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Stuart’s Story – ‘my addiction spiralled out of control’

Hi, my name is Stuart and I’m addicted to drugs, alcohol and gambling. I had my first drink at 12 years of age – a coke bottle filled with whiskey. From the bits of that night which I can remember, it was mostly spent vomiting and I even ended up blacking out completely.

A short time after at 13 years of age, I picked up my first drug which was cannabis and I completely fell in love with that. It relaxed me and I loved the affect it had on me. It made me laugh and totally zone out from the world and reality. I smoked it most of the time, by day outside school, after school, in the evenings with my friends and at night.

It wasn’t long after the blackout with alcohol that I tried it again and it felt like more of a “success” the next time and most of the other times after. I felt like I had found my thing. I had confidence with girls, the ability to stand up for myself, a funny young fella, the life and soul of any party and not really caring about what was going on at home or in school or life in general. When I was 13, I also took my first ecstasy tablet, it was a time when they were very popular. I remember going to teenage discos with my friends and it felt like everybody there were on them. I used to hate the initial buzz from ecstasy. I felt it was too strong. I used to also black out during this time, but afterwards I would come around and enjoy it.

Drugs and drink were the biggest part of my life at the time and the progression was textbook. After a few years of actively using and drinking problems started to arise at home and at school. At 16, I was thrown out of school after getting suspended over 10 times just before my Junior Cert. However, I was able to sit the exam a few months later. By then my using had gotten worse I was using ecstasy during the day and turned up to some of the exams high. I ended up failing the exams.

At this stage, my dad didn’t want me hanging around anymore, so he got me a job in a workshop, where I end up serving an apprenticeship as a pipe fitter. I still used most nights but would remain abstinent by day while working. During that time, I picked up cocaine and I absolutely loved it. I lived for the weekends because the most I could have on the weekdays was a few smokes of cannabis, so the weekends felt like a treat. I lived that way for many years and slowly but surely the trail of destruction I was leaving behind started to catch up with me. I was getting into trouble while out drinking and using, fighting in the city, drunken disorderly charges. I was arrested by the guards a lot.

My attitude for years was if I didn’t turn up for court or threw away the court summons the problem would just go away. I lived in a fantasy world and I was invincible. I could still hold down the job but going to work was like hell. Looking back I settled for my life for the way it was.

When I was 24, I met a girl in a local pub and she was like my soul mate for the simple reason she loved all the same things I did – taking drugs and drinking. We never met up unless it was a pub or a house party. Sometime after she ended up getting pregnant and I moved to another county with herself and the child. Life seemed good. I got a job there, rented a house and it felt we were settled. We weren’t using every day; I was working and she stayed at home minding our baby. However, when the weekend came it was all cards off the table again. We would drink, use different types of drugs – cocaine, ecstasy, speed, MDMA or whatever we could get our hands on. Slowly our relationship started to deteriorate, and, in the process, we had another 2 children.

Shortly after my youngest child at that time was born, we broke up. Things became tough for me in all aspects of my life. I couldn’t hold down my job after getting many chances. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of a disaster I was. I moved home again, back to Cork and my drinking and using went to another level. I received a large sum of money from the revenue, but had no job to go to so I drank and used drugs almost every day. I started dealing cocaine with the money from the revenue so I wouldn’t have to go back to work. I picked up a gambling addiction around that time also. It totally took over my mind. I spent a lot of time in and around bookies and online gambling late at night. I also got very depressed and felt I couldn’t cope with anything so going to a doctor and getting pills for this was very appealing to me.

It felt like those tablets solved everything – fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, anger and all those feelings I had to look in the eye for years were all gone. I was selling cocaine mostly on the weekends to people I knew, chasing money before the weekend to pay for the next batch on a Friday and so on. I would use a lot of the cocaine myself, but I would cover the cost by selling more. At this stage, I got deeper and deeper as my addiction spiralled out of control. It came to the point where the money I had got from the revenue was gone and I was in debt of around four thousand euro. This and other things that had happened in my life had brought me to my knees on several occasions. I felt a failure at life as I felt I had lost my kids, my home, my job and the trust of everyone around me.

My mental health was really suffering, and my ex-partner had lost custody of our children due to her alcoholism and drug addiction. By this time, I basically didn’t care much about any of the things in my life. On the days I wasn’t using I was suicidal, too afraid to leave the house. I could not face anyone. Everybody in my life knew I had a drug problem but if you asked me I would have laughed in your face.

One night during this period I ended up signing myself in to a psychiatric unit in the Mercy called St. Michael’s. A friend of mine came with me but I couldn’t tell him how I was really feeling. I just didn’t want to live anymore without drugs and I was starting to think I couldn’t live with them either because I found myself in and out of hospital prior to this with seizures and overdoses. My body couldn’t take what I thought my head needed. When I got to St Michael’s I felt a lot safer. They gave me more or less the same type of drugs as what I was taking previous. I stayed there for a few weeks but I used a lot of tablets from in there as well as people collecting prescriptions and bringing them in to me. When I left, I would be doing the same thing repeatedly, drink, gamble and use till I’m on my knees again and going back for help in St Michael’s. It was a cycle that lasted around two years along with trips to Cork prison for the trail of destruction I was leaving behind me.

I received community work because of this, but I wasn’t turning up many days due to the addiction. I was basically left with a choice, either go to Tabor Lodge or go to prison. Tabor Lodge sounded a lot more appealing because I knew what prison was like and I didn’t want to go back there. I agreed to go to see a lady in Tabor Lodge for an assessment shortly after. I was full of fear. I woke up sober and clean that day, but it didn’t take me long to give in to that fear. I took some tablets on the way down and I don’t remember much from the assessment. I was asked to go to pre-treatment before I got a bed in Tabor Lodge, so I agreed to do that. I felt I was beginning to realise I had a problem with drink, drugs and gambling by then, but to pull away from it was not on my agenda.

I went to the pre-treatment meetings for around 10 days before I got a bed and I stayed abstinent for those days leading up to it. Those were difficult days. I stayed away from most of my friends, locked myself in a room and just hung on, but I still couldn’t see a way out or a life without using.

When I finally got to treatment it felt like a relief. Once I settled in a bit, I realised everyone in there had similar issues and stories to me. I was never planning on stopping drinking, using or gambling at that time, I was happy to just escape my life for 28 days. I started to come around to it a bit after 2 weeks or so, I got hope from fellow residents and other members that came in to speak and I got educated on this disease to a certain extent. But somehow, I knew I was never going to last with just that knowledge alone. Towards the end of my treatment, it was suggested by my councillor that I go to a secondary treatment program in Tabor Fellowship. At first I thought to myself “no way” but after leaving Tabor Lodge I wasn’t long coming around to the idea.

It was 5 weeks later I went to Tabor Fellowship for the simple reason I didn’t know how to cope without using. At that stage, there was a glimmer of hope inside me. I didn’t want to go back to my old life of drink, drugs and gambling and I couldn’t keep going the way I was going for the past 5 weeks. During that 5 weeks, I wasn’t going to any meetings, so I wasn’t moving forward in my recovery by any means. My head was a mess and I felt I was the same person not using than when using.

I went into Tabor Fellowship on a Saturday. I was after hearing a lot about it from members and they spoke highly of it. One member who went through the house told me “Tabor Lodge thought me about my addiction and Tabor Fellowship thought me how to live”. This made sense to me because I knew I needed to be thought how to live without drink, drugs and gambling.

I learned a lot about myself during my time in Tabor Fellowship. I learnt how to live again, not only how to get up early, eat regularly, be productive and be a good person, but how to live with the fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, anger and all those things I lived with day in, day out for years.

Since then, my life has taken off in such a positive way, even though it had loads of ups and downs, overall, it has been a story of success. I got my children back in my life. I get to see and talk to them on a regular basis and they’re happy to be in my company. I went back to full time work after a year in recovery and eventually went back Pipe fitting as I was qualified by trade and I felt I would have enjoyed doing it in the right frame of mind. I’ve been in recovery now for over four years and they have been the best years of my life. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, a caring partner, a beautiful new baby girl, a job to go to each day which I enjoy doing and I have been promoted twice in the last six months to foreman and running the office. I have built trust with family and friends and work colleagues as well as my employer due to my recovery. Most days I enjoy life and I want to live, which is a far cry from where I came from. I am able to live life like I always wanted to, I go on holidays, conventions, weekends away, birthday parties, weddings and all without picking up a drink or a drug. A new way of life is what was promised to me before I went to Tabor Group if I gave it an honest shot and a new way of life is what I have. I’m certain without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

VHI LAYA GLO AVIVA CHKS Cork Chamber