I was very irritated when I woke up this morning. Yesterday Siyana told me she had gone through my Facebook messages and she was convinced I had been having some relationship with someone else. I wasn’t. The person she thought I was having this relationship was a friend of mine. She then basically said we couldn’t be together. I felt like well in that case what’s the point of me being in here. But the thing was, I wasn’t doing the program for me, I was doing it to get back together with my ex. And that was for the wrong reason. I’d have to sit down and consider why I’m here.

This morning for our group meeting, the questions on the board were: Is it becoming clear to you that recovery cannot be hurried? Have you made a choice to give yourself all the time you need here? Have you surrendered and decided to let go and let God?

I hadn’t totally surrendered my free will over to God, although that wouldn’t be a bad idea, my own free will having gotten me here.

The counsellor then asked us questions as we read out our answers, trying to draw more out of us. The format was the same as the previous counsellor. He made some good points and said some things that made me stop and think. “The future doesn’t exist,” he said, “all we have is the present, this day, and it’s up to us what we are doing in the present.”

In the restaurant today, C was in charge, who was much more laid back than L, and this was a relief. It’s bad enough being here and having to deal with your own thoughts and the place itself, then on top of that be continuously told to do this-do that for 5 hours a day, when you’re volunteering in the place anyway. It was quiet enough apart from the usual lunchtime rush. The good thing about being busy is that it stops you thinking. Action is the enemy of thought. But all action wasn’t the answer either. I did like time to think and reflect, sit and read and mull over things that were outside of me, ideas and things. It was just when my own self doubts and feelings of worthlessness came avalaunching in on top of me that I started to go crazy.

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That evening we had our AA meeting. The chair, like the last one, had an interesting story and spoke well. Jim, a middle-aged taxi driver from Dublin, said a lot that resonated with me. When he was drinking he said, he couldn’t have cared less about anybody. Not even his family who he loved. Strange what drinking does to a person’s mind. I’m the same. Everybody I love doesn’t matter when I’m drinking. And i used to struggle with this and for years my mother used to say, my drink was just a character problem I had, a moral weakness. I used to believe that and it just made me feel alot worse again. Today I don’t believe that. Drink is like an allergy for my brain. It is so powerful a chemical to me that it literally makes taking more of it the only thing that I want, a thing that I will put before anyone and anything. And that is terrible. I don’t want to drink but craftily my brain tricks me into thinking this time will be different, this time just enjoy a few sociable drinks and go home. But the reality is it never plays out that way. So I decide to stop drinking. But I can’t. I keep forgetting about the damage it has caused and again I find myself picking up that first drink. The battle is lost again. The problem for me was, I never had any defense against that first drink. I never went to AA. I tried counselling, and this did help for awhile. But inevitably I#d find myself drinking again. I never had a program.

But the positive thing was that I found myself liking these AA meetings in there, which were compulsory. This was what i needed. “I have a chance now,” I heard myself saying. I have a fighting chance to beat drink if I can keep coming here and listening, sharing. And in fairness it has worked for maybe millions of people. Why not me? And I remember thinking on the way out of the meeting, I can learn the tools here. I can beat this thing. It was the first time I had genuinely ever had these thoughts. Before, I could never not see myself drinking. I could never envisage stopping. Now I was starting to. One day at a time this can be done.



This morning was pretty much a replay of yesterday morning: struggled up at seven, missed breakfast, into meditation, meeting, then over to work in the restaurant until three.

When I went over to work, Neil my room-mate was there. I thought he had the day off – as we both worked there – but it was nice to see him there working; the day would be more fun at least. It was busy and the work was finished in what seemed like a flash of the eye. We then had to run over for our 3 o clock meeting, the continuation from the 8 o clock meeting.

The questions on the board this afternoon were: Is it beginning to come to you that you have been living in a world of non reality? What has this been like for you? Have you ever tried to free yourself before from this way of life? What prevented you from becoming free in the past?

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Hard hitting stuff! We alcoholics are masters of lies and duplicity so yes we are living in a world of non reality to some degree or other. Some of the guys in the group had difficulty answering these questions. Yes the questions were nosey and yes they were presumptive and bold. Either the guys couldn’t accept they were alcoholics or they couldn’t get honest enough with themselves to dig deep for answers. To tell someone they have been living in non reality could be construed as offensive I guess. But I had kicked my ego out the door when I got here and i was willing to knuckle down and do the program. Anything so I wouldn’t go through the pain of where alcohol had brought me the last few times i drank. I’d just had enough.

It had taken everything and the binges now just got so bad, I had literally burned every bridge and any sort of joy I used to get from it. Even the first drink now would cause such a tremendous feeling of guilt, as I had been trying to give it up for the past year, falling off the wagon every few months, with disastrous results. My partner had kicked me out – and it was a very loving relationship when i was sober – my job was gone, and I had been staying in a hostel as I had nowhere to live, family were just exhausted with me at this stage I had fucked up so many times, so it was actually pointless even to reach out to them. Same with friends, I didn’t have any anymore. This was the lowest point I had reached, it was a new low. So coming in here was the only option for me.

The answers to the questions came very easily to me, because I have analyzed this stuff before, plus I’m good at getting my thoughts onto paper.

After the 5 o clock mass I called Siyana. It as a bad conversation because I brought up money. I asked her how much she transferred to my account and she got sore about it. She told me she was €150 short on her rent as she had to book flights to Bulgaria.I told her to be more care ful with the money, then she got real argumentative…oww. I guess I should have kept my mouth shut…God the way i used to waste money on benders was capitally sinful. She said she didn’t want to talk anymore and hung up. I went back to my room in a shite humour.

I was sitting in bed reading my book, lost in my own world, when the security guy came in and flashed his torch, despite the lights being on in the room, “Rosary has started,” he said. So i got up and went into rosary.

I went back to my room after and shaved. Then I went down the hall to the phones.The phone wasn’t taking the coins so I couldn’t call. Just as I turned the phone started ringing. I picked it up and it was Siyana. Lucky coincidence.

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We had a more amicable conversation this time.She vented about the money thing and how she’s independent. I agreed. She said 12 weeks wouldn’t change me, “I can tell from listening to you that you have changed.”

“I’m only here a wet week,” I said. “I’m here to change.”

I needed her. I need her I mean. I need these phonecalls is what I’m saying. I need to hear her voice everyday. I told her this. She said a lot of stuff then. Things that were on her mind. How she just wants to be happy with what she is doing now.

“We have to live in the present,” I said. “Stop comparing it to the past or to someone else’s life, or how you think it should be now.”

Then she said she wanted a baby, that she wanted to be a mother. She said I wasn’t ready to be a father.

I changed the subject and eventually we were in agreement over something. It gave me the peace I needed to go to bed with.



After breakfast I fell asleep in the meditation. Meditation is compulsory and lasts for about 45 mins. Everyone sits down in the main hall together trying to meditate between constant coughing, throat clearing and shuffling sounds, as some soft music comes weakly from the speakers. It’s pointless really. So I fall asleep sometimes.

The group meeting was after that. We wrote down answers to a list of questions the counsellor put up on the board. “Explain what it was like for you to live in the blindness of addiction?” “Can you see that you were living a double live?” “Describe how you lived in illusion and fantasy?” “How complicated did this make your life?”



These questions were easy to answer. I became honest with myself. While in addiction, I did live a double life. I always tried to hide my drinking to family and often lied about where I had been or where i was going. In work people knew more about what was going on with me than my family. I tried to keep the veneer of normalcy (i guess) going but the veil had slipped off a good time ago and I was the only one who still thought I was wearing it. It was my late teens and early twenties and the level of drinking and partying was insane. I would often go drinking to bars on my own the following morning of a party while everyone else would be dying of hangovers. I would continue drinking to cure any hangover and keep going right into the night and next day. I would bump into perfect strangers in bars and end up talking with them for hours on end, bar hopping, doing drugs, whatever…Madness. It seemed fun at the time and it was all new for me. Luxuriating in that drunkenness was bliss at the time. For a moment I felt centered, like this was how I was supposed to feel, cause most of the time sober I felt shit. I felt nervous and everything seemed difficult. I was always slow to catch onto things and often awkward and shy around people, not knowing what I should be saying. But with alcohol all that stuff vanished. I spoke with the confidence of a parliamentarian. It was confidence and oblivion: the pill to everything that was missing in me. It made me whole, just for that short time. It made me feel at peace. I knew drinking like this was not good. Alcoholism was in my family and it affected us all. I was guilty but at the same time It stopped my overwhelming rush of thoughts, fears and doubts that would wash over me everyday from the moment I woke up in the morning. It was the answer to my prayers. At least so I thought.

Mark, our counsellor, was getting us to read out the answers. Then he’d probe us with questions, like an interrogator, to see how we held up. Why do you think you did that? Are you a people pleaser? What do you think gives you the right to think other people should like you?

Most of us found it difficult to answer these auxiliary questions he had, lined up, like grenades. But Mark wasn’t asking because he wanted us to feel bad or wanted to catch us out. He wanted us to think about our own thought process.

There was a break then until 12, when we had Mass. I took a walk around afterwards and bumped into one of the younger lads in the group, Adam. He was out working in the grounds. He was complaining about how pointless what they had him doing was: What they had him doing was sweeping the stones into the path from where a few of them had gone into the grass. It was pretty pointless actually. He was also picking up twigs from the grass. I felt lucky landing the job in the restaurant come to think of it.

After dinner I rang Siyana and she had loads to tell me about what was going on in her work. That’s one of the things I first liked about Siyana: there were never awkward silences. She had no problem talking. I think that’s another reason we blend so well, cos I’m fairly quiet. If i’m in the room with another quiet person we usually don’t get along, unless I’m drinking of course. I told her I’d call her back later as she had to get back to work

17.03.2016 – Paddy’s Day

Today was…Quiet…Oh so. Got up about 8.30 as it’s considered a weekend day in here and we can lie in for that bit longer. After my obligations to the house/institution, I sat in bed reading for the whole day practically. This book I’m reading, Riven Rock, is as slow as death by being beaten with feather pillows but the writing is sheer sublime. He writes sentence after sentence where you’re left cooing with appreciation. Literally a page of sentences, where you’d be happy for one of them sentences for every few pages you wrote.

I spoke with Siyana three times. The first time I called, she was working. We didn’t speak for long. She was unhappy about My sister Julie deleting her off Facebook. Siyana tried to send her a message, a happy St. Patrick’s Day message, but realised that Julie had blocked her. Julie’s a bit funny I told her. She’s not even friends with me on facebook, I said, if that makes you feel better. Julie’s essentially a nice person, if you just don’t get too involved with her, I told her, not wanting to hurt my brain thinking about our relative positions in respect of Julie. I’m one hundred percent sure Julie wasn’t thinking of this triumvirate and how it felt about eachother etc. Don’t worry about it. She had to go back to work, so I said I’d call back about six.I went back to my room and read until dinner.Dinner was sausages, beans and chips, not the most satisfying meal health or taste-wise but I was starving so I lapped it up like a dog makes short work of it’s dinner which has arrived late, like a bowl of pedigree chum dog food. A whole dining hall of alcoholic pedigree chummers lapping away at their industrial issue plates.

I rang Siyana again that evening. She told me she was on her way into town. There was a bad leak in her bedroom ceiling. She wants to move out of the flat as soon as possible. The place is a kip. Without thinking, I said we could move in together, into a nice one bedroom apartment, after I got out of here. I was too fast again though. Then there was a mutual hesitancy in the conversation.

“I was talking to one of the girl’s in work who told me her brother was in and out of the rehab six times,” she said.

“Did he complete the twelve weeks though?”

“Yes he did.”

“Well if I do this and go to the meetings as much as I can, I don’t see myself drinking again. He probably did’t go to the meetings, did he?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Well that’s the difference. Guys in here are back a second and third time. They stopped going to the meetings and soon they were back drinking.”

She was walking into town with a few friends from work, they were about to go to some pub – it was Paddy’s day after all. I said I’d ring her later.

I called her again at 9. She was in a rock bar in Parnell St. There was a loud sound of partying and drunken lunacy going on in the background. She told me that last Sunday when they were coming down in the car, my sister Julie screamed angrily at her “Can you stop talking for five minutes!”

Julie is very hot headed. But when she turned around and said this, my ma or da never said anything. Nobody dared to say anything. This really upset her. Julie is a kind of bully I thought. Siyana started to cry down the phone and my heart really went out to her.

“Nobody likes me in your family because I am poor girl from Eastern Europe with bad English…I’m not Irish like you…” she sobbed. Her voice was renting my heart-strings, and there was nothing I could do for her here at the other end of a payphone in the corridor of a rehab centre a few hundred miles away.

“Listen,” I said. “They do like you. And if my sister doesn’t like you so what? I like you! I Love you! That’s what matters! I don’t care if my sister or the man in the moon doesn’t like you.”

“Ok,” she said.

“Enjoy your night,” I said. “You’re my sweet thing.”

“Thank you. I love you,” she said, her voice that bit higher pitched, sounding beautiful and vulnerable at the same time.

My Seven Weeks in an Irish Rehab


Slept badly last night. Was woken a few times by heavy snoring from one of the lads in the room. “Stop snoring!” I’d shout, “Lie on your side!” “I am on my side,” came the reply, then the snoring would start again five minutes later.

That morning we had meditation at 8. Sleep to sleepiness to sleepy wakefulness. Breakfast, usual porridge, 3 slices of toast and a cup of tea. Starting to feel awake. Cleaned the room and swept and mopped the floor then read for an hour.


In the group therapy meeting we spoke about discipline. Recovering addicts need to be vigilant everyday, he was saying. Each day they are always recovering. The process is constant until we die. It is a slow process. He drew a picture of a snail on the board. Underneath he wrote, “Did you ever meet me before? They call me a snail. It takes me a long time to get from A to B. If you are moving any faster than me, you are moving too fast. There is no rush. There is no rush. there is no rush.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that snail, the smell of the old upholstery in that dusty room with the big windows, as the cold March sun shone in, reflecting off the snail on the whiteboard in the middle of the room. Everyone giggled like kids in a classroom. “Ah the snail,” one of the lads said. He’d been here a few times and had seen the snail.

Break. Mass. Lunch. 2nd meeting a continuation of this morning’s. The counsellor is wise. I feel that if I listen to what he says, I will get it. He will give me the tools I need, some of them anyway. Just from listening to him speak, I know he knows the score.

After dinner i went to get more cough medicine. No more librium. My head is starting to feel clear. I called my mother and it was great to hear her voice. She will come to see me next Saturday. Looking forward to it like a six yr old looks forward to Christmas. I called Siyana. We are making progress with these conversations. Me being in here is restoring that fraction of trust, day by day inch by inch.

“So, so you like the new flatmate? I asked. Some student girl had moved in with her since I left the flat.

“She’s o-k.”


“Well…she’s a bit bossy.”

Trouble already

“I was thinking,” she said. “When you get out, we could go to Bulgaria for the summer…”

After all the shit, everything that happened. This meant she had definite intentions of us getting back together. Yesss! I screamed inwardly.

“Better if we live separate when you get out. Take things slowly,” she said.

“Yeah, that sound like a good idea.”

It was music to my little crazy beating heart.

My Seven Weeks in an Irish Rehab


Monday. I had to get up at 7.30 today, and not 6.30 as I had thought. The proper work didn’t begin until week 3 when we would be assigned roles. For week 2 we were given simple cleaning jobs in the morning.

There’s a whiff of prison about this place with the timetables, mess halls, payphones and the stream of shape throwing men that prowl or stalk about the place at any given time. After meditation we had our breakfast then it was onto the cleaning duties. Myself and another lad from my room, Jim, who was only in his early twenties, got the pick of the jobs – sweeping the cigarette butts around the smoking areas. It took about ten minutes and we were done. Happy days, we grinned as we scooped the butts into the bag.

We went back to lay on the beds for the 50 minutes we had before our group therapy session. The counsellor’s name was William, and he looked a lot like the main character in Family Guy, Peter, so me and lads ended up calling him Peter Griffin. We got a got laugh out of it, and whenever I was stuck for something to say, i would always turn around to the lads and ask, who does that guy remind you of? It immediately brought a smile to everyone’s face.

The first meeting was sort of introductory stuff, and as it turned out, Peter Griffin was an interesting man to listen to. He gave us around pads and paper and he wrote down the important points on a whiteboard for us to take notes. Half the guys weren’t really listening to him. Then he asked afew questions, but most of us were shy to talk at first. We had a break and did another session. The counsellor talked about when he drank, saying he would always be an alcoholic but he now had the tools to manage his life, and that’s what we would learn if we did the programme to the best of our ability.

After lunch we had mass, then a small break followed by dinner. I rang Siyana after 6. It was lovely to hear her again. I had been waiting to talk with her all day. But there was some kind of meeting going on next to the phone and someone came out and said I would have to hang up, so much to my disappointment our talk was cut short. The rest of the evening I spent in bed reading. One of the lads i got on well with, Neil, popped into the room to ask was I coming in to watch the football. Since we moved up to the rooms, we were now allowed in the TV and games room, which wasn’t so bad I guess.

My Seven Weeks in an Irish Rehab



Today was my fifth day in the treatment centre. I have been in the detox ward since Wednesday, the day I arrived here. The detox is a sort of hospital, a sick ward, with twelve trolley beds – the kind you see in hospital corridors. Since I arrived I have been in pajamas, my clothes and stuff searched and taken away for the week. In detox we are confined to a few rooms, basically a communal living room with no TV, a dining room and the ward itself with the 12 trolley beds. If you’ve seen that movie One flew over the cuckoos’s nest, the picture it brings to your mind…well, you wouldn’t be a million miles away let’s say. We are given medication – four times a day – and you don’t do much apart from eat, sleep and sit in the living room for rosary every evening. You are allowed to go out to a smoking area if you smoke. I don’t but find myself going out with the other smokers just to get outside in the fresh smoky air for awhile at least. Occasionally, I go into the living room to chat with the other men in my ward – we are all in the same group – but not very often. I rather sit in bed with my book, the librium making me feel lethargic all the time. And that’s not going into the general depression my mind and body feel. Thankfully the librium numbs me.

So this morning, Sunday morning, I was very happy to receive my clothes and bag back. We were all moved from the detox (all 12 of us) and into our rooms up in the house. I am allowed to wear my own clothes again! Thank God for small mercies! Me and the group were all split up into smaller groups of four and given different rooms – 4 beds to a room. Well it was like the Ritz Carlton compared to the ward! And we were allowed to go where we liked, walk I mean, well within reason of course. You had to stay in the grounds…and you couldn’t go over to the side of the house where the women were – the place was run by nuns in case you didn’t know. It was actually run by the religious order – the nuns. And they were very strict about everything. There was a rote for absolutely everything. Everyone up at 6.30 am, prayer, meditation, work, therapy, prayer, meetings, recreation, prayer, bed. That was roughly your day. To give you an idea of the place: there were about 400 residents and about 60 rooms. Every resident had to work in the mornings after prayer and meetings until about 2 or 3pm. You started work in week 2. We would be given our jobs tomorrow. There was a heavy sense of depression by virtue of the fact of just being here – but it was alleviated in that you were kept busy, there was a schedule everyday.

But to get back to the room, I was moved into with the other 3 guys…There was plenty of space, it was ensuite and the bed was much more comfortable. Much better altogether. Saturday and Sundays, residents are allowed guests. So it was really a double happy for me today as my Mam, Dad, Sister and girlfriend were coming to visit me!

Things are slightly different in here at the weekends. Well there’s visitors for a start and most of the residents don’t work. Medication and mass are at different times as well.

After I put my bag down in my room and changed the sheets, I took a walk around the grounds as I hadn’t been outside in five days. I was keen to explore just what the surroundings were like. From the window it looked serene, pastoral even, like some old church grounds with the religious effigies of Mary and Jesus around the place, trees, a calming stream running through a forested area with bushes and hedges. A retreat, I guess.


I had a pleasant walk around and came back to the room. I sat around on the bed waiting for my name to be called, waiting for my visitors. I just about hear the speaker through the door as the receptionist called out a constant stream of names, letting them know their visitors had arrived. I dared not go to use the bathroom in case I couldn’t hear if my name got called out. The air conditioner came on when I switched on the bathroom light and even with the door open, I still wouldn’t be able to hear the receptionist on the intercom. Finally my name was called down to reception and I jumped off the bed and fairly ran down there.

My mother’s smiling face was the first one I saw through the glass panel door of the reception. Then I seen them all, my sister, my dad and my girlfriend. Smiles on all their faces, happy to see me as I hugged them all. And my girlfriend Siyana…the girl I had hurt so much, that kind loving sweet girl who had still come down to see me despite all the hurt and pain and the horrible breakup we had been through. She was dressed in the smart grey coat I had bought for her the week before we split up, before I left our apartment to stay in a hostel as a result of my crazy drinking and behavior. It had only been six days since I seen my mother and sister, but it felt as though it had been six months.

A family meeting was scheduled in the main hall for one hour for all the families. More of a presentation on alcoholism and how to deal with having someone with addiction in the family. After that finished we went over to the restaurant for a lunch. They all had fish and chips and I went for the lamb shank. It was certainly much better tasting food than I had been getting over in the house. I was already looking forward to eating here again next Sunday!

It was great to see everybody here together. It really gave me a boost. I wasn’t sure if they’d want to come to see me. And it was a few hours drive away too. Siyana was very affectionate to me in that touch feel-y way of hers and it really surprised me after everything that had happened. Would she get back with me if I did the rehab? The hope of this would me it all so much easier for me. But I wasn’t sure if she did want to get back together. She said on the phone that it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe she was just putting on this show because my mother had asked her. Maybe everyone was just pretending because they were guessing it must be difficult for me down here.

We had a nice walk around and Siyana gave me a watch she bought for me – an old fashioned pocket watch thing. It was beautiful. My mother sort of looked at her and me in an odd way. Maybe as if to say “don’t play games”. I had to go by a strict timetable in here, so the watch would be very useful. We strolled around together talking, cracking jokes – well my sister tried to anyway to raise the spirits. She was great to have in a group, because she’s a chatterbox, but not just a chatterbox, she always has funny anecdotes at the ready. And that always puts everyone else at ease.

Mam said I should do the twelve weeks. I had just done my first week so that sounded a bit…Yes of course I wanted to do the twelve weeks. But it wouldn’t be easy. I might end up going mad before then, I joked. Everyone gave me a serious sort of look.  Siyana put her arm around me, her smiling eyes and lips shining in my face. My light. We all hugged and said our goodbyes. It was hard to watch the car drive away with them all inside, going away from me, leaving me here again. You’ll have to get used to this I told myself as I cleared my throat and walked back to the room.

Later that evening when medication was due I asked the nurse to take me off the librium, it was making me too drowsy. I still had the bad cough from the day I came in so I asked for cough medicine and paracetamol. No cough medicine unfortunately. I would have to order that on Monday when someone would go to the town for it.

At around 10pm someone knocked on the door and said there was a phonecall for me. It was the one person I would most have wanted to hear in the world.

“Hey,” she said.

“Was nice to see you today. Thanks so much for coming.” I said.

“It was good to see you in there. I hope you stay the 12 weeks and get better.”

“I will.”

“Maybe we start a different chapter when you get better.”

If you would have put your head into my chest just then, you would have heard the most beautiful sounding bells chiming in my heart. I went to bed for the first time in weeks holding onto hope, as if I were a child holding onto a precious balloon.