Over 160 clients presented to Saoirse’s free service in Limerick city in 2016 reporting issues with alcohol, up from 143 in 2015
MARY was 14 when she had her first drink.
She can’t remember if it was wine or cider, but it went down easy. It always went down too easy.
Her youth was spent hanging around street corners, drinking, being led and leading herself astray.
Then her father died when she was 16. Her reliance on alcohol grew and grew, and deepened with every cut and scrape as she went through life.
She moved to London and lived in squats. Back in Limerick, she started slacking off work as a carer.
Her health complaints only gave rise to further addictions.
She was prescribed pain relievers by her doctor for back pain, and after a while grew addicted to them. But there was only so much she could get from her doctor.
She sourced Xanax, another prescription relaxant drug, on the streets.
‘Billy heroin,’ they call it, because the effects are similar. And she continued drinking, as much as she physically could.
“I would start off with beers on a Friday,” she told the Limerick Leader, “and I wouldn’t stop at that. I’d keep drinking and take cocaine just to keep me awake. I was just out of control.”
“I woke up in a garden one Christmas. Someone found me and I was minutes away from hypothermia.”
Thankfully, at 47, the separated mother of one found Saoirse on Davis Street.
She walked in the door one woman and has walked out quite another.
She has now not had an alcoholic drink in a year.
“It’s a miracle really. I’ve been drinking 33 years and this is the longest I’ve been without a drink. I think the staff are just phenomenal. They give you a sense that you can do this – it’s just like freedom.”
Her daughter, 16, is “thrilled” and so she should be. Saoirse’s staff and counsellors regularly meet with the families affected by the scourge of alcoholism, and have seen the devastation it can cause within the home.
“She says she’s so proud of me. She completely trusts me that I’m not going to drink. She knew before when I put a drink to my lips that I was gone for days. While I was physically there in the house with her, mentally I was gone. Thank God that’s all gone.
“I’ve woken up to a lot of things. I find it great getting through each day and a drink doesn’t enter my head. I find it amazing the past year.”
“Before, I was the type that nothing could frighten me. Since coming here, that was the turning point.”
Saoirse was recommended by a probation officer in relation to one legal issue, with some 42% of its clients reporting having a range of legal issues, and she embarked on their six-week recovery programme.
“I’m delighted I came. I put it out there to friends that I’m going here.”
She will remain in their after-care programme for two years. Now the time has come to give herself the belated care she always deserved.
Saoirse, 18 Davis Street, is open 9am to 5pm. Call 085 818 4590
- See the weekend editions of the Limerick Leader for a two page news feature on addiction in Limerick