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'I couldn’t do without cocaine, couldn’t face talking to people without a few lines in me'

“It started recreationally, just dabbling, and then it went from there. First it would just be at the weekend, then it started to spill over into the week.”

*Gary

I STARTED USING cocaine when I was about sixteen. You’d see the older fellas – 19, 20 – going out in town and you’d want that, so I was there, getting bogey IDs made and going to the clubs.

I suppose the other friends I’d had, people I’d played football with when I was younger and that – they just went one way and I went another. You don’t really think about it, it just happened.

It started recreationally, just dabbling, and then it went from there. First it would just be at the weekend, then it started to spill over into the week. Then I’d be going out on a Thursday and going through to the following Tuesday and saying to myself that having Wednesday off was fine, that it would be enough and I’d recover.

A crutch

But it wasn’t. Where I’d first been using and enjoying it, I was now using as a crutch. I couldn’t do without cocaine, couldn’t face talking to people or interacting with people without a few lines in me.

I was selling drugs to support my own habit and I got picked up by Gardaí and ended up doing a year in prison. That was terrible, prison’s really tough. I was on a good enough landing, but even so it’s a really difficult experience.

Unfortunately, when I came out, I wasn’t able to get away from drugs. I was straight back into where I grew up, and that meant straight back into being surrounded by drugs. That’s not an excuse – at the end of the day it’s always up to the person whether they take the drug or not on any given occasion – but it’s not easy when it’s in your face all day every day.

And it is – where I come from, it’s everywhere – cocaine, heroin, crack, weed – all available 24/7. It’s a way of life, people just get up, get drugs, use drugs, sell drugs, and then repeat.

Falling back into it

It’s easy to fall back into it, when it’s what you know. I held down jobs – worked as a steel fixer and a plasterer, as a labourer on sites – but only for short periods. It’s difficult to keep that going, to make a living and keep straight when you see all the money around with people who are selling drugs.

You think to yourself – what am I working for a few hundred quid a week for when I could make that in a few hours?  It’s hard to address that with a young lad, hard for them to see at that stage that it doesn’t lead anywhere.

When I was growing up, my family were very anti-drugs. My ma, my da, my sister – all anti-drugs. I didn’t get into cocaine because I didn’t know that it might lead to trouble. Of course you know that, you see it.

Supports

What you don’t know is the help that’s there – I do think that’s true. I can remember knowing I wanted to get help and making appointments and not showing up to them – when the day came, maybe your head would be all over the place, and you’d just say ‘fuck it’. I still see young fellas around where I’m from and that’s where they’re at – they know that there’s some supports there, but haven’t really engaged with them.

They don’t know know what’s there. I think there’s really a need to make these services visible and accessible – they need to be there, in front of peoples’ faces to make them real. Because when they are, they can make a real difference.

I’m trying to get on now – going to groups, taking positive steps forward, taking it one hour, one day at a time. I’ve hopefully got a place on a day programme and that will help me build stability in my life, which is something I really want.

I’ve young kids and I don’t want them to have the same experiences I’ve had, so that’s a big motivator for me.

Gary* (35) has been using cocaine for most of his adult life. He hasn’t used in over two months, and is looking towards a brighter future.This is his story. 

Gary* receives support from Ana Liffey Drug Project. Visit www.aldp.ie for more information about the work of Ana Liffey Drug Project 

*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

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*Gary

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