By Cate McCurry, PA
Two women who have been living with alcohol and drug addiction for several years said their lives have been transformed by the Saol project in Dublin and the services it offers.
Saol helps around 250 women – most of whom have been in violent relationships, had a traumatic childhood or live in poverty – every year in the inner city.
The project offers a wide range of services, including education programmes, community employment workshops, domestic violence programmes and a popular singing group.
The women, who are all recovering addicts, sing to help boost their mood and confidence. Both women, who asked to remain anonymous, said the project had saved their lives.
One woman, aged in her 30s, said she had turned to Saol for help earlier this year.
“I heard about it and was inspired and decided to give it a try. I now have a routine and I have something to do. I’m very bad for overthinking and worrying about small things and that leads to me using,” she said.
“I was using crack cocaine because it was there and I could get it so easily. Every time I used it I would fall into depression, it was horrible. I wouldn’t eat or turn the heat on, it was like I was punishing myself. If I didn’t come here (Saol), I would be dead.
“I lost my partner eight years ago and then I started drinking three litres of vodka a day but I have been off the drink since 2015.
“I used heroin for many years. People then started calling to my house as somewhere to use but I have knocked that on the head. Saol showed me that I mattered and I changed my ways.
“I wanted a bit of stability and a routine because if I have too much time on my hands, I end up bored and start using. I wanted to get my life back.”
She said women who accessed Saol services were not judged or stigmatised for their addiction.
“I was being stigmatised all the time. But these services have transformed my life to the point where I now have confidence to sing in the streets, I never could do that,” she added.
“I made a speech in front of the Dublin mayor. No-one is judged here, we are all treated the same. It’s good that we are not because all through our addiction we are being judged.”
The Dublin woman said she had not used drugs since October and had secured a cleaning job. “I am happy now and I can’t remember the last time I was depressed,” she added.
“Now I can go home, do some housework and put on my dinner and not have people calling to my door. My next move is to go to college, I want to do that.”
The second Dublin woman said she had struggled with alcohol and drugs issues for years.
The grandmother was passing by a group of Saol singers when she became aware of its services.
“I was coming off street tablets and cannabis and cutting down on drink,” she said.
“I had to leave my abusive partner because I needed to get away from the drugs and get rid of him. He wasn’t helping me so I had to get a baring order.
“I had to put myself first which I hadn’t done. It’s the best thing I have ever done – it changed my life.”
After taking “baby steps”, the Dublin woman said she started to get her life back.
“I don’t shoplift anymore and am no longer in and out of hostels,” she added. “I used to have no confidence, I didn’t know maths, I had no communication skills. I enjoy doing all that now.”
Among the services provided by Saol is the Domestic Abuse Violence Is Never Acceptable (Davina) project, which helps women who have been in abusive relationships.
Both women act as “peers” to help others who have recently joined the programme.
“I have a much better relationship with my family. I never saw them when I was using,” the woman added.