was probably reduced to around 4 pints on those nights, the unit club was shut, so we would have to use the NAAFI. Weekends consisted of starting at lunch time in the unit club, continuing in the Company common area after it closed for the afternoon. Picking back up at opening time, heading down town around 2300, hitting various clubs and bars and ending up the 24 hour bar until around 0900 the following day. Then back to lines, brunch, shower, 2-3 hours of gonk, rinse and repeat until the early hours Monday morning.
I don't think I was physically dependant on ETOH, as I stopped the day I left depot for the straße, but between that, and women, it certainly destroyed a promising career, leaving at 11 as opposed to 22+. Up and down the rank ladder, the last couple of years became an open ended 252. Peer pressure? Possibly. Cheap booze, a drinking culture? Most definitely!
I do know of 4 or 5 full blown alkies during this period. One ended AWOL, Collie and out (a real stereo typical punchy drunk), one pulled the pin after his 6 (again, typical punchy drunk), one that had the best case of delerium tremons I have ever seen, and one that made it to Sgt in 22.
In not one case was rehab ever an option, always punitive punishment. The drinking culture flowed from the top down, the biggest piss heads formed the core senior NCO group, with part time officer participation. It was an expected, encouraged behavior, that did not benefit the individual or the group. Although BAOR was a total blast from the social perspective, in retrospect it was incredibly damaging to a lot of blokes.
The non drinkers were totally shunned, and frequently the subject of harassment.
Before going to BAOR, my UK unit was completely phys focused, and that, combined with the price of booze prohibited prolonged continuous drinking feats.
That’s interesting. I remember as a Subbie in early 80s BAOR that the drinking culture was quite strong but, in the RCT the idea of drinking at lunchtime was an absolute no-no unless there was a formal Regimental lunch. In my experience ‘no drinking at lunchtime’ was absolutely enforced in every transport unit I knew - if I’d walked into the Keller Bar and ordered a pint of Herforder with my lunch a serious word would have been had.

Evenings were different however!
 
That’s interesting. I remember as a Subbie in early 80s BAOR that the drinking culture was quite strong but, in the RCT the idea of drinking at lunchtime was an absolute no-no unless there was a formal Regimental lunch. In my experience ‘no drinking at lunchtime’ was absolutely enforced in every transport unit I knew - if I’d walked into the Keller Bar and ordered a pint of Herforder with my lunch a serious word would have been had.

Evenings were different however!
Notice the key word "weekends".
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
That’s interesting. I remember as a Subbie in early 80s BAOR that the drinking culture was quite strong but, in the RCT the idea of drinking at lunchtime was an absolute no-no unless there was a formal Regimental lunch. In my experience ‘no drinking at lunchtime’ was absolutely enforced in every transport unit I knew - if I’d walked into the Keller Bar and ordered a pint of Herforder with my lunch a serious word would have been had.

Evenings were different however!


BAOR officers' mess late 80s, early 90s. Week days.
Congregate before dinner in bar, have 1 or 2.
Dinner. Have 1 or 2.
After dinner, sit in bar or TV room, 2 or 3 or 4.
 
I can recall 2 that sticks in the mind. One was a non-drinker of alcohol because he just said he didn't like it. Yes, he was always being asked if he wanted "something" stronger but always refused. Fair one. He did get to WO1,

Another was a Jock who, along with his missus, would get ratarrsed every day. In Cyprus, they'd buy a demijohn of brandy on a Saturday, replace it on the Wednesday and buy another the next Saturday. In between, a crate of Carlsberg or Keo. The brandy with coke or a brandy sour.
We went to a do one night and shared babysitters with our 2 kids staying at his house. Went round in the morning to pick the kids up and he said "Do you want a drink?". Yes, coffee please. "Oh, I meant a brandy".

On shift, doing the brews and picked up his mug to make a tea or coffee and it stank of brandy. I did warn him several times (we were both corporals at the time) and eventually had to voice my concerns up the chain.

Don't know what happened as I was posted soon after (not for reporting him, just on promotion). Saw him again about 5 years later back in UK. He'd been in hospital for about 6 months prior to being discharged. Apparently the coke had reduced his stomach lining and the amount had caused his stomach to burst. Even after this, him and his missus were on the home brew beer/wine kick. If they had stuck him in rehab it didn't seem to have worked.

He died in his late 50s. No idea what happened to his missus but she was quite a pretty little thing until I saw here in her early 40s and she looked about 70.
 
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