'It took everything from me. I lost my job, my girlfriend went.'
COLM* was a talented north Cork GAA player, had a job, devoted family and beautiful girlfriend.
But a dare when he was just 16 to sample some 'yokes' (ecstasy) with friends slowly led him into a 15-year drugs nightmare.
"It took everything from me. I lost my job, my girlfriend went overseas just to get away from me, I was arrested a couple of times for fighting after taking drink and drugs and my GAA playing days ended years before they should have," Colm (37) told the Irish Independent.
"In the end, my own family wanted nothing to do with me. My own brother would cross the street if he saw me coming.
"If I'm honest, I actually couldn't stand the sight of myself in the mirror."
The young man started out taking ecstasy but quickly graduated to cannabis and finally cocaine.
Despite living in a small village, all the drugs were readily available within a 15km radius. Combined with a spiralling alcohol addiction, Colm's life became a misery of court appearances, debts, treatment centres and brief bouts of being clean and sober.
Colm's recovery only began when he hit rock bottom, in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous parlance.
He was the victim of a brutal beating over an unpaid drugs debt of €300.
"I could easily have been killed. Only for the fact the neighbour heard what was going on and called the guards I don't think they would have stopped kicking and punching me until they had done serious damage."
Shocked by this, Colm contacted his family and asked for their help.
"They were incredible. My sister told me it was the phone call my parents had been praying for years for."
With the help of his family, his drugs debts were sorted and he went into a treatment centre.
This time, Colm says, he listened.
Six weeks later, he began attending AA and NA meetings. "I did what a lot of people recommended, which was 90 meetings in 90 days. Bit by bit, my head started to clear and my life started getting better. I'm six years clean of drugs now."
He also changed his social circle and no longer has anything to do with his old drugs and drinking associates.
Most of his friends today are either old school buddies or acquaintances through AA and NA.
"The only thing I had in common with my old friends was alcohol and drugs. Today, I go to GAA matches with my family and new friends, I've got a new job and I'm in a relationship with a girl I met.
"I've got a life and a future today which is more than I ever had with drugs and drink.
"If I had one message to youngsters in rural Ireland who think they may have a problem with drugs or drink it is that there is help available if you only ask for it. That's the first step to getting your life back."
* not his real name