“TODAY my drugs are the air that I breathe and the breakfast I eat in the mornings.”
The inspiring words of veteran Ross Baldinger, who is sharing his story of hope and determination with others who may be battling addiction.
Now ‘clean’ for well over a year, Ross says with deep honesty: “There is always temptation, not a day goes by when it isn’t there. But I now have the strength to say no. I end every day without giving way to that temptation and that’s a great feeling.”
Ross is in no doubt of the organisations that are responsible for helping him win this daily fight, one being CatZero and the unstinting support he has received from the team there.
The former serviceman was just 16 when he joined the Army as a junior soldier in 1994. Looking back, Ross recognises he was too young and faltered – leaving just three years later and heading straight into a troubled period in his life, which was to last more than a decade.
“I made the choices I did, and I cannot blame anyone else for that,” says Ross.
Drink and drugs took over and remained a key focus as he moved from the south back to the Humber region – spending time living on the streets.
There followed a period in jail and rehab before a representative from the Hull Veterans’ Support Centre suggested he attended the first Veterans Programme, which was delivered by CatZero and supported by Jobcentre Plus and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
Whilst enjoying the programme, Ross admits he perhaps needed more time to fully appreciate it. This was recognised and he was invited back on the new 2020 programme, which is supported by the Armed Forces Covenant Positive Pathways Programme, and Jobcentre Plus on an individual basis. At the same time, he received help from veterans’ group Project Nova.
“CatZero never let me go, they continued to believe in me. I am lucky enough to have this second chance and have fully applied myself, it is a great opportunity and one I am not going to waste.
“Every day I am on the programme, I am inspired,” said Ross, a little breathless after just completing an hour-long badminton session in Hull’s East Park with a fellow participant.
Now looking to the future, he is moving into a larger house in the city with more room for when his children stay with him – he proudly says he is now allowed unsupervised access.
Ross is also looking at how he can support other people who may be battling the same demons that he has successfully beaten.
“I have come out the other side and now I want to show others that there is a different way to live their lives and that these challenges can make you stronger. I am ever grateful to CatZero, the team there is brilliant,” said Ross.
For more information on any of our courses, including the Veterans’ Programmes, please email [email protected]