Former drug addict helping others in Cork get their lives back on track

Tommy remains humble as he continues to hold down a full-time job while coordinating recovery meetings three times a week.
Former drug addict helping others in Cork get their lives back on track

File image of Tommy Long at the addiction meetings at Cork Penny Dinners centre. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A FORMER drug addict has managed to help a number of people turn their lives around through chance encounters after they sought warmth at a soup kitchen and discovered his recovery meetings.

Tommy Long from Knocknaheeny has been clean from drugs for the last three years and eight months. However, he said that the only way he can hold on to his recovery is by “giving it back.”

This was his motivation for starting recovery meetings at Cork Penny Dinners — where he volunteered — which have been going from strength to strength since they started three years ago.

Mr Long said the meetings are just as important for his own recovery as they are for others.

The Cork man had spent years in prison before realising his potential and using it to help others.

Head of Cork Penny Dinners, Caitríona Twomey was extremely supportive after Tommy suggested the idea of in-house recovery meetings to her.

He went from volunteering at the facility to becoming the brainchild behind its locally renowned support group. Nonetheless, Tommy remains humble as he continues to hold down a full-time job while coordinating recovery meetings three times a week.

Some of the people Tommy helped were homeless, attending meetings purely to keep warm.

Tommy recalled a number being broken and under the influence. Miraculously, they still managed to absorb his powerful message which eventually brought them back from the brink.

Tommy said he often sees himself in many of the service users. “I can remember hearing people talk and asking ‘are they talking about me?’ It was as if they were telling my own story.

“When I see people doing well and getting their lives back it’s powerful. It gives me motivation. That’s how I stay clean.”

He described the transformations he has witnessed during their time running the meetings.

“When I first started the meetings it was winter and the nights were very cold,” he said. “There were homeless people walking in who would have people pass them by without a look or word during the day.

“Some would come in under the influence and go back to using on the streets when the meeting was over. Even if they were under the influence, we still allowed them to talk.

“It was tough because they would often forget what they were trying to say but it worked.

“I’ll never forget seeing one of these men six months after the meeting. He was clean and looked as healthy as a horse. It blew me away to know he had changed his life just from a meeting.”

Each visitor to the meeting is approached with a non-judgmental attitude.

“People come in for drink, drugs, gambling, and all kinds of addictions. Some have done worse than others but I’ve never judged. They come in broken and fed up of life.

“Even if they are drunk or under the influence of drugs their subconscious will absorb one message that can have the potential to change their life.

“No matter what condition they are in, the important thing is that they are at the meetings and want to make a change in their life.

“The majority of addicts are lovely people. That’s the truth of it. However, the substance turns us into people we are far from.

“The only way I can keep my own recovery is by giving it back which is why I’m trying to help as many people as possible.”

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