A RECOVERING heroin addict is turning his back on prison to pursue a life helping others.
Michael Moore, who lives in Cork City, said he spent 20 years addicted to drugs like crack cocaine and heroin.
Now, after finding his calling as a volunteer with Cork Penny Dinners, the Cork man vowed that his most recent prison sentence will be his last.
Michael was introduced to Cork Penny Dinners through its weekly addiction meetings.
The initiative was set up by the head of the soup kitchen charity, Caitríona Twomey, who is working tirelessly to help vulnerable people rebuild their lives.
Michael returned to the outside world last August after serving 16 months in prison for drug-related offences.
The volunteer is now in college studying to become an addiction counsellor.
He warned young people against making the same mistakes.
“I started on drugs at 14 years old,” he told The Echo.
“The drugs kept getting harder and harder and by 19 I was smoking crack. I ended up injecting heroin.
“After I got caught with the drugs in Dublin I just didn’t care anymore.” he said.
Up to that point Michael’s life had been a whirlwind of drugs, alcohol, and parties.
“I was never a bad person but I did make bad choices,” he said. “I did my Leaving Cert at 16 and was drunk going into every exam.
“Most of the time I would just be carrying on from the night before,” he said.
According to Michael, the depression that resulted from his drug use was all-consuming.
“It’s not that you want to die but you just don’t want to wake up,” he said.
“There is a lot of guilt and depression that comes with drug addiction.
“You’re looking for a buzz at first but then you have to take heroin just to stop yourself being sick and be able to function normally.”
Hearing that a fellow prisoner had overdosed in his cell was one of a number of wake-up calls for Michael.
“That was just the tip of the iceberg for me,” he said. “He was of a similar age to me so it really hit home when he died.
“I had to become very black and white about things and tell myself that if I continued going as I was I would be dead.”
However, getting clean was not easy in prison.
“It was hard,” said Michael. “There were people going in clean and coming out with addictions. It was almost easier to get drugs on the inside.
“I wrote a poem about the man who overdosed that came third in a writing competition in Listowel.
“For once in my life I felt like I was finally doing something right.
“I learned guitar in prison and was able to put the poem to music,” he said.
He explained how prison gave him a lot of time to think.
“Prison was hard. For 18 hours a day you are thinking about the things you have done and the people you’ve hurt.”
He spoke of the potential many of his fellow prisoners had that remained unfulfilled.
“A lot of them were very intelligent people.”
Michael recalled going through the same experiences as the people he now helps at Cork Penny Dinners.
“I owed people money through my addictions,” he said.
“One of my memories is sitting in my house with no electricity for days.
“There was a lot of help offered to me over the years but I didn’t take it.
“Now, it’s time to give back. It’s a great feeling to be able to do that.
“I’m really glad I found the place. Caitríona has done so much for me,” he said.
Every week is an exercise in resisting temptation for Michael. He cast his mind back to a time he was offered heroin multiple times in a single day.
“At 5.30pm in the day I was approached three times with offers of heroin,” he said.
“I just told them that I don’t take drugs any more.
“Before, heroin had the power over me but I’ve been able to take back that control.”
Michael spoke of his concern about the heroin epidemic in Cork City, particularly for people living on the streets.
“It’s crazy at the moment,” he said. “It’s difficult to think of people out there in this weather.
“If I was out there I would probably be back on drugs too.”
- For more information on Cork Penny Dinners visit corkpennydinners.ie