“I was a Social Worker in the National Drug Treatment and Advisory Centre at Jervis Street Hospital when Coolmine opened in 1973. I was involved in the detoxification programme and had been referring clients to Coolmine along with my two Social Worker colleagues for rehabilitation following detoxification at the clinic. My husband, Jim, was involved with Coolmine from the early days too, in a voluntary capacity, at first. In the early 1970s he met with Paddy Rossmore and joined the committee and was very enthusiastic about the programme. He had always been very interested in therapy even though he worked in PR and journalism at that stage.
“He and Paddy, along with Brian Delaney and Jacqueline Ballard who Paddy had brought over from London all worked extremely hard to get the programme off the ground. I can’t think of anyone else who would have been able to get this off the ground in the way that Paddy did. I remember visiting the States in 1970 and seeing the Therapeutic Community Model and thinking that this would be the ideal model for rehabilitation if only there was some way of getting it going in Ireland – but I didn’t see how this could be done. It was so special and such a specific model.
“Around 1982 Jim became the Chief Executive and Chairman. At that stage it was still a very small little voluntary organisation. Coolmine ran into a very difficult period in the 1980s with the AIDS epidemic. With that came a total change in government policy around drug addiction and funding for Coolmine was reduced as a result, with a focus placed instead on harm reduction programmes. I’ve always felt that Coolmine added a huge dimension to the whole recovery programme, without Coolmine’s approach it was incomplete.
“What appealed to me very much about the work of Coolmine, was the fact that these are all such young people. Their lives should be ahead of them. They should not be doomed to this dreadful captivity. I met so many lovely young people that never should have seen the inside of a prison or a treatment centre. But they had fallen foul of the drug scene which was so prevalent in so many areas of Dublin. One obstacle to their recovery was that so many of them had become addicted so young. Children aged twelve, thirteen, fourteen had dropped out of school, and then emotionally they missed out on years of development. They were stuck in addiction when they would otherwise have been learning to cope with life’s struggles.
“I then retired from the drug centre in 1994. But I knew I would like to continue working in the addiction field so I began helping out with facilitating the family groups in Coolmine House. That was a group made up of the parents, the families of people in addiction.
“This was a very good group which was facilitated by two very stalwart mothers who had been through the mill with their own children. For these parents of young people who got into drugs it was devastating, they were so ashamed and they felt like there was no one they could talk to. This group was able to give them huge encouragement and reassurance. It also helped the parents to see ways in which they could be helpful to their son or daughter, and also what was not helpful. Enabling was a huge factor to consider, when people think they’re doing the right thing but in fact, it’s not.
“The family group was just great. The way that they all supported each other, the way they shared their worries and problems, and were able to talk about how things had gone and what to try and do. It was like a step by step programme.
“Supporting the families was also a way to help them to help their child to come forward, at the end of the day, for treatment. This could be incredibly difficult, especially with girls, their situation became incredibly complicated. If they had children of their own their journey was fraught with difficulties even to go into a Coolmine programme, because they would very often be seen by their own communities as abandoning their children. There was also the very real fear that if they gave their children into care while they were undergoing treatment that they might never get them back.
“One of the great things that Coolmine is doing now is the Parenting Under Pressure programme, which works with the parents. It enables them to bond with their children in a way that they hadn’t been able to before, through their addiction.
“Jim was the Chairman and Chief Executive until he retired in 1998. He went on to write a book to help parents, entitled Drugs and Young People, published in 1982 – this was a guideline for parents of children in addiction.”