A Dublin woman has succeeded in kicking her drug addiction after 26 years - and now she’s helping others who are where she used to be.
Charity worker Carrie Keegan, 39, was once one of the homeless people she is now helping not too long ago. Carrie started abusing drugs when she was just 12 years old, and she was out on the streets for 16 years, in and out of hostels or sleeping in tents.
After a stint in prison at the start of the pandemic, she had to take a hard look at her life. She told Dublin Live: “I decided, ‘I'm not gonna go through that again’. This was after losing everything, so I had to change something. I changed my life.”
On her journey to stay clean, the Portlaoise native ended up in the Depaul-ran recovery house Suaimhneas, a female only service which provides beds for women recovering from drug addiction. Carrie stayed there for nine months, and now she’s living in short term accommodation provided by a charity supporting women out of homelessness.
She has now been off drugs for three years and off alcohol for the last 13 months. The 39-year-old is now working at a homeless charity called The Lighthouse, and she’s doing a Community Employment (CE) scheme that aims to help disadvantaged people get back to work. Carrie loves working in the Lighthouse because those using the service know her from when she was on the streets herself.
She said: “People were saying like, how did you do it Carrie? And I was like, it's not easy, trust me. It's not easy. But it's worth it.
“All my life, you know, I didn't listen to people. I've just done it my way or no way.” However, the charity worker revealed that prison actually saved her life.
“If I didn't end up in prison, I was probably gonna be dead,” she said. “That's how far my addiction went.”
Carrie believes some people in recovery are afraid of change, because it means finding out who you are, and what you like and don’t like. She said: “I never knew who I was. I was a lost little person, and I go back to that 12-year-old child sometimes, and that's what I see.
"I used to be an angry person, and it wasn't even anger, it was hurt. For a long time I didn't even like myself. And today I can say I’m starting to like the person that I am.”
Carrie has dreams and hopes for the future now. She wants to get a house, she dreams of going back to college. She can't read or write properly, but she’s getting help for that now. But mostly, she wants to continue her work with homeless people.
“I want them to know that they can change their life," she concluded. "Anybody can change their life.”
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