I’m from Swords in Dublin. My addiction started from my early teens. It didn’t start off too heavy, just regular things – partying, smoking weed. When you are young, you like to try things and I tried a lot, but I didn’t leave it at that.
Drugs are everywhere you go now. It doesn’t matter if you are in Greystones, Dalkey or Ballymun. It’s all there. There wasn’t much avoiding it.
I went on to abuse drugs for years. Mainly I lived at home, but times come, and you get kicked out of the house for doing stupid stuff. You come back and you go again, you come back and you go again. I did that until I was 24.
I was broken, you know. Physically and mentally, I was destroyed. You have drug bills, you have no one talking to you, you are on your own. Towards the end of the addiction, I had nothing.
You feel like you don’t want to go on any more, you completely give up on yourself, which I did. I thought, this is what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life, so what’s the point? When you don’t really care whether you live or you die, that’s a bad place.
Greystones would be a very well-off area, and to have a rehabilitation transition house bang-smack in the middle of the place wouldn’t have gone down well with some people
I met a guy who was in my mam’s church. She basically asked this guy to come and speak to me. To this day, I don’t know how I agreed to it. He spoke to me about Tiglin. He just kept saying, this is your golden ticket here, if you want out, this is it. I just said, yeah, I want it.
I was six months ringing in every day, Monday to Saturday trying to get a bed, and eventually I did. Then when they said I had a place, I didn’t want to go. I was anxious because this was my first time trying to fix this. But I went, and that was 2½ years ago.
You do nine months residential in Ashford and then you move to Greystones and do a seven-month day programme. I don’t know how I got through it. There is no running from things there, no taking drugs to suppress your feelings, to hide from things, to duck and dive. It’s there in front of you, and you have to either take it or walk away, and I wasn’t walking away.
When I moved to Greystones, I was still doing my groups every day. They were talking about opening up a cafe, and a few of us put our names forward. I’d never done anything like that before. We started off training as baristas and after a couple of weeks, Rise at the Cove opened its doors.
My day starts at 6.30am. The cafe is in full swing, jammed with sea swimmers by 7.30am. They are all coming up from the beach. We have such a regular clientele, the same customers every day simply because they love the cafe, and they also love the people who work there.
The cafe was about breaking the stigma in the community we lived in as well. Greystones would be a very well-off area, and to have a rehabilitation transition house bang-smack in the middle of the place wouldn’t have gone down well with some people.
They didn’t understand what Tiglin was all about. They would have seen the big blue house and just thought, that’s where the recovering addicts are. They might have had the perception that we could rob them, you wouldn’t know. And when you are caught up in that sort of stuff, that’s probably what you would have done.
But when we opened the cafe, people really took to it. They get to know you for who you really are. It allows us to explain what Tiglin does for people. It’s more than a treatment centre; it has given everyone their lives back.
We get all sorts of orders. We do a lot of dairy-free alternatives – that seems to be the norm now. We get a lot looking for rice milk or almond milk – you’d know you were in Greystones. For myself – you are going to laugh – it’s an oat milk cortado, very posh. They are rubbing off on me.
You’d be surprised the number of customers that come through the door and they would be asking about a family member, what should they do about a situation. Maybe they feel they can talk to me about it.
I had no plan or purpose in life. I was just existing. But now I have a plan and I have a purpose and I have a vision and that’s enough for me
I love coffee, I really love it. Before I never would have looked after myself, there was no self-care. I wouldn’t have gone out with a friend to have a coffee or a chat, that wasn’t something I used to do. Now it’s different. I would go out and meet up with friends and have a coffee and do normal things that normal people should be doing.
This is the first job that I’ve ever had that I really enjoy. I had plenty of jobs that you would dread going near, but the people I work with and the friends here, I look forward to going to work. I’m a supervisor in the cafe now. I run shifts on my own, I train other staff and I’m the assistant manager. I’ve been shown the ins and outs of the whole business. I’m studying for a Level 7 qualification in mental health, and I’m starting a diploma in business management in September.
I have a normal life now that I’m genuinely happy with. I remember years ago, I’d be looking out the window and seeing people going by and just think to myself, Why can’t I be like them – be normal? I had no plan or purpose in life. I was just existing. But now I have a plan and I have a purpose and I have a vision and that’s enough for me.
To have peace of mind, a roof over your head and be happy, no amount of drugs or money could buy that. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
In conversation with Joanne Hunt