Addicts told 'help is available'


An event being held in Croke Park today is being billed by organisers as the biggest celebration of recovery from addiction held in Ireland.

The event - titled A Celebration of Recovery - is part of Traveller Pride Week 2012 but is also open to those outside the Traveller community.

It is supported by the Pavee Point Drugs Programme, Coolmine Therapeutic Community and the Gaelic Athletic Association ASAP programme.

Pavee Point co-director Martin Collins told attendees there was help available: “Regardless of the nature of your addiction, whether it’s gambling, alcohol, illicit drug use, prescription drug use, tobacco, food etc, is that there is a way back.

“Even with feelings of despair, powerless, hopelessness set in, with the right support people can make a full recovery and lead full and productive lives,” he said.

Thomas Joyce, who spoke at today’s event and who is now a peer support worker for other Travellers with addiction, was addicted to alcohol and drugs. Having first started drinking at the age of 13 and finally sought help three years ago.

He now supports other Travellers who suffer addiction: “It’s very hard for Travellers to admit to this thing because of all the guilt and the shame that’s attached to it. They don’t want to bring shame on their families and the other people that’s around them”.

“I used to drink to give myself confidence because I hadn’t the confidence or the belief I have in myself today.

“My advice to anyone like that would be just to put their hand out for help. There’s many places they can go to get the help, to meet the right people to put them on the right road,” he said.

Siobhán Cafferty, co-ordinator of the Pavee Point drugs programme and organiser of the event, said the day was about “acknowledging the journey and the hard work and the inner strength” of those who had come through addiction.

However, she said it was also about highlighting to those suffering addiction or those who are still in recovery “that they can do it”.

“Having role models, showing people that it can be done...the alternatives to addictive behaviour which is what all the workshops are about - that’s what today is about.”

Ms Cafferty noted between 2007 and 2010 the National Drug Treatment Reporting System saw a rise of 163 per cent in the number of Travellers accessing services.

The first speaker was former Armagh footballer Oisín McConville who was interviewed by broadcaster Matt Cooper about his gambling addiction.