Addiction is a cunning enemy of life and the veils of fear and secrecy that surround it are undoubtedly its greatest weapons. Such is its prevalence in our society that most people have been touched in one form or another; drugs, alcohol, gambling – the disease uses many shapes to manifest its ugly form. In addition there are the behavioural issues – theft, crime and anti-social behaviour.
Once caught in the web of addiction, the addict finds themselves in a downward spiral where life loses control and eventually all meaning. The Longford Leader recently spoke to two recovering drug addicts who have broken this cycle and were willing to recount their experience of drug use in the county.
According to one of them, it was the opening of a new venue in Longford, at one time, that led to an explosion in drug usage locally.
“ Hash was always around but that was the boom for ecstasy and speed in Longford. It was then that the real party began in the town,” said John, not his real name.
He added: “Like a lot of people it was an every weekend thing for me. There would be people on the streets after the niteclub – all off their faces. The drinking too was there. The pub was always a huge thing, even as a child I remember Sunday afternoons in the pub after football games.”
A native of County Longford, John finished school and like many of his contemporaries he emigrated.
“I brought the drinking and the drugs with me. Especially the coke. I just wanted to stay up – I was always on the chase for that buzz. Would you believe though that I didn’t hear about heroin until I came back home?
“I was at a party one night and it was being offered – it was a dud and thank God I didn’t take it. The two other lads who were with me did. One is dead and the other is hooked.”
In 2009 John found a recovery programme.
“I was completely beat. I couldn’t take anymore. I had lost touch with reality – there was depression, suicidal thoughts, fear, panic attacks. It was complete mental torture. I had to ask for help and thank God that help was there for me.”
He continued: “I thought that I couldn’t give up in the beginning. I couldn’t understand how I could live without some kind of fix. Today I’m sober and everything that I wanted in my drinking days I have in sobriety.”
Brian (not his real name), a father, is a recovering addict living and rearing his family in county Longford. He feels that the recovery process is about working on it day by day.
“It is about keeping it in the day for me. It’s the emotional stuff that we really have to work on. It’s deeper than just the substances we use.
“I look back and I realise now that life could have been so much different if I could have expressed my emotions. The root of it (addiction) is misery. Your mental health, your emotional self, they all suffer. Dreams will and do die. You embrace everything that is not good in humanity.”
Like most parents in the county, Brian would like to see his children growing up in a safer Longford.
“When my children get to a certain age, yes, I will give them an understanding of addiction and where it can bring them,” he said.
Looking at Longford today, both men agree that the county has a significant drugs problem.
“Longford is scary today. The amount of denial that’s going on is unreal. There are kids dying from heroin. You can see them walking in the street – they are like corpses. All I can say is that there are support groups there for addicts,” said John.
Brian added: “Not enough is being done and you can see that when you see the number of people in recovery – there are so few of us.”