"To bring myself out of that I turned to adult education," he says. He is now embarking on the long road to becoming an accountant.
When Richard was 17 he had to leave the army to look after his dad's small building firm. "You get dragged further and further in," he says. "When I was 22, I tried to get work as an apprentice carpenter. I sent out 80 letters to firms, but only got two replies. One said the company would put me on their computer; the other said I was too old to train."
Richard recently spent three months getting his head "straightened out again" and had time on his hands.
"I thought I'd better put that to best use, which was adult education. It has helped me get better and given me something to channel my energy into.
It also made my home life more stable. My five-year-old son and I now sit down in the evening and do our homework together."
Richard attended maths evening courses at two West Sussex colleges - Oathall in Haywards Heath, and Marle Place in Burgess Hill.
"I've always loved maths and working with figures. When I was self-employed and on the building firm I always did my own books, pricing up and purchasing. Give me figures and I'm well away, high as a kite. I like using my brain, doing sums without a calculator, and problem-solving."