'Since I started here, it's really turned my life around': Cork man says job has helped him revive his life

Revive Me Car Wash and Valet celebrates its six-month anniversary this Friday. Donal O’Keeffe visited the company that offers a second chance to employees in recovery.
'Since I started here, it's really turned my life around': Cork man says job has helped him revive his life

Nicole Long, manager of Revive Me Car Wash and Valeting, with employee Seán Quinn at the Marina Commercial Park. Pic: Gavin Browne

“SINCE I started here, it’s really turned my life around, and I really enjoy this job, even the hard days when you get the bad cars, I still love it,” says Seán Quinn, who has worked with Revive Me Car Wash and Valet since the company opened, six months ago this Friday.

When Seán began, he had been in recovery for two years, and he says he is looking forward to his third anniversary in July.

Seán is 32 now, and he says he had addiction problems since his early teens, and they spiralled out of control in his early twenties when his drug use left him homeless and cut off from his family.

He says his relationship with his partner went downhill, but she always allowed him to see their young daughter, and they are back together now, in a new home. Their daughter is 10 now, and they have a two-year-old son. He says it was the news that he was going to be a father again which spurred him to finally get clean.

“I found out that my partner was having our second child, and I just knew that it was all going to repeat everything over again because I was there from the start with my daughter, and when she was two, that’s when I went downhill, and I went on then till she was nearly seven.

“I didn’t want to make the same mistakes with my young fella,” he says.

“I was so burnt out from my addiction, and I could see all the same things happening again, even after I had got an apartment, I could slowly see myself going back to the way it was.”

The track to recovery 

He credits the Simon Community for putting him on the track to recovery, and he says he was fortunate to have opportunities at a time when he really wanted to get out of addiction.

“I just reached out and asked for help and when it was offered, I just took it.” The Simon Community put him in touch with a drug counsellor, and he began to understand the triggers for his addictive behaviour.

“The more I started to realise stuff, the more I was able to manage situations. It was mainly just breaking away from people [who were in addiction] because even when I did want to turn my life around, I still had those people around me, and it was always a slippery slope straight back down.

“This time around, I just had to cut out of my life anyone who had anything to do with drugs or anything to do with that life,” he says.

Nicole Long, manager of Revive Me Car Wash and Valeting with employee Seán Quinn at the Marina Commercial Park. Pic: Gavin Browne
Nicole Long, manager of Revive Me Car Wash and Valeting with employee Seán Quinn at the Marina Commercial Park. Pic: Gavin Browne

“I had been in and out of prison a good few times. It was mainly just thefts and stuff like that, to feed my habit, nothing big or serious, but if I hadn’t sought help, I knew it was leading back up to it again.”

We’re chatting at Seán’s workplace, Revive Me Car Wash and Valet (come into the Marina Commercial Park, turn right at the office furniture warehouse, straight on and right again) and Seán is taking a break while his boss, Nicole Long, finishes cleaning a family car. It is gleaming, and despite the decade-old reg, it looks like a showroom model.

“You should have seen this before it came in,” Nicole says with a laugh. “There were cauliflowers growing in it, the roof was covered in moss, and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.”

A mini-valet is €35, she says, and that covers pretty much everything bar the shampooing of the seats.

Nicole and Seán have an easy rapport, and she says they always have “a good old skit” at work.

Seán says that, despite completing several training courses, his past convictions made it difficult for him to gain employment. “You’d be asked about the garda clearance and you’d know straight away you’re not getting the phone call back.”

The Simon Community asked him if he would apply for a job with a company which was giving a chance to people in recovery, and he discovered he knew Nicole’s husband, Timmy (one half of the Two Norries podcast). A recovering addict and a former convict himself, Timmy Long had founded construction company Revive Me, and its car wash sister company, when he found it impossible to get work, and now gives employment to five people.

A life-changing role 

Seán says the job has changed his life.

“I was nervous the first few days but when I got into it, it really helped my head, it got me into a good routine and a bit of structure, and I could see after a while that my family was starting to trust me a bit more, because they could see I had changed things that I hadn’t changed before.”

He says working with other people who are in recovery has been very helpful to him, and being in work has done wonders for his own self-confidence.

“I used to find it a lot when I was at home, I used to be stuck up in my own head, I used to be overthinking things way too much. Not even about drugs or anything, but in situations around people, I’d be very quiet because I’d be thinking they might be still thinking that I’m still up to things.”

He says he found recovery very difficult at first, and lonely.

“At the start, I had cut myself off from everyone, and it didn’t help that I was living inside in town and that’s mainly where my addiction was based, around the city. There were constant reminders every day, and all I was doing was being inside the apartment, bringing the child to school, coming back, trying to stay inside as much as I could,” he says.

“Working here, now, is brilliant. It’s the first job I’ve had where I want to do it, whereas before, in other jobs, I used to be in it for the pay cheque, or checking the clock every two minutes to see is it closer to the time to go home.”

Seán’s immediate plans for the future involve getting a driving licence and buying a car, and he feels positive about life.

“All my other goals, they kind of fell through the last few times. But now I’m living out of town now, and I’m delighted with my house. I’m back talking to all my family as well, so I’ve come around full circle,” he says.

Seán believes he would still be unemployed if not for Nicole and Timmy Long giving him a chance in Revive Me, and he says he is hugely grateful to them.

“It feels so good to have the responsibility of opening up here on a morning, and I find the customers here are so brilliant, and you can see that they genuinely trust you. Even small things like that can make you feel so much better about yourself,” he says.

“Being able to interact with people has added into my confidence, and I’m not second-guessing myself, or thinking I’m the same person I was.”

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