Graham, Addiction Counselor

“Nobody wakes up and chooses to be an addict. It creeps in insidiously and before you realise, you have been enveloped by it. The one common thing everyone has coming through my door is a feeling of desperation – we all know what that feels like.

If you’ve had a previous trauma in your life you’re much more likely to come into addiction and if you’re in addiction you’re more likely to experience trauma. It’s a vicious cycle. I help people to create and reconnect with their mental wellness.

Depression and anxiety are very common amongst people with addiction problems. Bringing people back to their mental wellness is what everyone in Cork Simon is working towards – building people toward recovery, and giving them the opportunity to feel a part of society, to be able to be active in society and not be held back.

I work one-to-one with about 16 different people per week, and with their key social workers to address their addiction and work on a care plan to overcome it.

We come up with the care plans together and we look at whatever the person feels is fueling their addiction. That could be social isolation, previous trauma such as abuse, severe loss, it could an environmental issue (who is influencing them), and it can also be related to mental health such as anxiety and depression.

Addiction counseling in Cork Simon sees a great success rate. People using Cork Simon services have above average attendance rate to counseling sessions – they are quite passionate about change and want to get better.

Of course to see people who have addiction issues become sober and / or drug-free is the ultimate goal. But it’s also very rewarding to watch the hard work people put in. I am always bowled over by the depths of people’s tolerance to adversity. I am privileged to work with people who don’t give up.

The drug problem in Cork today is like what Dublin went through 15 years ago. In terms of the response to the drug problem, I think Cork has learned a lot from what has worked and what hasn’t worked in Dublin and therefore is quite coordinated in its response. One thing that is different about Cork is the heavy use of head shops here whereas it has dropped off considerably in Dublin – the substances you can get from head shops in Cork can be particularly harmful to people’s mental health.

The hardest part for me is the waiting list. I currently have 15 waiting to attend a counseling session with me. It is frustrating knowing that there are people who are ready and motivated for change through counseling and you can’t take them on because you’re full. To me, that’s very sad. I wish I could do more but the resources just aren’t there at the moment.

My background is varied – I started out studying and working in adventure sport and outdoor education, would you believe! From here, I started teaching in a community training centre in North inner city Dublin to 16 – 21 year olds. A lot of the students were marginalised from society and were abusing drugs. I could see they were struggling and needed help, to which they were open. I knew I wanted to work to help young people in this situation. I got a job as a project youth worker in a drug treatment programme. I went on to complete a Certificate in Counseling from NUIM, then a Diploma in Addiction Counseling from UCD and Merchant’s Quay. I completed a Psychotherapy and Counseling Diploma in PCI College and went on to do a Master’s in Psychotherapy in DCU. I started working with Cork Simon towards the end of 2014, coming from a private counseling practice that I created with a friend in Malahide, Co. Dublin.”