'Nuns saved me from addiction by helping me to love myself and others'

'Nuns saved me from addiction by helping me to love myself and others'
Noel Mulcahy with Caitriona Twomey from Cork Penny Dinners where he volunteers.

A CORK man living in emergency accommodation has praised the nuns who saved him from the clutches of addiction after he went to live with them in a convent.

Noel Mulcahy from Blackpool had been struggling with alcoholism for most of his adult life. He also confessed to previous issues with drugs and gambling.

The 37-year old had lost count of his unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation. However, it was the nuns of St Helen’s — an order run by the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity providing residential care to alcoholics and drug addicts - who he claims saved his life. Despite his own difficult situation, Noel is still managing to help others and currently volunteers with Cork Penny Dinners.

“Living in a B&B is very lonely,” said Noel, who began a new life outside of the convent last February.

“Leaving the convent was a huge step for me. I had never lived on my own before, but they made me strong enough to do that. It’s a lonely world but I count my blessings on a daily basis. The nuns saved my life and many others before mine. I have family members back in my life that I had lost to alcohol. Out of all the treatment centres, the sisters were the ones who got to the bottom of it all. They are the strongest people I know.”

Noel cast his mind back to the day he arrived in St Helen’s Convent where he spent almost a year in recovery.

“I arrived there on a Monday with a suitcase of clothes,” he said. 

"They didn’t normally take people on a Monday. However, the sister knew that if I walked away from her that day I wouldn’t be back. She took me up to my bedroom. My bed was right next to the window. I was in such a bad way at the time that I couldn’t even make my own bed.

“So many aspects of my life needed to be resolved. The nuns helped me to love myself and others and that was something that I didn’t have before. I believe that God works through people and he was definitely working through them.”

He spoke of how the nuns’ maternal approach made him feel at home.

“You had to do your chores and housework, but there was fun too. We would have a laugh and a joke together. A lot of the time it was like being at home. One sister warned me not to get any more tattoos. If I ever get another one it will have to be out of sight,” he joked.

Noel’s struggles began at an early age.

“I was a very angry child who was suspended from school in fifth class and again in sixth class. The only thing I did for my secondary school entrance exam was sign my name at the top of the page.”

It wasn’t long before Noel started dabbling in alcohol. “I can remember taking a sip of alcohol when I was supposed to be at mass. In my teens I began hanging around with a much older crowd which is probably when the trouble started.”

His struggle with alcohol escalated during later life.

“It took me to some dark places, some of which are too dark to mention.”

The Cork Penny Dinners volunteer still maintains regular contact with the sisters.

“I go back every now and again for coffee and a cake and talk about everything that’s going on for me. They ask me what direction I am going in. My hope is to do well as I don’t want to disappoint them.”

He offered reassurance to people grappling with addiction.

“I want people to know that recovery is possible for anyone. You can find yourself again.”

He emphasised how Cork Penny Dinners, where he volunteers, has helped him stop living internally.

“Coming in here I can look at life from the outside. Before I might not even hear another human being. I was in my head and didn’t hear anything outside of that. I also do service for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as I feel it’s good to give back.”

  • Those suffering with a drug or alcohol addiction can visit www.corkdrugandalcohol.ie for a list of helpful services.

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