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Joe’s Story

“I grew up in Clondalkin, in my Ma’s house. When I was younger I started using substances basically trying to fit in with the crowd. I used to play sports a lot, and that was the only time I felt comfortable. In school I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t do anything. But when I took drugs that gave me confidence, the confidence to talk to people. I would talk to anyone when I was on drugs, but when I didn’t have drugs in me I was quiet as a mouse. I’d come from a broken family. My father was gone from when I was four, and I have a younger brother who was only two. I just always wanted him to be there, he’s my Da.

“That’s when I started acting out in school. My mother often told me that if I was bold then she’d get my Da, and that was a lightbulb moment for me, I was trying to get my Ma and Da back together. Then, as the years went on I just started doing harder and harder drugs, I tried almost every drug out there.

“I was 21 when I moved on to heroin. I used to slag “junkies”, because I didn’t understand what an addict was. And then it just went out of control. My Ma caught me using in the bathroom and she threw me out. I was out of the house for a few years, staying in hostels and sleeping on the street.

“Then one day two people died in the hostel from overdoses. And I said I can’t live this life anymore. So, I reached out and asked for help.

“When I came to Coolmine Lodge in 2019, it didn’t feel like a treatment centre – it was really good. I was fed, I had a bed to lie in, I could even watch telly. I had come from sleeping on the streets.

“I had done the day programme in Coolmine House, so I knew what was ahead of me. I understood I had to be honest about what was going on. Even when I first arrived in Coolmine Lodge I was opening up and talking about things, and people had to tell me to slow down, that I had plenty of time. But I was just so eager to get everything out.

“I remember when I was first in Coolmine, I was always looking at the ground. In meetings I’d be always looking at peoples’ runners, because I didn’t have the confidence to look at anyone in the face. Now I don’t need a drug to give me confidence. Sometimes still my confidence does get low, but I just remind myself “Joe, look what things were like and look what you went through to detox” and it’s amazing.

“I had a lightbulb moment with my keyworker, Terry, about my relationship with my Da. He was living in England, and although I was seeing him over the years, I was trying to blame him for not being there. I had thought that maybe I wouldn’t have started taking drugs if I’d had a role model in my life. But Terry said to me “Joe, you don’t know what kind of life he’s had.” I understood then that it was about getting to know my Da, getting the chance to build that bond with him.

“Going to Coolmine is the best thing I ever did. The only reason I had gone into Coolmine initially was to get my own house and to get back together with my ex-girlfriend. I wanted to prove my family wrong, and show everyone that I could do it. But after a while I realised it was never really about that. It’s about me – making those changes for me, and having a better life for my daughter.

“Coolmine is the first treatment centre I was ever in, and it’s going to be my last.

“I have my house now, I have my daughter back in my life and I have that bond back with her. I was able to talk to my peers in Coolmine who also have teenage kids about what we were all going through. I talk to my Da all the time now, and I can be honest with him and talk to him about anything, no matter what. I never expected my family to take me back so quickly. It’s great. I can now be honest with them, and with myself. I don’t have to lie.

“Since leaving Coolmine, I travelled to Scotland to play football in the Homeless Eight Nations Cup. We play every week now, and this year I’m doing trials, where I’ll hopefully be picked to go to New York and Los Angeles to play for my country, and fly the flag again.

“I’d like to say thanks to all the staff in Coolmine and all my peers that got me through it. The people I’ve met in Coolmine will be friends for life. Thank you to my family for putting up with me, and for keeping that door open. It was never their fault, it was my own actions. To my daughter, I love her. I’m in a new relationship now with Joanne, who has four more children, and we’re engaged. We’ve been together for three years, and I was able to be honest with her right from the start.

“Seeking recovery is terrifying at the start. It’s so much change – addicts don’t like change. You hear what people go through and it’s scary. But it just takes time, you have to take your time with it and do everything bit by bit.”

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