Finally making the decision to enter treatment might feel daunting, and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous and overwhelmed at first. Hearing other people’s experiences can help put your mind at ease, and offer you the reassurance you need, as you begin your journey to a life free from addiction.
Below are some inspiring real-life stories from people who have achieved addiction recovery at Smarmore Castle, Ireland.
Anonymous Resident at Smarmore, July 2021
“Nobody arrives at Smarmore with their bags beautifully packed, and a big smile on their face. All of us taking this momentous step come from different backgrounds, but we share the same sense that we have lost control of a part of our lives. We are broken.
And that is why, at our most vulnerable, the welcome we receive from the staff is so important. The support and understanding afforded to each and every person that enters treatment at Smarmore is, in my experience, second to none.
In the years preceding my arrival at Smarmore I had attended other treatment centres, in an effort to achieve a solid recovery. I immediately sensed that this place was different. There was an air of professionalism that I simply had not come across before. I was treated with dignity and respect at all times, my needs as a client were always paramount.
Smarmore somehow strikes the right balance between intense and productive group and individual therapy and downtime spent in the gym, the swimming pool or hanging out with the beautiful horses. There is a sensible recognition that clients need time to unwind and to feel ‘normal’ while in treatment.
The beauty of the surroundings acted as a balm to my anxious mind. The accommodation was the most modern and comfortable that I had come across in a rehabilitation centre.
But what ultimately sets Smarmore apart is the prioritising of individual therapy. Twice weekly pre-arranged appointments with my appointed therapist in her office. It was where I uncovered much that I needed to learn.
Smarmore will always have a special place in my world. It afforded me a nurturing and safe place to re-build the foundation of my life.”
Jennifer’s Recovery Story
In an article in the Irish Independent Jennifer McKernan describes herself as a “functioning alcoholic” who suffered from alcoholism for 16 years. She came from Castleknock, Dublin, a good area, a good family and she went to private school. Her mother also warned her as a child that alcoholism ran in the family but she believes that it was being a “people pleaser” and developing anxiety and paranoia in social situations that triggered her drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism. Working in a bar she found that alcohol was always nearby and part of her life and it was hard to ignore it.
Despite alcohol leading to the breakdown of an important relationship and numerous visits to the emergency room at the hospital, she couldn’t stop drinking.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different reaction. You think, ‘this time is going to be different, this time I’ll drink like a lady.”
In her story, she talks about the moment she broke down and contemplated dying, she describes herself as a “shell of a human being”. Like Jennifer, many people use alcohol as a crutch to help them cope with social situations and deal with anxieties. However, relying on substances in this way can quickly lead to alcohol dependence and addiction.
After spending years feeling completely trapped by her illness, Jennifer finally found recovery at Smarmore Castle. This is when she realised that she blamed everyone except for herself for her alcoholism, being in rehab at Smarmore Castle allowed her to properly examine the raw feelings she had been ignoring and develop new coping skills that would stay with her after she left:
“Two weeks ago I had a really bad week where I was trying to control everything. That’s what addicts do. You want to control everything from the person driving in front of you to the weather.
Now she copes with bad days by staying sober and kneeling for a five-minute meditation when things are tough. She writes an inventory every night about the negative things that happened that day, and then she begins the next day afresh.
Jennifer explains that her biggest regret is not seeking help sooner. Her story highlights just how easily someone can fall victim to substance misuse and how quickly it can consume your life but that hope and help are there if you reach out.
Read more about Jennifer’s journey to sobriety.
Lauren’s Recovery Story
Lauren Higgens had been battling serious mental health problems since the age of 12, only to be prescribed medication with no real diagnosis. These unresolved issues ultimately contributed to her heroin addiction, and for six years Lauren found herself stuck in the endless cycle of substance abuse. Having been let down by trust services, and unable to access suitable and available rehabilitation, Lauren suffered a major heroin overdose before being moved into intensive care.
Lauren’s devastated family feared she would die, and getting her to treatment was a matter of life or death. After entering Smarmore, Lauren was getting the help she needed for the first time. With her grandparents covering much of the cost, Laura’s family turned to social media to raise the remaining funds. Friends, family, and the community pulled together to raise the money she needed to continue her treatment.
Read more about Lauren’s journey at Smarmore Castle and the article in Belfast Live.
Reflection of Recovery
A former patient at Smarmore Castle reflects on her battle with addiction and how she came to seek help at our clinic. After spending many lonely years in active addiction, she never imagined recovery would be possible.
This patient, like many others, believed that abstinence meant her life was over. However, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Once she began working with us to overcome her addiction, she realised her life was only just beginning. This story is one of hope and encouragement for anyone who is still scared of the idea of living a life without substances.
Read more about how Smarmore Castle helped this patient turn her life around.
Phil’s Recovery Story
By the age of 15, Phil Grant was already suffering from alcoholism. Following the devastating loss of his father, his substance misuse continued to spiral out of control, and his life was soon consumed by drink and drugs. Although he continued to drink for many years, Phil would attend 12-Step meetings, enjoying the connections he made during his time there. It was only after yet another visit to the psychiatric hospital that Phil had a moment of clarity, which finally led to him rebuilding his life.
Phil went on to become a qualified addiction counsellor at Smarmore Castle, believing that his own experience with substance misuse could offer hope to those still suffering.
Read more about Phil’s recovery journey in the Irish Independent, and how he came to be at Smarmore Castle.
Anthony’s Recovery Story
Anthony began experimenting with drugs at age 11 and recalls always feeling fearful and alone as a child. Using drugs helped him deal with these anxieties. His insecurities and feelings of failure only intensified as he grew older, which led him to experiment with cannabis and alcohol. However, this was only a temporary solution, which found him needing more drugs to keep his uncomfortable feelings at bay.
By this stage, Anthony’s parents had separated, and his mother put him under the care of the state for a while, only to find that when he returned home at 16, his drug use was worse than ever. Anthony decided to leave home and lived on the streets, which is where he first tried heroin. He would come to be trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction, unsuccessfully attempting to beat heroin addiction through community methadone programmes.
Anthony describes his rock bottom as ‘having trap doors’. He attempted to get clean and sober a number of times in the next few years but would relapse continuously. It was only during his second time at Smarmore Castle that Anthony truly found recovery. He now works as a recovery advocate at Smarmore and dedicates his time to helping others overcome addiction.
Read more about Anthony’s recovery journey in the Irish Independent.
Last updated & clinically assessed 24 September, 2021