It started at age 12 with diazepam, given to him by a friend who had dipped into his mother’s prescription tablets. Unfortunately for Charles Lane, what started out as an innocent enough act set him on a path towards drug addiction — cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin — and ultimately prison.
To feed his habit, he began buying drugs in chemists and on the streets, conning doctors for prescriptions and stealing drugs from friends’ parents.
“I was a sneak thief. I burgled houses and shops and robbed innocent people,” said Charles.
From Knocknaheeny, in Cork city, he has spent more than half his life behind bars.
“The longest time I spent out of prison was 18 months, before I was locked up again,” he said.
With no history of familial addiction, Charles puts his down to the fact that, even at age 12, he was never comfortable with himself and that drugs helped him to fit in.
He finally took stock last year while seeing an addiction counsellor in Cork prison.
“I suppose you could say I reached a turning point. I just thought ‘I can’t do this again’. Some people say they addressed their issues because of their kids or for their family, but the truth is, I stopped because I had enough of prison life.”
With two weeks to run on his prison sentence, he was referred by his counsellor to Coolmine Therapeutic Community. “They are very, very good in Coolmine. The way it’s structured, you are part of a community once you go in there. Everyone is given a role and mine progressed over time and I am now the client co-ordinator,” Charles said.
This essentially means he is the go-between between addicts and management. Charles has thrived on the responsibility and has been clean for 15 months.
He is in the process he said of rebuilding relationships. The devastating effect of addiction on families really hit home after he attended a meeting of the Coolmine Family Support Group.
“I felt raw coming out of the meeting. I only ever thought about myself.I was able to see in them what my family went through. At the time my family were relieved when I was in prison, because at least they knew I was safe,” he said.
Last night Charles had the distinction of being one of 34 clients of Coolmine Therapeutic Community to take part in a special ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral where they graduated from their various recovery programmes. His advice for anyone affected by drug dependency is not to wait as long as he did to get help.
Three days ago, Charles celebrated his 40th birthday and has started a UCD diploma course in community work on addiction and alcohol. He sees his future in providing counselling and therapy for others.
“I want to help others with their addiction in memory of the people I knew who died or were murdered because of drugs. It is also my way of repaying society for the hurt and loss I caused as an addict,” he said.
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