Offaly's Niall McNamee ‘Recovery was the best thing I’ve ever done’

GAA star Niall McNamee was on hand at Buswells Hotel in Dublin to help launch 'Recovery Month'

At 25 years of age, Offaly footballer Niall McNamee went to the Rutland Centre to deal with his gambling addiction.

Five years later, the 30-year-old has returned to college, runs his own business and helps GAA players live more fulfilling lives off-the-field. “I went to the Rutland Centre for treatment back in November 2011. It was a difficult time, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Before I stopped gambling any issue that came up, let it be an emotional issue or a problem with a relationship or losing a game of football, the only way I knew how to deal with that was to go to the bookies,” he said.

“The only way for me to suppress these [uncomfortable feelings] was to go gambling. It was the only place I felt I could escape from the real world. I’d turn off my phone. I’d go into the bookies for four or five hours and I’d say: ‘right I’ll solve all my problems in here. I’ll win x amount of money and I’ll buy this car.’”

Niall was working in a factory before he went for treatment and after recovery, he changed his life completely.

“I was managing a beef factory in Kildare when I went in for treatment. I was there but I wasn’t there. I went back to that job (after treatment) for nearly two years. In terms of me growing as a person it wasn’t what I needed. I looked at a few things and I got some career coaching. I went back to college and did a diploma in executive coaching, which was really, really good. It was something I wouldn’t have done when I was gambling,” he said.

Maebh Leahy, chief executive of the Rutland Centre, with GAA star Niall McNamee. Pic: Conor McCabe
Maebh Leahy, chief executive of the Rutland Centre, with GAA star Niall McNamee. Pic: Conor McCabe

“Then I set up my own business two years ago. I set up a sports brand called Twelves selling GAA socks, football socks, hats and a few things like that and in January we’ll be adding to it. So that’s two years on the road and it’s something I’m really passionate about,” he said.

Based on his diploma studies and his involvement with the Gaelic Players Association, Niall also coaches players off-the-pitch. “I do pilot work with the Gaelic Players Association, taking in eight counties, 16 squads and just working with players. It’s about careers and seeing where players are going. It’s all based on off-the-field.”

Niall admitted that life can be challenging but it is how you deal with it that matters.

“Some people will resort to a substance, it could be alcohol, it could be gambling, it could be food or sex. Then there are some people who can just carry on everyday life and just float along, while they might not be acting out in terms of a substance, they might not necessarily be happy within themselves,” he said.

Niall said he now reminds himself daily of the smallest of things for which he is thankful.

Rutland report

- 84% of all clients attending the Rutland Centre present with alcohol addiction.

- 93% of all women attending the centre present with alcohol problems. This is a 19% rise compared with 2006, when 74% of female clients presented with alcohol addiction.

- There has been an 11% rise in the number of young people seeking treatment between 2010 and 2015. People between 18 and 24, attending the centre for treatment has increased from 0% to 11% in this time frame.

- In 2015, 40% of all clients had an addiction to drugs both licit and illicit.

- The average age of the Rutland Centre’s clientele is 41.

- The age group most frequently seeking treatment over the last 10 years at the centre, is the 30-49-year-old age group.

- Clients presenting with sex addiction has increased by 6% between 2009 and 2015.

- In 2009, sex and love addiction accounted for less than 0.5% of the Rutland Centre’s clients.

- 13% of clients presented with a gambling addiction in 2015, this figure was at 7% in 2007.

- Males presenting with food-related issues counted for 8.2% of the centre’s clientele in 2015.

- 74.% of the Rutland Centre’s clients, who entered treatment in the 12-month period from July 2015 to July 2016 and who entered the aftercare programme, are in abstinent recovery.

- In the same 12-month period, 9.2% of clients are experiencing a lapse but are engaged in the centre’s programme.

READ MORE: New film by Alcoholics Anonymous highlights dangers of addiction and how to get help

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