Limerick step-down house helped saved homeless man's life after addiction treatment

Stuart Zheng: Rebuilding his life. Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

A step-down house helped saved Stuart Zheng’s life after addiction treatment — of that, he has no doubt.

Stuart, 28, from Limerick, had been in and out of jail, was addicted to alcohol and heroin, and was homeless, when he began a five-month residential treatment programme in Cuan Mhuire’s Bruree facility almost two years ago.

When he finished his treatment, he said he had nowhere to go, nowhere to live.

He was offered a place in one of Cuan Mhuire’s two post-treatment step-down facilities in Limerick, where he was offered support as he began to rebuild his life.

“It gave me somewhere to go straight away after treatment,” he said.

“If I didn’t have that option, I would have had to rely on old friends, some of whom were still using and drinking. If I came out after the five-month treatment programme, and just went back to the same old places, the same old ways, I wouldn’t have survived long. That’s for sure.

“I spent six months in the step-down house. They taught me how to maintain a house, how to pay bills, how to be responsible. They helped me get accommodation and I started going on courses, looking for a job.

“And all the lads that were there with me were all on the same wavelength, they were going to meetings, fighting the same battles. We all supported each other.”

Stuart has been clean now for almost two years. His life post-treatment just keeps getting better. He has his own place. He works in a local Chinese restaurant. He works 19-and-a-half hours a week in Cuan Mhuire’s Bruree facility to help those just starting out of their battle against addiction.

And he is looking forward to starting an addiction studies course in September.

He spent Saturday coaching a team in the homeless leagues football competition at University of Limerick.

But one of the things he cherishes most about his new life after recovery is the fact that he has rebuilt and renewed his relationships with his family, and particularly, with his young daughter “I had been on drink and drugs since I was 16. I had been through the mill. I can’t even explain how bad it was,” he said.

“But I’ve been clean for almost two years. My family is very proud of me. I’m trusted now. I have good friends, and a great relationship with my daughter. I just wasn’t there for her before, but now I am.”

Stuart described the step-down facility as a vital cog in his recovery, and said a lot of the recovering addicts who were there with him at the same time are all doing well too.

They have their own places, some have gone on to college, some have full-time jobs, and some are starting families, he said.

“It’s a shame that the step-down facility in Cork hasn’t opened. It would help almost 20 people who have finished in Cuan Mhuire treatment programmes, people who have nowhere else to go, and would help prevent them from going back into the same cycle of homelessness.”

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