I always felt ashamed that I was in addiction, like women shouldn’t carry on like that. To be seen hanging around on the streets and taking drugs, it just wasn’t right, and I felt like everyone was judging me for being a woman and getting myself into that position. I tried to hide it and to cover it, and I wouldn’t ask for help or anything because my thinking was that I shouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place, do you know? I ended up hurting myself more.
I always felt ashamed that I was in addiction, like women shouldn’t carry on like that.
There’s a saying “I’m not in recovery, I’m in discovery,” and I think that’s bang on. You have to go back to the start, to figure out what happened to you and why, in order to begin healing. I don’t even know how I found out about spray cans and nail varnish and stuff, but I started on them when I was eight or nine. My mother would find me passed out on the floor. I’d pass out every time and I wouldn’t even remember doing it. That carried on for a long time. When I was thirteen, I was smoking hash with a group of other kids, and I got panicky from it. One of the lads gave me a couple of benzos to calm me down. They took the paranoia away, they made me feel calm. That was it then. I loved them after that. Tablets were always my drug of choice because they were what would stop my head from spinning.
The house my family was in was unliveable. When my brothers were around, they’d be roaring, out of their heads on drugs, bringing people in. I was so out of it I didn’t care what was going on, do you know what I mean? I didn’t know there was anything really wrong. By the time I was sixteen, my parents weren’t in my life and myself and my brothers had to fend for ourselves. But a lot of stuff happened to me around that time, where I needed my mother. I needed that support, and it wasn’t there. Yeah, there was stuff happening, and I was self-harming a lot. I’ve got tattoos to cover the scars now. I managed to stay in school till fifth year, trying to pretend like nothing was wrong, but I’d be out of my head. The teachers didn’t know what to do with me. They knew I was out of it, but they couldn’t prove it.
But a lot of stuff happened to me around that time, where I needed support, and it wasn’t there.
After I left, I done FÁS for three years or so, but I was out of my head then too. I found out later that there were a couple of girls who were in recovery themselves, who used to sit with me, and look after me, make sure I got home okay. I didn’t realise that’s what was happening at the time. I thought everybody was on the same buzz I was. I tried to cover up what I was doing by taking courses, trying to get an education to cover up the fact that I was suffering inside. I’d try to make everything look perfect on the outside but lying all the time was killing me on the inside. You’re constantly lying, and telling more lies to cover those, and so every time you lie there’s 101 stories going on top of that, and then there’s the guilt of lying. Waking up every day was a nightmare. I had a problem with alcohol, but tablets overtook that, and things started to get worse. That’s when I realised, ‘Marianne, you have got to do something.’ I was about twenty-six by that time. Bad things used to happen when I lost control, and that was kind of in the back of my head as well. ‘This little grip of control that you have left is going to go if you don’t do something.’
‘Marianne, this little grip of control that you have left is going to go if you don’t do something.’
Addiction was common in my family. Out of myself and my five siblings, four of us struggle with addiction. My younger brother and sister don’t, because my mother took them out of the town where we grew up. I look at them now, and I think when I was their age, I was in trouble with Guards, passing out on the road and not knowing what I done the next day, waking up in cells, in mental hospitals. They’ve had totally different lives. You wouldn’t think that we were the same family. But I suppose they grew up with us telling them never to go down that road, you know? I didn’t have that. Even though I couldn’t find a way out myself at the time, I didn’t want them following me into that life. It’s dangerous to try and detox from benzos on your own, much more dangerous than heroin, but I didn’t know the right way to go about getting help. I resisted treatment for a long time, but I’d heard about Merchants Quay and St. Francis Farm and eventually, I knew I needed help, because it wasn’t just the drugs, it was my head. The mental health side of things had gotten so bad. I was ashamed of what I’d done and who I’d become. When I went to treatment, I only told my close family. I’d tried to hide what I was doing my whole life, so it was difficult to admit how bad it had got. While I was in addiction, I’d a friend who I’d grown up with who was also in addiction, and even then, we’d never admit it to each other, we’d only talk about what we’d quit, “Oh I’m clean from that now,” even though we’d be on other drugs. The two of us were looking at each other suffering, but we’d never say it. And that’s the isolation of addiction: even if you’re around people, you’re still on your own, because you’re suffering in silence.
In treatment, I had trouble talking in groups though because of what was drilled into me as a child, about being a woman and how I shouldn’t act in such-and-such a way, so I didn’t want to say certain things in front of the men in the group. They were lovely, but I just felt “I shouldn’t be saying this out loud.” I do think women should have the option of an all-female service, and one where you could bring kids in, because that would make a big difference, and it would mean a lot more women seeking help.
I do think women should have the option of an all-female service. That would make a big difference, and it would mean a lot more women seeking help.
It was difficult coming to terms with the fact that I didn’t want to be the person I was. I used to say to my counsellor, “I don’t want to be who I am, but I don’t want to lose who I am, either.” And when I left treatment, I thought everyone was looking at me like “she just done treatment, she’s a scumbag.” I felt like there was a sign up over my head saying where I’d come from, who I’d been. And I’ve been so scared of relapsing because it does happen, but it’s been about finding a balance, finding a way to reconcile who I was with who I am now. Staying present, checking in with myself. Getting into recovery with Merchants Quay has changed my life, but it’s also changed my family’s life. I get to see how well my younger brother and sister are because they left the environment they were in. They’re not constantly on edge wondering if the Guards are going to kick in the door, or if the boys are going to come back, out of their head, or if there’s going to be parties, or if they’re going to find their sister in the bedroom or the bathroom with blood flowing out of her arms, trying to kill herself… They got to grow up in a different environment. I’m coming to terms with my life. There are still things I’m ashamed of, things that make me cringe to think about, but I have to remember it wasn’t all my fault, and all the time I’ve been carrying other people’s shame as well as my own. Those of us who have gone through Merchants Quay, we are lucky. We get to start our life again, you know? We can choose our path. Anything is possible.
At the moment, I’m over two years drug free. There’s a huge difference between then and now. I still struggle every day, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be, you know? I don’t want to kill myself when I wake up in the morning. I don’t want to make myself go to sleep at night just to stop my head spinning. But there’s still challenges, like it is still tough. Recovery is something you have to fight for every day, yeah. Every minute of every day.