Horticulture Worker, Ashleigh House
“I started experimenting with drink and drugs from about the age of 12 or 13. I started off with alcohol and hash and soon I was trying Es and coke. I loved it all. I managed to complete my junior and leaving cert but was drinking and taking different drugs quiet a lot throughout and got heavily addicted to sleeping tablets. I was always in trouble at school and had to change schools half way through. I went on to college – I did FETAC level 5 courses in Childcare, Community Development and I.T. and was also doing voluntary youth work. But I was still drinking and using different drugs throughout.
“When I was 18 I became pregnant which was very traumatic for me. I was still drinking but I stopped taking drugs throughout the pregnancy. When my son was a month old we got an apartment and that’s when things really started to go downhill. I became addicted to Snow Blow – back when Head Shops were everywhere – for about two years. My apartment became a total party zone. I would say it was the talk of the area. I was still looking after my son but things completely got on top of me. We were a year in that apartment and then we moved to about four or five different places over the years. I’d move in somewhere and then things would get too difficult and I’d just run.
“The Head Shops closed after about two years and I was doing well for a while. I even got a job in a preschool and things were looking good but it wasn’t long before I started back on the party scene and things just spiralled out of control then. I moved on to crack and heroin. By 2015 I was in a methadone clinic and spent every day trying to rob enough to feed my habit. I was spending about €100 every day on drink and drugs. I tried to kill myself a few times. I would self-harm and purposely overdose.
“Eventually I was admitted to the psych ward in the Mater and then to Unit Nine in Blanchardstown. My son was about five years old at that stage. And he wouldn’t come in to visit me. He found it too upsetting. I finally saw the effect it was having on him and that’s when I realised that I had to make a change.
“Coincidentally, while I was in hospital, two girls came in from Coolmine. One of them was sick and the other was there with her. They told me all about Coolmine and gave me the outreach phone number. I was in the psych ward for a few weeks and i ended up getting arrested for causing trouble and steeling from the hospital shop. When I was brought to the Garda station they let me make a phone call and I called Coolmine. I said “I’ve nowhere to go. I’ll die if you don’t take me in.” And I genuinely couldn’t see another way out. I couldn’t see how I could live normally.
“I arrived to Ashleigh House on the 1st of February 2016. I was completely broken. I barely felt human. At that stage I was just thinking that my time there would be a break. I just needed to get myself back to being able to function. I loved drugs and I didn’t think I could live without them. I loved my son but, at that time, drugs were more important to me. Most girls stay in Ashleigh House for six or seven months. I was there for eleven. I completely acted up from the minute I arrived. I didn’t see the point in the programme and I had an answer for everything.
“It wasn’t until I was meeting girls and seeing them progress on to the next stage that it hit me. They were moving on. They were getting their life back. And they were so happy. So I started to help myself a bit. I started talking – up until then I told everyone it was none of their business. And I started playing football again. When you’re on drugs you forget who you are. The drugs define you. That’s all you are. The drugs become your personality.
“My son was going to school and staying with my parents when I was in Ashleigh and I really thought I was going to have to leave when he was on his summer holidays. But the staff in Coolmine suggested and then organised to have him stay in Ashleigh and the crèche staff drew up a specific programme for him.
“I left Ashleigh in December 2016. I can’t describe the change. I wish I had a video of me when I arrived and one of me leaving. You would never believe it was the same person. I haven’t changed into a different person, it’s just me going back to who I actually am. It’s like getting a brand new life. The staff in Ashleigh House are incredible. They see through everything and can read what you’re actually trying saying. Some have been through addiction and some haven’t but they are all completely understanding and each of them goes above and beyond for every client. They are some of the most intelligent people i have ever met and their capability to understand and deal with situations is just amazing.
“Nowadays I have hope for my future and I’m kept busy at the moment! Along with being a mother to my son, I’m working a part time job, I do personal training and I’m doing a part time FETAC Level 5 course in Community Addiction Studies in URRUS in Ballymun. And I look after the horticulture in Ashleigh House as part of a CE Scheme. When I was a client in Ashleigh, the horticulture programme showed me how to take pride in my surroundings and in my work. I like the responsibility that comes with it and I like being able to make the place as nice and welcoming as possible for the current clients. Years later, Coolmine is still supporting me and i am forever grateful to them.”