Heroin-harrowing truth and hope
By Niall Hunter-Editor
Julie O'Toole comes from a stable family background in the Sherriff Street area of Dublin. This, however, did not prevent herself and three of her six siblings becoming addicted to heroin.
"I came from a stable enough environment. My parents were good Catholics and we had a good home structure; we all had to be in at certain times. My parents had no history of drug addiction themselves," she told irishhealth.com.
"However, I was rebellious and my biggest mistake was leaving school when I was 13. I soon started smoking cigarettes and joints and drinking. The first time I took heroin was when I was at a house party in the neighbourhood. I had taken ecstasy the night before and I was told that it would make me go asleep, because you get very high on ecstasy.
"I smoked it off tinfoil. I could see it coming around to me and all the time I was debating in my head whether I would take it. I'd always said I would never be like one of my sisters, who was an addict at the time, but of course I smoked it.
"At first, I used to take ecstasy tablets at the weekend and then take heroin to come down off them. Gradually, the buzz from ecstasy faded and I started taking heroin more regularly. I soon stopped going to parties and stopped taking ecstasy completely about a year after I first smoked heroin. I just did heroin all the time after that.
"I started robbing to feed the habit and was never at home. It got to the point where I was lucky I didnít die. I overdosed when I was 21. I remember sitting down on Amiens Street staring at the ground and wondering what was the point of being alive at all. My sister found me on the street in a coma and took me back to the House. A group of people I had been with had just left me there on the ground. My mother then took me to the Mater.
"Lying in a hospital bed I realised that I had reached a crucial point in my life; a voice in my head was telling me that if I didnít change I was going to die."
After being discharged from the Mater, Ritaís mother contacted an organisation called Victory Outreach, an international religious organisation of the Pentcostal denomination that helps people in need.
Rita admits that the religious aspect might put off some people but she says the organisation has been very effective in turning her and many others away from heroin. She now counsels addicts in Dublin on behalf of Victory Outreach.
"Their programme does not involve methadone or sleeping tablets. It is a Christian-based rehab programme with an emphasis on counselling and teaching addicts to help themselves. It is all based on the Bible and upholding the basic morals and standards in your life that drugs take away."
Julie was initially saw two Victory Outreach workers in Dublin who were ex-drug addicts themselves. She had heard of the organisation from a friend whom it had helped to come off drugs. She then went on to London and to California for rehabilitation and has now been off drugs for 10 years.
"They are not ramming religion down your throat. It is all about encouraging personal development."
Julie is critical of the more mainstream drug rehab programmes in Dublin. "I was on a waiting list for two years for one centre before I went to Victory Outreach. There are not enough places and the waiting lists are too long. It is ridiculous to expect an addict to wait two years for a place."
"Methadone didnít work for me. Methadone programmes at clinics just introduce you to other drug addicts. I never used a needle until I went to a Dublin clinic."
Julie O'Toole has just written s harrowing account of her addiction ≠'Heroin', published by Maverick House.
Independent Dublin Central TD Tony Gregory has praised the book and says it should be put on the Leaving Cert syllabus.
"Heroin is back and it is killing our future," according to Tony Gregory.
Julie OíToole says her advice is that young people should read her book and learn from her bitter experience. "Itís not all negative, however. You can change and you can have a good life. Do not give up and keep looking for help."
'Heroin' is available at bookshops, price 10.99 euros; or online at http://www.maverickhouse.com/
I feel she's in it for the money, sorry but i'm entiteld to my opinion. wish i could get my own head sorted. B4 u say jealous, not, if want out its up 2 me to get myself out..............
I think Julie is to be admired and so is Victory Outreach. Any programme that helps people come off hard drugs like heroin without replacing it with another drug has got to be worth a shot. Anyway, what's wrong with teaching people to respect themselves and to have basic morals? How do you know the money she's getting for the book isn't going back into Victory Outreach??