‘It took a lifetime but I achieved it’

The Derry man has managed to turn his life around, with the assistance of staff from the Methodist Mission in the city.

The Derry man has managed to turn his life around, with the assistance of staff from the Methodist Mission in the city.

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A Derry man has described how the lifeline he received at the Methodist Mission helped him ditch an alcohol addiction that had almost destroyed him.

The man, who is now in his 50s, had lost his job of over 20 years as a refuse collector and was at risk of becoming homeless due to his drinking.

The Methodist Mission in Derry.

The Methodist Mission in Derry.

At his worst, he was downing two bottles of vodka per day.

Now sober four years, he said he did not think he would be here today but for the assistance he has received.

“After I lost my job I was really bad. I had more time on my hands to do it. I was maybe drinking two bottles of vodka a day. I experimented in things I shouldn’t have. Me and my friends had a mixture of vodka, black shoe polish melted down, methylated spirits and Guinness.”

The man developed issues to do with alcohol paralysis in his legs, and with no permanent home, he relied on relatives to put him up. “Then I got really sick. I went into Altnagelvin Hospital to get dried out. I was in there a week. I had nowhere to go. A nurse there suggested I go to Waterloo Street Housing Executive, I said to her, ‘how am I going to get there?’ and a nurse in the ward said, ‘I’m paying for it’. I arrived and met a girl in Executive. She told me she could get me a bed in Crawford Square.”

There, he met a worker who had known him as a young man when he was a talented footballer, and who was shocked by the change in him.

The man said he continued to binge drink trying not to get caught by staff, and was among those who transferred to the new Mission facility at the top of Crawford Square in 2003, staying there for nine years, the last two in a flat preparing him for living on his own. He continued drinking for almost a year after securing his own flat away from the Mission. Then just after Christmas,he suffered an epileptic fit which almost killed him. A neighbour had to smash a window to get to him and raise the alarm. He has never touched alcohol since.

He credits the Mission staff, especially the support from Marie Melaugh, for helping him turn his life around, as well as the love and support of his family, who stood by him throughout.

“If I hadn’t stopped drinking I think I would have died. The help here was unbelievable. I’ll be off it four years now on December 28. It took me a lifetime to achieve it but I achieved it,” he said.

While he still suffers from severe mobility problems, he said: “This is the best four years of my life. I’ve got two wee grandchildren. The older one has never seen me drinking and that’s the way I want it and the same with this other wee one.”