When policeman Allan Sparkes was awarded a Cross of Valour for rescuing a young boy from a flooded drain, he had no idea that the aftermath would lead to a diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Twenty years of police work - a career he'd loved - had taken their toll. He'd already seen two workmates die on the job. After being hailed a hero, Allan hit rock bottom.
This is one man's story of recovery from debilitating mental illness, and it's one many men and their partners will be inspired by. After leaving the police force, Alan floundered between careers, trying to work out who he was. He was angry about what had happened to him, and his family suffered. But he chipped away at his recovery, working through combinations of medication and therapy. Allan's official courageous act was sixteen years ago but his true bravery has been facing up to his problems and then doing something about them.
His wife, Deb, and their two daughters have stood by him through thick and thin. One of their great family adventures has been sailing from London back to Coffs Harbour in 2010 - with very little sailing experience. For Allan, this was a great achievement, and the culmination of his years of recovery.
From Allan's story, we can learn how to accept change and look for the opportunities that it can present to us. His message is that success is never final, failure is never fatal and it's real courage that counts in the end.
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