A popular Waterford GAA club man hopes his recovery from crippling addictions can be a source of inspiration to others.
George Henderson, a familiar face on Waterford GAA sidelines as water carrier with the Passage hurling team, spoke about his difficulties with alcohol and cocaine in a powerful interview with Damien Tiernan on WLR’s Déise Today show.
He said acceptance of addiction is the first step in the process: “People have lots of shame in admitting that they have a problem and once you get over that step, you’re on the road to recovery. Talk to someone who is in recovery like myself and get the ball rolling.”
Henderson was introduced to drink and drugs at the age of 14.
“My perception of alcoholism and being a drug addict was that I thought you had to do it every day. I knew there was something wrong but I didn’t think I had a problem. It came to a breaking point where I had to reach out and ask for help. That was the hardest thing to do, admitting it and reaching out. I was reading up a lot on it and I could relate to the stories I was reading. I reached out in 2012 and went to Aiséirí (a treatment centre) in Wexford.”
He continued: “It was somewhere for the first time in my life where I wasn’t judged. They showed me lots of empathy. They showed me how to rebuild my life again. I took everything they told me on board. When I came out of there after 28 days, you’re put into an aftercare group for two years. That’s massive support.”
His connection with the Passage club helped his rehabilitation. “Peter Queally rang me in 2013; I owe Peter a lot. I was with Peter, Fergal O’Brien, and Liam Carey. They probably saved me when I came out of Aiséirí and I got involved with the hurling club.”
He admitted that he put his family through hell, but thanked his mother and girlfriend for supporting him. “I was sick of being sick. I was sick of my mother giving out to me and my girlfriend giving out to me. I was in denial. I blamed everyone else bar myself. You have to hit rock bottom to change.”
Henderson is currently studying to become an addiction counsellor and is still following a recovery programme. “I go to three to four meetings a week. I check in with my sponsor. A sponsor is someone who helps you through the steps and who understands the programme.”
Henderson feels that the punishment for addiction in Ireland needs to be reviewed in line with other European countries. “If you’re caught with drugs in this country, you’re brought to court and you’re fined. I ask what help is that? When you’re over in Portugal, you’re brought to an addiction counsellor so the person in addiction is given a chance and given hope. You need to bring these people back into the community.”