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The Miracle of Fatima Mansions

A sneak peek into Shay Byrne’s book on his life in petty crime, drug addiction and prostitution. Amazon are currently having a flash sale on the kindle edition of the book- make sure to head over today and get it for just £0.99!

It was hours since my last hit, and I was on edge, to say the least. The heroin buzz was fading, leaving behind an empty longing for more, drowning out my own body’s cries for help, to stop this madness, stop polluting myself with that poison.

I didn’t know what to expect in a drug treatment facility, and in particular this place, Coolmine Therapeutic Community, except what I had heard on the streets; but anything would be better than what I’d been experiencing in the 12 months leading to this day.

As I sat on the bench facing the wall, listening to the buzz of work and shouted commands, I didn’t feel too bad physically, just yet; not surprising really, as I was still a little bit stoned. But I could feel it drain away bit by bit, and I knew that was all there was going to be; there would be no more.

The rule was that everyone had to be detoxed before going in, and when I had presented myself at the clinic that morning, for my initial interview, I was sure that the end result would be a two-week stay in Jervis Street Hospital for a detox, followed by a trip out to Coolmine to be ‘cured’.

I had gone to the interview with Jodie, my girlfriend, and a couple of other junkies, Mark and Bob, having spent the whole night trying to score. We had finally scored early in the morning and I was ready for anything when I got there, cocooned as I was from the harsh realities of the real world. I was in ‘Noddyland’ when I first arrived. So to speak.

I was playing out the little charade, dying for the interview to be over so I could get out of there and have another turn- on, when the two guys conducting the interview asked me if I was prepared to enter therapy immediately. I told them that I was, convinced that I would first have to do a detox, which would give me time to adjust and maybe even time enough to get stoned a couple more times.

Those couple of weeks would also give me time to say goodbye to Jodie,who had been financing my habit by selling herself in Fitzwilliam Square, the red light district of Dublin. She was a hooker when I met her, an orphan girl from Derry. Then she’d had the misfortune to meet me, and since that fateful day she’d spent every penny she made on me.

But it was not to be; there was no two week waiting period for me, no chance to score again ‘for old time’s sake’, and no chance of going through a more comfortable detox. My two interviewers told me I had five minutes and they would be out to collect me.

Jodie was stunned when I told her. She asked when she could visit and what I would do for clothes. It wasn’t going to be like when I was in The Joy—Mountjoy Prison in Dublin—a few months earlier and she had delivered gear to me every day while I was on remand. They were the best wares, or kisses, I ever had: a condom full of gear being passed from her mouth to mine under the pretence of romance. I knew there was no way I was going to go through cold turkey in there.

She started to cry hysterically, telling me how she’d miss me and asking how she’d get by without me, and she was still in a heap, being comforted by Mark and Bob, as I was driven off in the van with the two guys from the therapy centre. She’d be fine without me; probably even better off than with me, until she found some other junkie to help bleed her dry. I knew I’d miss her, but I wasn’t sure if it was because she was my girlfriend or because she was a good source of money.

Little did I know I’d never see her again. I heard later that she too had been seduced by heroin, and had become a junkie. After a while, I guess it was all she knew, and finally gave in to the inevitable.

There was a kind of love between us, as much as is possible between a hooker and a junkie, and I hope that she made it to some kind of treatment before succumbing to one of the plagues associated with being a heroin addict— AIDS, hepatitis, Septicaemia, abscesses, overdose—a whole myriad of things to be cured before beginning the cure.

My two interviewers had been friendly and chatty on the way out in the bus but as soon as we got inside the door, they became very assertive and told me to sit on a bench facing the wall.

So there I sat, on the bench facing the wall like a little kid at school. All that was missing was the dunce’s cap. I started to read the rules:

1. There will be no violence or threats of violence.

2. There will be no use of drugs, chemicals, or alcohol. Anyone found using same will be expelled.

Not unlike prison rules, I thought, although having been in prison I knew there was violence. I also knew that any amount of alcohol, drugs, and chemicals were available inside. No, there was something different about this place. It was situated about eight miles outside Dublin city centre, in a suburb called Coolmine, hence the name Coolmine Lodge. And it was exactly that, a lodge, the former gatehouse to a larger estate that had long since fallen into ruin. It was surrounded by trees and fronted by a 500 yard driveway, which led to the highly polished foyer where the bench was situated.

I had been sitting there for two hours, listening and sneaking the odd look around, but nothing seemed to be happening that would bring me closer to getting off the bench. I had been told I would have an interview; I found this strange as I’d already been interviewed and I wasn’t applying for a job. I wanted treatment for my illness; drug addiction. You don’t have an interview before you go into hospital. If you’re sick, you’re admitted.

My head was full of questions: What kind of an interview? Who would interview me? Why had I been interviewed earlier that day in Jervis Street hospital? What did they want to know?

Three hours sitting there like a fucking dunce. I turned once to ask someone for a drink of water and was told to turn my face back to the wall by this bloke I recognised. He was a pompous little prick from one of the wealthy south coast towns of Dublin, one of those posh junkies from out that way who used to be scared shitless of the likes of me and my mate whenever we’d bump into him in some dingy house or on the street. You could see the nervous tension in his face every time you saw him out looking to score, and you knew he was afraid of the very people he was looking for—dealers and other junkies who would send him running a mile if they said so much as ‘Boo’ to him. And now, here he was, acting like a Sergeant Major, the little shithead.

I’m getting the fuck out of here, I thought to myself. I won’t put up with this shit from the likes of him or anybody else. How much longer do they expect me to wait? Three and a half hours I’m here now. I had my last turn-on just before I went to Jervis Street and I was beginning to unravel; I was going to have to leave soon and get a hit.

I was wondering where I could hook up with Jodie and the others I had left behind, when I was told to get off the bench and stand against the wall in the large reception room. Finally, something was happening.

There were eight chairs in front of me, and after about ten minutes they were filled by eight people, some of whom I knew from outside, but not a smile or a hint of recognition came from any of them. I’d seen them reach the same depths I had, walking the same streets looking for the same fix, and now here they were, staring at me, judging me.

‘Sit down,’ I was told by this girl. She went on to introduce the rest of the people, one of whom I already knew because he had brought me from Jervis Street.

‘Why are you here?’ she began.
‘I want to stop taking dope,’ I said.
‘When did you have your last turn-on?’ someone asked.


If you enjoyed that chapter then make sure to head over to Amazon where you can get the full book in their flash sale for just £0.99!

Posted by John on 24th June 2019