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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 23 April, 2019
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'The morning my father was buried in Dublin, I was doing drugs down an alley in London'

John turned his life around after drug addiction.

File Photo
File Photo
Image: Shutterstock/Paul Vasarhelyi

JOHN EDWARDS’ DRUG addiction caused him to be locked in a padded cell as a teenager, to fake being unconscious to get a bed and food in a hospital and to miss his own father’s funeral.

He is now driving around with his van pulling a caravan that is built to look like a giant syringe. He says he’s doing it because he wants to spread the message that there is no such thing as a hopeless case.

His story was broadcast on The John Murray Show on RTÉ Radio One today:

“We were a middle class family and my father was a very successful businessman but drugs came into Clontarf in the late 60s and it devastated a lot of families here.”

John described how he was a ‘painfully shy’ child and developed a terrible stammer after being forced to write with his right hand although he was left handed.

I couldn’t even speak properly and I had a hard time at school because of it.

‘It gave me a confidence I didn’t have’

Aged 13, he stole a valium from his mother’s handbag. “I didn’t realise that by taking one I’d end up as a beggar and addict on the streets of London 20 years later.

“I swallowed it in my bedroom and after about 20 minutes I felt a peace on my inside. I was so full of anxiety and insecurity and fear of the future, fear of the present even. This pill gave me the peace I was looking for.

I could speak a little bit better, I didn’t stammer as much, I was able to stand a little bit straighter…it gave me a confidence I didn’t have in myself.

“But the trouble is when you’re young like that if you build confidence with the help of a chemical… you have a fairly good chance of becoming addicted – you don’t want to lose that confidence.”

‘I was in a padded cell when my friends were in school’

He said he took another tablet from his mother a couple of days later and started hanging around with a crowd who did drugs.

John began to smoke cannabis, take LSD, nasal inhalers with speed in them and even faked prescription to get drugs that cancer patients take.

“I woke up one morning and I was in pain. I had cramps in my tummy and my legs…I was addicted.

My father’s heart was broken, I was his first son after four girls and he loved me very much.

His mother once described to him how she heard the stomach pump – pumping his stomach – in Jervis Street hospital.

John said the only help back then was to be put in a mental institution and that his father signed him in during his mid-to-late teens. “You would be put in a padded cell when you were taking convulsions.

“I’ll never forget my first time being locked in a padded cell. I was naked and I was crawling around on the floor.

I remember coming to me senses and actually realising where I was and screaming to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing in a padded cell’…my friends were all in school down the road.

‘Confused and messed up’

He described how a lot of his friends in Ireland died and he went to London and ended up living on the streets.

I remember sometimes I would pretend to be unconscious. I’d put an English accent on and call 999. I used to lie down on the freezing cold streets and when the ambulance would come I’d get a free bed and breakfast in a hospital.

“You’d sometimes get a nice doctor or nurse who would say something nice to you. You need something with skin on to survive when you’re on the streets.”

John described how he used to write home and pretend to his family that he had a job, a nice girlfriend and flat, and that everything was going well because he wanted them to be proud of him.

His family managed to trace him to a hostel in London and his sister called him one day to tell him his father had died.

“I was just so confused and messed up. The morning my father died was when I reached rock bottom.

I was down a back alley in London drinking and taking drugs with an old tramp while my father was being buried in Clontarf.

“Tears began to come into my eyes and the tramp said, what’s the problem with you Irish?”

John described how there’s only so much pain you can push down and that he couldn’t contain it anymore and when the old tramp asked him what was wrong.

I said, ‘My father is being buried right now back in Dublin and my family have told me I can’t come home. I’m so ashamed of myself.’ I just let it all out.

“He comforted me, the tramp, he said, ‘John go home – if you don’t you’re going to die like the rest of us here on the streets’.”

‘No such thing as a hopeless case’

John came home a year later and his mother took him in.

I’ll never forget she gave me one of those great big mother hugs and she wept when she saw the state of me.

He began to attend AA and says, “I met people there who had their lives together.”

John spent 12 months in rehab and says the presence of God has changed his life.

He has now been clean 25 years and says his mission in life is to help people and get the message out that there’s no such thing as a hopeless case.

Read: Getting on the bus: Recovered addicts returning to help those still suffering>

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