‘Jack’ says you can buy heroin in Cork faster “than you’d get a pizza”.
“It’s the area where I live; it’s rampant. You’ll get it on tick [on credit] and then you’ll have drug dealers coming to the door demanding money and saying they’ll burn the house down, wreck your car and go after your grandchildren. It’s all fear based,” he says.
Jack is a member of Youth Work Ireland’s concerned parents’ group. ‘The group’, he says, changed his life and inadvertently that of his children, three of whom take or used to take heroin.
“Heroin is devastating — most addictions are — but with heroin it’s even more manipulative. It’s desperate to live with and you as a parent become addicted to the addiction,” he says. “It’s terrible to watch it destroy the kids, the not eating, the lies, the aggression. For parents then, there is constant shame, guilt and remorse.
“Until I joined this group I was constantly blaming myself and the boys. They’d tell me too ‘it’s your fault, you’re not good enough’,” he says.
He’s learnt to stand back from his sons’ addictions, to stop letting them control his and his wife’s lives, their moods, their sleeping. But one thing that still bothers him greatly is heroin’s impact on the next generation.
“It’s the grandchildren; they are dragged from pillar to post; they’re in care most of them and it’s desperate, they have no foundation, nothing, what hope is there for them?”
Jack believes “the cops are doing the best they can” to fight heroin in Cork. But if addiction is to be tackled seriously, he strongly believes something has to be done about GPs’ prescribing practices.
He’s not convinced either of the wisdom of needle exchange programmes.
“When they’re young, they’re told by some fella to go in to the doctor and tell him they’re depressed. They’ll be 16, 17, 18 and they’ll get Xanax or Valium and then they hand them over to the fella that sent them in.
“The three of them, they started taking benzos that way. It’s never just heroin; you’ll find there’s always other drugs as well, very often benzos and benzos are harder to come off than heroin. The GPs in this country have a lot to answer for,” he says.
For years Jack has brought his wallet into the shower with him. His wife, too, hides her purse every day and he hides his laptop. “Anything of value: A watch, your wedding ring, anything that can be sold, I’ve learnt through experience, has to be hidden,” he says.
One of Jack’s sons is still in the throes of addiction in prison, another is on methadone waiting to get on a drugs treatment programme. The third is clean for over two years and at college “doing very well”. Jack himself has trained as a psychotherapist.
“There is help there, there’s no doubt about that, the drug outreach workers at the Hut [Youth Work Ireland] are great but the addict has got to want to do it for themselves.”
All the parents the Irish Examiner spoke to painted painful pictures of how heroin wreaked havoc on their families.
I ask Jack how, then, could his other two sons follow their brother down the same road? “It’s powerful, it’s a soul sickness. I can’t understand it with my mind, the addiction. It’s a felt experience, you actually have to go through it I think to come near understanding it.”
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