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'I’m so happy not to be spending another Christmas in rehab'

When using, I went from taking two codeine tablets at a time, to 28 in one go.

Image: Shutterstock/FamVeld

I WAS ALWAYS in trouble.

I left school when I was 16 and started an apprenticeship when I was 17 to become a carpenter. I finished that and went to England for a year and then to Australia for a year. When I came back to Ireland, I got married. I was 24. I knew the person I married before I left Ireland and we had kept in touch.

I was married six years when I had a back operation. I was 30. After the operation, I was sitting out in the back garden one day while my wife went out to pick up my prescription.

She came back and gave me two Tylex tablets which are full of codeine and I took the two of them thinking, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for my whole life’.

I then went from taking two at a time to taking 28 at a time. It just spiralled out of control and I also ended up with a cocaine habit of €500 a day.

My addiction was now not only drugs, but also alcohol. I’d never touched drugs before and I only drank like the average Irish person, nothing too savage. After the operation, I became addicted to drugs and I started drinking more.

In 2010, when I was in my mid 40s, I decided to get help.

My marriage had ended and I was homeless on the streets of Dublin. It was cold, I was scared and I had thought, ‘What if?’

I ended up meeting a guy I knew on the street and he had been clean for 20 years at this stage.

I was on my way to a hostel when he asked me where I was going and he asked if I got treatment, would I take it? I told him yes. I went for treatment but I relapsed the day I left the centre.

I was back in six months later for another six months and then I went to work in Cork. I was only there a few days when I relapsed but I stayed for two years.

When I left the first treatment centre, I knew I was going to take drugs again. When I completed the course, I felt like I deserved to take them again. But now the desire isn’t there anymore.

Family history

Growing up in Dublin, I knew addicts but I had no interest in drugs. My father was an alcoholic and my younger brother was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I was never tempted.

When I lived in Cork, I worked for a pastor at the local church and he told me about Tiglin Rehab Centre in Ashford, county Wicklow. Another guy I met in Cork also told me about it.

But before I listened, I overdosed twice.

The second time, the pastor called me into the office and said, ‘You need to go to Tiglin’. At that stage I said no way, I’ve had enough treatment and nothing had worked anyway. But I gave in and said I’d give it a go.

I went to Tiglin on St. Patrick’s Day in 2014. The treatment in Tiglin was 16 months. I dealt with a lot of issues that I hadn’t dealt with before and I was tiling bathrooms which kept me busy.

Tiglin has a great counselling service and I didn’t get anything like it in other treatment centres.

Last Christmas, I felt like leaving Tiglin. It was so hard being away from my children. It was terrible.

It wasn’t the first Christmas away from them but it was harder because I was in Tiglin. Christmas is good in Tiglin once you get over the fact you won’t be at home with your family.

The staff are very good to you, the other students are like family – plus you get a big Christmas dinner, more than you’d get at home.

The build up to Christmas, thinking about being away from my children again and what they’re going to think of me was the hardest part. The day itself was ok. After our dinner, we got to sit down and watch a film and there was a Wii and Playstation provided. They made it feel as normal as possible  even though we didn’t have our families around us.

I graduated from Tiglin in October and I got student of the year, something my daughter is very proud of.

I’m now in the phase-four house in Greystones and life is good again. I work in Tiglin two days a week and teach carpentry to the lads on a Wednesday.

After Christmas, I’ll be starting a Level 5 Drug Treatment course. This Christmas, I’ll be spending it at home with my fiancé. It’ll be my first one at home in five years. I’ll get to see my children as now I can see them whenever I want. To top it all off, I’m getting married next July and I can’t wait.

To donate to Tiglin, visit tiglin.ie

Read: I love a drink but I don’t want to end up like my dad: an alcoholic and alone

More: 22-year-old recovering alcoholic tells how he stopped drinking eight cans of cider every night

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