Stresses, Strains and Struggles of the Turfcare Industry is a blog by a unnamed Groundsman/Greenkeeper on his struggles, that led him into a deep drink problem. The aim of the blog is to raise awareness of mental well-being and also to ask you/me is our life a little out of balance and what can we do for everyone’s sake to get back to a better place.
As a young greenkeeper I had experienced a lot of what the industry had to offer and enjoyed the majority of it. I had been lucky enough to work on some outstanding links courses and gained experience and qualifications that allowed me take a deputy head position at the age of 26.
Sadly this job did not work out for a number of reasons. When I reflect on this time it was really is my first negative memories of this industry. It was the first time I had responsibilities for the wellbeing of others in a management role. It was in this role that it became apparent to me that mental wellbeing of staff was well down the list of priorities within my current green keeping team.
Lack of Understanding
Zero understanding was given to staff members who had child care responsibilities after work and unpaid overtime was not only expected but often demanded. Anyone who had issues with these demands quickly found themselves on the head green keepers unpopular list and it was fair to say their working lives were made miserable.
While I understand that all jobs require flexibility and our profession is not simply 9-5, some of the treatment I received in this role left my mental state fragile for the first time in my life. I have always been comfortable with confrontation but I now found myself not wanting to attend my new job for fear of yet another argument with my line manager. After approaching the club secretary, it was made very clear that us ‘men’ needed to settle our differences and get on with things.
This was a blip in my career but after some time abroad in and out of the industry I returned to the uk. I was fortunate enough to settle into a great job and work my way up to a senior green keeping position with a responsibility in maintaining an ageing irrigation system. It’s fair to say this role was demanding in a way I had not experienced before.
Stresses and Strains Mounted
I consider myself a problem solver but at times I was at my wits end. Limited budgets and extended expectations took their toll on my mental health and outside of work I was to become a father for the first time. Things were mounting up on my plate and I was not dealing with them well.
I had always been a binge drinker growing up and lived for the weekends in the pub. Not nightclubs or festivals for me just the pub with my mates and as much booze as possible. I was now turning to the bottle to numb the mental anxiety of both work and family commitments.
The illness of alcoholism is a cruel one. I did not want to admit I had become an alcoholic and in the months that my addiction really took hold of me instead of seeking help from family or work colleagues I closed myself off even more. I refused to admit or accept I had a problem and before I knew it, I was 18 months into a daily drinking pattern of numerous ciders and a bottle of vodka.
Before my alcoholism I would have considered myself and educated and intelligent person and although I knew I was throwing my life away with every sip of alcohol I could not stop drinking. This is addiction. I knew I was slowly killing myself and could not stop. I hit my rock bottom and luckily, unlike many, survived with my life and am here to tell the tale. I am over three years sober and now blog about my recovery journey.
There have been battles with anxiety along the way. A lot of this was down to my addiction I believe, but as I blog and re visit my past life it becomes apparent that I may have had periods of anxiety or depression in the past, that I failed to recognise or possibly did not want to admit to.
A younger me had no time for other people feelings. I had no concerns for what others thought of me either. I regret this and have tried to make amends for some of my actions as a younger man.
Going forward I would like to see the industry really promote mental well-being. As a man I was always worried about what the other lads would think of my mental struggles. This needs to change. It’s imperative that mental illness is understood and accepted. No one asks to become ill in this manner but an understanding within the workplace will surely help aid a return to better health.
If I am honest, I don’t know how successful it can be given the financial restraints on a lot of golf clubs. Covid has added to these worries. There is always something to do on a golf course but there is not an unlimited pot of gold to pay for it. Green keepers are being pushed to their limits when you throw in leatherjackets and worm casts it’s easy to see why many seeming to be seeking employment in other sectors.
Are expectations from memberships too high? That’s another discussion entirely but a head green keeper needs to feel he can approach his manager or committee when the going gets tough.
If I would say one thing as a recovering addict it would be to please talk to someone if you are struggling with your mental health or think certain aspects of your lifestyle maybe detrimental to your life. Chances are if you are worried about how much alcohol you consume it is probably is too much. If your partner is worried about how much extra time you are spending at work and its impact on your moods it is probably impacting on them. Talk it over, there might be a reasonably simple fix.
Since I started my recovery journey my local doctor has been superb. I have attended meetings for my alcoholism and have never felt more welcome in new surroundings. The help is out there if you are willing to ask.
Through my blog I am trying to show it is possible to talk about our problems openly. My story is one of many similar ones and since I have chosen to share my story, I have received nothing but positive support. Feeling safe telling people, you are not ok needs to become the norm. Battling demons in silence does not work, it nearly killed me in 2017. I am trying to become a better person day by day. Many days I fail but I start again the next morning.
Name withheld, but if you would like to speak to the author just get in contact with me firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you missed it, did you see this recent blog-https://turfcareblog.com/perennial-help-in-hard-times/