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Paul’s Story

“I was 26 when I went to Coolmine Lodge from Mountjoy Prison. I was destroyed from using heroin and other drugs and lived a life of crime. I was in trouble with the police all my life since the age of 7 or 8 I started using chemicals bottles of gas. That’s how I started and it just progressed from there. I spent 12 years in prison, in and out. And was using drugs all the time inside but the worst prison is in your mind. The way drugs leave you feeling at the end is the worst.

“I spent 3 years in Coolmine Lodge from 1998 to 2000 and it was the best time of my life. I felt safe and happy while I was there. I loved the Lodge and the therapeutic community as method model of treatment and community spirit. I relapsed shortly after graduation because of unhealthy relationships and trauma that I didn’t deal with while I was there.

“I went back to crime and drugs for next 8 years which was miserable when I look back. I was destroyed from using heroin and crack and benzos. And I was heading back to Mountjoy Prison because I had a number of charges. My turning point and rock bottom was when I ended up on my Aunt’s toilet floor having had a seizure from the crack. I woke up on the toilet floor and didn’t know how long I was gone for. I was in agony. I spent most of my life in toilets using drugs but I had never felt pain like this, it was like being in a fire pit in hell.  I felt like God was punishing me for all the people that I had robbed all my life – but it wasn’t God.

“I was on the welcome programme for about 12 months at this time and Tony told me they were starting detoxification placements in Coolmine Lodge for Methadone which saved my life. I would be dead only for I went to Coolmine Lodge in June 2008. Detox was tough and the suffering and pain lasted for a long time. But I knew I couldn’t walk out that gate no matter what, it was a matter of life and death.

“I had lost all my family and lots of friends because of drink and drugs and mental health and care homes. The only thing keeping me going was my daughter Chantelle and my other family who I was brought up with. My aunt Sue died when I was in lodge which added to the pain that I was in; she was my best friend and I loved her – she reared me.

“I learned in Coolmine about my behaviours and unhealthy relationships. I learned that if I got honest I would stay clean. While using the tools, I worked on my behaviours.

“I am now a project worker in Ashleigh house since 2009. I started off in a Community Employment Scheme and worked my way up to become a project worker, which I never believed I could do. It helped me change my ways in early recovery and I love the job that we do.

“I have achieved a lot. I went to college and completed a Diploma in Addiction Studies which again I was nervous doing as I had missed a lot of school as a child. But I was delighted that I did it as I wanted to keep working in Ashleigh house. I have also been there for my daughter for the last 15 years in recovery.

“My health is a lot better since I’m off the drugs and I have less worries in life. I enjoy the simple things and I am no longer afraid or in fear as I was all my life growing up. I have peace of mind.

“I always tell the women in Ashleigh House and the men in Coolmine Lodge that addiction is just pain. It’s a miserable hell that takes everything from you slowly and you lose everything in the end. But recovery is real life; with their families and children and there is lots of joy in recovery. And happiness. And peace.

“My life has changed so much. I haven’t thought about committing a crime or taking drugs since 2008 when I went to Coolmine Lodge. Once I continue to use the tools that I have learned in Coolmine I know I will be okay. One day at a time. You alone can do it but you can’t do it alone.

“A great concept of Coolmine is responsible love and concern – that’s how I changed my life. People showed me love in my darkest times and cared for me when I couldn’t care for myself, the staff and the lads in lodge, and that’s why I’m doing great today.”

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