“How I turned my life around after prison and drug addiction. I am now in UCD helping people with their recovery.
“How did I get here? I remember asking myself that question when, at the age of 23, I was being escorted to Mountjoy Prison to serve a four-year sentence for drug trafficking.
was a pretty good guy when i was younger. I grew up in a foster family and was well cared for. I never had to ask for anything, but I guess as a foster child I always felt a little left out.
I smoked hashish for the first time when I was 13. My friend stole it from his older brother and we smoked it together. Weirdly, I didn’t enjoy the feeling, but it didn’t stop me. After that I got a little more curious. I started hanging around the corners and doing all the usual stuff that parents don’t like.
I started drinking at a young age and then got a job as a lounge boy at a local pub where a lot of crazy stuff happened. I suppose I was attracted to that kind of lifestyle. I used to get invited to parties again, and then I tried my first line of cocaine.
Whatever I was looking for, I found it in this drug. As time went by, there were more drugs and more parties. I thought “drugs are there to make you have a good time”. I didn’t mind the kind of drugs I was using, yet I looked at people who were addicted to heroin and lived on the streets and almost wrinkled my nose at them. I was like, ‘man, how did you make it this bad?’
At 20, things got a little out of hand. At that time I was working as a carpenter, building kitchens and wardrobes. My partner was pregnant with our first child when I was suddenly released.
I had to do something to make money, and growing up in the area, I knew that selling drugs was a good way to make a quick buck. I started out selling heroin and then crack cocaine, a fast-moving drug and quick moneymaker.
This went on for about a year and a half before I got caught. Police from Blanchardstown and Finglas Garda stations searched my home and found €45,000 worth of crack cocaine and approximately €6,000 worth of heroin.
I knew I was being caught in the act, so I had to make a decision. I could either delay it or just get it over with. About six months later I was before the judge. He told me that charges under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act had a mandatory 10-year statute of limitations. But then he said, ‘Because you got the full shot and you didn’t waste it [Garda] Time, and this is your first major criminal record, I give you a four-year sentence.
The first few days at Mountjoy were a blur. I didn’t know how to play it. I had seen movies like The Shawshank Redemption and I was like, ‘Am I like Red or Andy?’
But then I remember sitting in my cell on the third night and thinking, “You just have to put up with this.” You can’t get out of here. There’s no point in crying. And there’s no point in acting like a tough man because it won’t do you any good.
The first few days at Mountjoy were a blur. I had seen movies likeand I was like, ‘Am I like Red or Andy?’
I made the decision there and then to just be myself in this state of being a boy who was about 12 years old. I’m not that tough man, I told myself. I’m not the person you think I am. i am not him
That’s the attitude that got me through prison. I made friends, got along well with the jailers, people liked my company. I had no problems. I was just there to do my time.
Getting out of prison was really, really weird. It was like I didn’t know the area I grew up in. People I knew had grown up. I remember walking into the house and thinking I don’t have to go back, I’m out now.
I made so many promises to myself but they went right out the window because I was still looking for acceptance. People wanted to be my friend, people wanted to know about me, people wanted to talk to me because I was in prison. I had this street credit and I loved it. I grabbed it with both hands.
I started partying a lot and my partner wasn’t happy with what I was doing. But I didn’t care because all these people who I thought were my friends accepted me. I sat around in people’s kitchens all morning doing drugs and talking shit.
Things got really, really bad. I went from sniffing on the weekends to coke during the weekdays
And then it got really, really bad. I went from sniffing on the weekends to coke during the weekdays. I was a functioning cocaine addict. Over time, my partner and I had another child. I thought that would stop me, but it didn’t. And the more it went, the worse it got.
Looking back, I just didn’t talk about how I felt. I haven’t spoken to anyone about my time in prison. I didn’t talk about my childhood and that I didn’t know my father and mother.
And then it got to the point where I didn’t want to go anywhere. My foster parents didn’t want to take me in. My partner didn’t want to take me. My friends didn’t want to take me. That’s how I ended up on the street.
I had some money left over so I bought a car for about 200 euros and that’s where I lived. I would brush my teeth and wash my face in public restrooms. I still did drugs. The only thing that changed was my location.
It got very, very lonely and suicide crossed my mind on numerous occasions. I remember sitting in the car freezing cold on my 29th birthday and covering myself with a jacket.
A guard knocked on the window and said to me, “Look, you have to move.” I looked at the guard and said, ‘Do you really think I can move?’ I said, “I want to be perfectly honest with you, guard. I live in this car and I have no money.’
If I meet that guardian again, I’m going to shake his hand because then he turned to me and said, ‘Look, that’s okay.’ And then he turned around and said, “Just take care of yourself.”
That’s when I realized I had to do this. I had to take care of myself. I had to be a father to my children. I had to be a partner to my girlfriend. I made the decision to attend a residential program at Coolmine, a drug and alcohol treatment center, and that was the beginning of my journey to recovery.
The counselors at Coolmine have been really, really supportive throughout my program. They got me thinking about what the addiction took away from me and one of them was soccer. I’ve always loved playing football so I represented Ireland at the 2019 Homeless World Cup in Mexico.
I remember standing on the pitch with my hand on the crest of my Ireland shirt when the national anthem was played. And I just blossomed. I thought, “Earlier this year I was living in a car and now I’m representing my country here in Mexico City.”
That’s when I realized that the world was my oyster, that there was absolutely nothing stopping me. Back in Ireland I got a job in electronics sales. When Covid-19 hit it was a real test for me so I started a local running club for people who might be feeling isolated. It now has 80 members. I have raised almost €10,000 for charity over the past two years by taking part in the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge which I am doing again next month. I’ve also attended RTÉ’s Ultimate Hell Week.
I had a bike accident in 2022 and there was a moment I thought I was paralyzed. This sudden fear came over me and during my recovery I decided it was time to start living life the way I wanted to. You have to do something that makes you happy, something that rewards you.
So I quit my job in August to study a Diploma in Community Drugs and Alcohol at UCD and I now work in a residential home helping women recovering from addiction. i know how hard it is I know what they’re going through.
If anyone reading this is struggling with addiction I want you to know that help is out there – just search for it. And don’t be a victim of your past. I was a victim for so many years and thought I would be for the rest of my life. It is not. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”
You can find out more about Daniel and his latest charity challenge @danielmbradley
As Katie Byrne was told
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact the HSE Drugs & Alcohol toll-free helpline (1800 459 459) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
https://www.independent.ie/life/how-i-turned-my-life-around-after-prison-and-drug-addiction-im-now-in-ucd-and-helping-people-with-their-recovery-42330236.html “How I turned my life around after prison and drug addiction. I am now in UCD helping people with their recovery.