Cork heroin addict rebuilds her life

Posted on: 13th November, 2017

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Viewers will have this week been gripped watching the final episode of the three-part documentary series The Rehab, which aired on TV3. Filmed over a year, with unprecedented access to staff and residents of Coolmine Therapeutic Community, The Rehab is a powerful account of addiction and the fight to get free. One of the residents, Sharon Duffy from Cork, speaks to Mary O’Brien about her addiction.

Sharon Duffy was given a second chance after completing treatment at Coolmine Therapeutic Community, when she was handed a seven-year suspended sentence for possession of a large amount of heroin.

The former heroin addict reveals how Coolmine helped her get her life back. Sharon, 31, is now working part-time as a receptionist and expecting her first child. She has also been accepted on to a Social Studies course.

Sharon detoxed while living in a squat in Dublin, getting herself clean before being accepted into Ashleigh House, the residential lodge where women are treated at Coolmine.

“I’ve failed treatment before when my head wasn’t in it one hundred per cent and I was doing it for others rather than myself,” she admits.

This time was different. “I had lived that life for ten years and I reached a point where I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she says. “I was drained and exhausted, in and out of courts and around people who talked the same shit all the time.

“The Stabilisation Day Programme at Coolmine helped me to get clean from drugs while I was squatting. There was a shower and a washing machine at the day centre, which was an incentive for me to go there every day. I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise…being able to wash my clothes meant that I could keep up my appearance on the outside while really I was crumbling on the inside.

“You could even say the washing machine got me clean,” she says, able to laugh about it now.

Sharon first started drinking alcohol and taking drugs when she was still in primary school. “I smoked hash, then started taking E’s, after that it was cocaine and then when I was about 20 I started smoking heroin.” Sharon went from smoking to injecting heroin after moving to Dublin.

“I can’t even put into words how it feels. You’re constantly drugging yourself up to escape from your life. It’s pure misery, a miserable existence.

“You wake up in the morning and have to get high. Then you’re bagging up the drugs and selling them. You feel desperate, totally alone. You feel like this is never going to end and there’s no way out. Your body is constantly aching for heroin.

“If I didn’t go through all that though, I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” she says. “I think I fought harder because life was harder for me than if I’d gone home to Cork, where I’d have had a bed and friends and family around me.

“Everything that you think you would never do, you end up doing.

“I just feel so grateful that my mother, even though I shamed her and my family, saw the goodness in me and wanted me to get better. If I didn’t have her, I don’t know that I could have actually gotten clean. She was always there for me even after I pushed her away.

“Coolmine is very structured so it is very hard, especially at the start, when you have to be on time for things and have people telling you what to do all the time. But you learn to assert yourself there and work on your emotional wellbeing. I think the hardest part of rehab for me, other than the detoxing, was opening up in a group and also listening to other people’s stories and feeling their pain,” says Sharon.

Sharon left Ashleigh House last January, progressing to a day programme that helped her adapt to life outside the rehab centre. She graduated from Coolmine this September and is now looking forward to having her first child.

“I’m excited about the baby, more happy than nervous I think,” she says.

“I’d like someone to get some bit of hope from my story. If I can do this, anyone can…swallow your pride and ask for help and keep on trying.”

Coolmine is Ireland’s longest running rehab centre and the only addiction Therapeutic Community in Ireland. It provides specialist rehab services to the most marginalised people in Ireland. It has the only rehab centre in Ireland for pregnant women and mothers with young children, supporting high-risk families to stay together. It is the only rehab centre that works with significant numbers of prisoners and probation clients due to their unique behaviour modification approach.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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