Tuesday 6 December 2016

Racheal Keogh - the heroin addict whose arms were almost amputated - marks 10 years of hard-hitting documentary

**Warning: some readers may find images below distressing**

Published 16/06/2016 | 13:12

Former addict Rachael Keogh
Former addict Rachael Keogh

RECOVERING heroin addict Rachael Keogh has revealed she will “always need help with her addiction” despite marking the 10th anniversary of her hard hitting documentary ‘My Heroin Hell’.

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Rachael (35) from Ballymun, first made headlines in July 2006 when shocking images of her ravaged arms emerged after doctors feat they would have to be amputated if she didn’t stop using heroin.

It’s now ten years since those photos made international headlines and mother-of-one Rachael has been reflecting on her ‘long road full of ups and downs’.

Today a hard hitting award winning documentary she made with Sky News in 2006 will be screened at an international festival ten years after its first broadcast.

Speaking today, Rachael said: “It’s been a very long road, there’s been lots of ups and downs. The documentary completely changed my life because it gave me a chance to be honest about my addiction and about my life and to share that with people.

“My initial motive for doing the film was to get into treatment, but it didn’t fast track me in any way I didn’t get there before anyone I had to wait. What did come though was a chance to share my story with other people and that was cathartic in many ways because the response from people was phenomenal and still is.

A happy and healthy Rachel in 2009
A happy and healthy Rachel in 2009

“I couldn’t believe the amount of people who sent me letters and emails telling me their story, it was all about connecting with people.

“It was exposing in many ways and humbling and I badly needed help. The film also shone a light on the whole area of addiction.

“When you get clean people automatically think you’re ok, you’re full of ray and sunshine but that is not the reality, it’s just something you always have to stay on top of everyday with help from other people.”

‘My Heroin Hell, Rachael’s Story’ followed her journey in and out of treatment centres after her mother Lynda published images of open wounds on her arms in a desperate bid to get help.

At the time, Rachael was on the run from gardai over a number of outstanding warrants for shoplifting.

Rachael was given a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ when a judge commended her for her efforts to face her demons and extinguished all her convictions from her record after she got clean.

The shocking images of Rachel that featured in the film
The shocking images of Rachel that featured in the film

There are around 14,000 registered heroin addicts in Ireland and very few public detox beds for those who do wish to get clean.

Rachael was treated in Cherry Orchard detox unit before spending three months in Keltoi Rehabilitation Centre in the Phoenix Park.

“People think when you get clean you just bounce back to normal life when that’s not the case, the documentary was just the very beginning of my road to recovery and I had to work very hard to get to a normal state on a daily basis for the first seven years or so. It took that length of time to thaw out, because it’s not easy to face up to the type of life you had, you start to realise the way you’ve been living. It is something you have to live with it’s not just a documentary or a story it’s real life.

“Changing is the hard part, it takes years. Recovery is a lifelong thing no matter how hard you try. I’m clean but it’s something I will always need help with.

“I’ve had my downfalls and when it comes to recovery I can do 24 hours.”

After getting clean Rachael spent years going around schools giving talks of the effects of heroin abuse.

“The other good thing about the film was I was able to show it to young kids in school and give talks. I remember when people came in and gave talks about drugs, it was just text book stuff. So it was great to connect with the younger kids.

“I’m good today, I’m busy I’m kept going with my son. Nowadays I’m taking time to mind myself and him. Things are quiet.”

‘My Heroin Hell, Rachael’s Story’ which was made by journalists Alison O’Reilly and Rob Kirk will be screened today and tomorrow as part of the Culture Unplugged Film Festival.

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