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Bernard’s Story

“I’m a recovering drug user from heroin and crack cocaine. My first experience with drugs began when I was 14 years old in 1994. Due to the loss of my father through cancer I turned to drugs to alleviate the pain of his loss.

“When my family discovered my drug use, they blamed some of my relatives who were themselves using drugs. I was taken to our family GP. At that time, most GPs were not dispensing methadone, or Physeptone as it was called then. The GP gave me a two-week prescription of methadone in two enormous 500ml bottles to take away.  For this my mother had to pay 200 pounds to the pharmacy.

“Following this, my mother did some research and asked some people we knew who had been drug users. My brother’s friend was a previous client of Coolmine and suggested I link in with Coolmine House.

“I met a Keyworker called Patrick who encouraged me to engage with the Coolmine residential programme, which I did. I found the experience very intimidating initially, as I knew several of the existing clients. I spent approximately six months in the residential and step-down services.  Afterwards, my mother arranged a job for me in DCC (Dublin City Corporation) during this period I continued to live as a functioning drug user, for 13 years.  Over the years I had been in and out of treatment centres and methadone clinics.

“In 2009, I was convicted for a crime and incarcerated for four years in Mountjoy prison. In 2011, I returned to the Coolmine residential programme. It was a different experience for me this time around and I graduated in 2013.  During the programme however, I had a slip and used heroin for a week.  One of my peers passed me back to my Keyworker for a test, as he thought I was using due to my behaviours. My Keyworker asked me quite soon afterwards, if I had been using and I admitted I had been. I was placed back in Coolmine residential programme.

“In 2014 my mother passed away and I relapsed fully on heroin and crack cocaine. I ended up sleeping rough on the streets. Staff from Coolmine continued to link in with me and encouraged me to reengage with their service. I attended the needle exchange programme in Coolmine House and engaged with the pre-entry team. My sister found me on the streets. She told me that I reminded her of our father physically as I had lost a huge amount of weight. I linked in with the Graduate Group who supported me with my self-belief, confidence, physical and mental health.  Due to my drug use I was going through psychosis.

“In 2018, while on the Coolmine pre-entry programme and despite having a few slips, Julie the Coolmine nurse helped me to get admitted into Coolmine Lodge.

“This time around was a completely different experience.  My mental and physical health had seriously deteriorated.  It was difficult for me to accept the impact of my behaviour and actions on those close to me.  The honest truth is that I was so in love with drugs that I even ignored my own daughters. My priority was my habit so I would use every and any excuse to not see or meet them.

“With the support of Staff and Peers, I finally reflected, and accepted, the person I had become.  I started treatment for Hep C, and with the support of Coolmine’s nursing team, became the Hep C Peer Support worker in Coolmine, I performed this role initially on a voluntary basis which led to my becoming the full-time Hep C Support Worker in a hospital setting working with a clinical team in the community. I am also a Support Worker with Coolmine.

“I am, to the present-day drug free and working to support others in addiction and recovery.

“I have now rebuilt my relationships with my children, family and friends. I am very proud of the work I put in, with the fantastic support of Staff and peers, who have helped me get to where I am.  I will continue to offer my support, advice and lived experience to those who need.”

“In order to keep it, you have to give it away”

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