'Addiction doesn’t make us bad people': Recovered addict from Cork calls for end to stigma 

“I started to realise that I had worth and ambition and I could achieve, which I never believed before.”
'Addiction doesn’t make us bad people': Recovered addict from Cork calls for end to stigma 

Eoin spoke to the Echo as some of Cork city’s most iconic buildings were illuminated in purple to mark International Recovery Day. Picture: Mark Wright.

A CORK man who overcame drug addiction has spoken of his recovery so he can help others believe that it is possible.

Eoin spoke to the Echo as some of Cork city’s most iconic buildings were illuminated in purple to mark International Recovery Day, which offers hope for people, families, and communities that are suffering because of addiction.

The ‘Leave a Light On’ campaign was organised by Cork Kerry Community Healthcare and the Recovery Academy of Ireland and Coolmine Therapeutic Community.

Eoin, who has been involved in the campaign, says it is important to break the stigma around recovery.

“I started experimenting when I was aged 10,” Eoin says. “There were many reasons, I think.

“My upbringing was good, my parents showed me love and respect, but I felt different. I didn’t like the way I looked and I had a lot of insecurities.

“I later went on to experience bullying and a life-changing, abuse-related trauma that destroyed me. It broke my soul. By the time I got to secondary school, my spirit was dead.”

'My drug use turned destructive'

As a teenager, Eoin started to experience suicidal thoughts and turned to substances to shut his mind off.

City Hall illuminated as part of the 'Leave a Light On' campaign. Picture: Mark Wright.
City Hall illuminated as part of the 'Leave a Light On' campaign. Picture: Mark Wright.

“I didn’t like thinking, so I turned to drugs and, at that age, I couldn’t afford them, so I turned to criminality,” Eoin says. “I took from my family, I stole from my siblings and my parents.”

“I think my main problem was that I didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t know how to tell my parents what had happened in my life. 

"I did things I was ashamed of, things that were against the character of who I was raised to be, and that led to more drug use.

Didn't want to wake up

“Eventually, after another traumatic experience, at the age of 18, my drug use turned destructive. I took drugs to die. I hoped that I wouldn’t want to wake up. That’s when my recovery started.”

When Eoin was in his early 20s, his daughter was born. Now a teenager, she is one of the main reasons he has been clean for the past 10 years.

The start of recovery 

“I started recovery at 21, but it took a long time,” Eoin says. “Going into recovery is very scary. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. I had the support of my family, but it felt like I was on my own.

“I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I didn’t know who I was, what I liked, what my hobbies were. I had a lot of damage to repair,” Eoin says.

“I kept on relapsing. We had about six years of hell and it took years of sleepless nights to come to terms with my past, but I got clean when my daughter was five and I feel very blessed for that. 

"We have a wonderful relationship, because of my recovery.”

Eoin has become what he calls a “productive member of society”. He has re-entered education, and works with various support groups, such as the Recovery Academy, to try to give back to the community.

Stigma needs to be broken

“I started to realise that I had worth and ambition and I could achieve, which I never believed before,” Eoin says.

“It’s still hard, to this day. The pandemic was especially difficult for those in recovery, but we are resilient.

“It’s so important to break the stigma around recovery. Just because we’ve come out of addiction, it doesn’t make us bad people and we’ll continue working to remind people of that.”

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