A FORMER prisoner whose friends died from overdoses just inches away from him warned of the devastation being inflicted by Cork’s heroin epidemic.
David Strange, who served his most recent prison sentence last October, is desperately attempting to rebuild his life through volunteering with soup kitchen charity Cork Penny Dinners and addiction meetings.
The 31-year-old said he is determined to get clean following years on the inside.
“Since the age of 12, I was never clean,” he said. “I was drinking since I was 12 and taking tablets by the time I was 15.”
He was then introduced to heroin.
“The first time I smoked heroin I was 17,” he said.
“It was at a house party. A guy who was around 30 at the time asked me if I wanted to try it. I didn’t touch it again until I was 24 or 25.
“When I went back using I was using heavy.”
He recalled trying to save his friends from overdosing on a number of occasions.
“Finding my friends next to me and trying to save them through mouth-to-mouth was the most difficult part for me,” he said.
“They would just be lying down next to me.
“It happened a lot when I was in the early stages of my drug use.
“I had another friend who died from drugs just three weeks ago.”
While David is determined not to meet the same fate, his main motivation for getting clean will be his family.
“This isn’t just for them, it’s for me and my family,” he said.
“My mum was sick over me and despite me using at home in the past she has taken me back and given me another chance.”
The Farranree native stressed that even in prison temptation is never far away.
“There are drugs in prison too,” he said. “I had drugs thrown into me over the wall while I was inside. It happens all the time.”
David explained that after a while prison became a way of life.
The security of prison, he admits, was often comforting.
“I grew up with crime,” he said. “While I was young I was in trouble for everything from carrying knives to robbing cars. Later my behaviour escalated to heroin use.
“I felt safe in prison. Everything felt much safer than on the outside.”
While prison was initially the Cork man’s downfall, it eventually became his making.
“I went to Tabor Lodge and relapsed after a week,” he said of previous attempts to quit heroin.
“I was on a methadone programme twice and came off it in prison. While in prison I studied and was able to learn how to make things for my family.”
One of David’s goals is to secure full-time employment.
“My focus now will be on my recovery,” he said. “Having a full-time job would make a big difference. All my family are working so it would help me fit in with them more.
“My cousin took me to Cork Penny Dinners to volunteer and I find it great. He brought me to meetings as well and has been very good to me. If I wasn’t here I would be moping around.”
Anyone in search of help for a drug or alcohol addiction can visit www.corkdrugandalcohol.ie.
For more information on Cork Penny Dinners visit corkpennydinners.ie.