Shannon Watson was unprepared for the cold shock of reality when he plunged from nearly a decade of full-time military service into the relative freedoms of "civvy street".
"I had no real plans for the immediate future and separating from the military to me was like being a goldfish in a bowl tipped out into the ocean," says the retired lieutenant.
"My ill-prepared transition very quickly became a descent into the depths of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and even a foray into the police and court systems where I was convicted of a serious, dishonesty-related offence."
Shannon joined the navy after finishing high school and served in sea and shore postings across Australia for eight years before being accepted into the Royal Military College in ACT in 2008.
During the final phase of the course he was granted a special request to transfer to the part-time Army Reserve, resulting in almost immediate graduation, promotion to lieutenant and discharge from full-time service.
Instead of the usual 12 months to mentally prepare for discharge, Shannon only had five weeks before returning with his young family to their hometown.
"I floundered for nearly two years in a dark and stifling depression, drinking every day and pushing my personal relationships to the brink," he admits.
The criminal conviction Shannon received made matters worse, seriously affecting his chance of gaining the meaningful employment that his military service set him up for.
"I had effectively given up on life and was without hope," he says.
Shannon had often walked past a local church and curiously peaked through the windows to read posters about their church services.
With nothing to lose, he eventually built up the courage to attend the Sunday meeting and was welcomed so warmly that he brought his family along the following week.
"I started reading the Bible and praying for insight and understanding, which I soon began receiving," he explains.
Realising that his selfishness had separated him from God, Shannon was amazed to discover that Jesus had sacrificed His life so that his relationship with God could be restored.
Shannon believes it was God who took away his desire for alcohol"Overcome by the extent of God's love and forgiveness, my depression began to lift. I made the decision to commit my life to [Jesus] and trust Him as my Lord and Saviour," he says.
Although Shannon made a genuine commitment to putting God first in his life, the alcohol still beckoned to him and remained a struggle.
He wanted to become a member of the church but says he saw no way out of his drinking problem.
"I was addicted to alcohol and felt that it was preventing me from receiving a fuller experience of God," he explains.
Then during one Sunday service in 2013, Shannon felt prompted to step forward and commit himself to being a member, trusting God to help him deal with his problem.
"The beers I'd had the night before were the last ones I would ever have. I sincerely believe that Jesus healed my addiction as I had been praying for a victory over it for months and have not the slightest desire to drink since," he shares happily.
This miracle lead Shannon to complete a chaplaincy degree so he and his wife Tracy now passionately share God's love with others through children's ministry. •
Courtesy Warcry magazine of the Salvation Army