First published: 2016-12-07 08:10:08
At first glance Eugene is your typical 50-year old male. He takes a keen interest in sport, adores music and devours the daily newspapers.
Glance a bit closer and you’ll see Eugene’s puffy cheeks, a legacy of several years hard drinking. Eugene is candid when it comes to talking about his past.
“I was drinking 24/7. Alcohol would be the first thing I would think about in the morning and the last thing at night. I’d often go a whole month without eating.”
“Often I felt so low that I just felt like killing myself. I lost friends and contact with my family because of alcohol. To tell you the truth drink cost me 20 years of my life.”
Just over four years ago Eugene had his moment of clarity. After years of trying to kick the booze he contacted Drogheda Homeless Aid where he was made to feel welcome. He knew it was his last chance.
“I can clearly remember the day I first went to Homeless Aid. Even though I was nervous I knew everyone was in the same boat. All I wanted to do was get better.”
He added, “It was a great relief to get an opportunity to grasp a new lease of life. I apologised to my family and having their support was a great help.”
“The Homeless Aid did everything to help me get back on my feet. I couldn’t thank them enough. Even now they still send volunteers over for a visit to see how I am.”
Eugene spent just over a year in St. Joseph’s Hostel and his stint was so successful that he was eligible to sign up for a new home. He’s spent the past three years in his new residence and has quickly become a well-known face in the community.
“Now I know everyone out here! I’m on committees and try to help out where I can. People here don’t judge me on my past. All I do is live for each day. I have little hurdles that I try to jump over.”
Eugene has extra reason to be happy and recently got a certificate after passing English, Maths and Computers. He’s also re-established contact with his family.
In spite of everything he’s achieved Eugene still knows he has a long way to go.
“I’m an alcoholic and always be. Alcoholism is an illness. Solving the problem is like having a lock in your head and finding the key. Once you find it don’t throw it away. I’m not going to give up this chance I’ve been given."
Walk across West Street most days and you’ll hear plenty of people saying “Howya Paddy.” Paddy has become a minor celebrity in the past few months after featuring on RTÉ’s Nationwide where he spoke openly about his problems.
“I had some personal problems and turned to the drink quite heavily. Any money I had went on the drink and I ended up sleeping rough and was hospitalised. My liver was on the verge of going.”
Paddy was in his mid 60’s when he sought shelter in the Homeless Aid and was older than the vast majority of men there.
“I found it very hard at first because I was embarrassed to be there. After a while I started to make friends and ended up staying in the centre for three years.”
Now living in his own home on the outskirts of town Paddy has become part of the family at St. Joseph’s Hostel. The 69-year old often helps out with day to day chores and his trademark warm smile is a source of comfort for the staff.
It’s a far cry from his nadir as he recalls without a hint of self-pity.
“There was one day when I sat by the river and started crying my eyes out. I was angry with myself for getting into such a state.”
“Once I became established in the hostel it became my home. I learnt all sorts of new skills and matured. Homeless Aid was there for me when I needed them most”
One of the new skills which Paddy acquired was crafting original mosaics.
“I never even knew what they were before! Now I’m making them quite regularly and was teaching other people how to do them as well.”
Paddy’s phone rings and its his daughter on the other end enquiring how her Dad is. When he puts the phone down Paddy’s face lights up with glee.
“I’m off the drink for six years now and I have to thank my daughter for giving me the strength to believe in myself. After I was on Nationwide people were coming up to me saying ‘you’re the fella off the telly.” Sure I don’t have much to complain about.”
Indeed he doesn’t.