Monday 19 February 2018

'My dad is my hero for overcoming heroin addiction' - Trinity lecturer who overcame homelessness

Katriona O'Sullivan,Research Fellow ,TCD
Katriona O'Sullivan,Research Fellow ,TCD
Katriona O'Sullivan and her parents

Laura Lynott

A Trinity lecturer who bravely told her story of overcoming homelessness has opened up about her parents' drug addiction which led to her chaotic childhood.

Katriona O'Sullivan (39), from Blanchardstown, wants to give hope to other young mothers who feel the odds are stacked against them.

Despite suffering homelessness, a disadvantaged childhood and becoming pregnant at just 15, Katriona went on to study at the Trinity access programme and is today a respected psychology lecturer at the prestigious university.

Her son John (23) is a professional footballer with Carlisle United.

Katriona O'Sullivan and her parents
Katriona O'Sullivan and her parents

"The response to the article has been overwhelming. It's been amazing to hear from mums and even a single dad, telling me I had inspired them," said Kaitriona.

"A single mother-of-three said I'd given her hope and I was asked to speak to a 16-year-old pregnant schoolgirl in Dublin.

"The young girl was terrified. I told her it would be okay, that she should stay in school and that no matter what happens, she must believe it will be fine.

"I told her I went to college at 23 and graduated at 28. She has so much time to do things."

Katriona has disclosed more about her painful past in a bid to encourage those at their lowest ebb to believe they can achieve.

Through much of her childhood, her mother and father, Tilly and Tony O'Sullivan, were heroin addicts.

She remembers waking up one Christmas morning with the house bare of presents.

Her father served jail sentences for burglary, credit card fraud and drugs offences.

Tony tragically died aged 56 in 2009, years after becoming clean and rebuilding broken bridges with his daughter.

Today she still regards him as her "hero" for quitting his addiction and devoting himself to becoming a loving granddad. Her mother died in November 2014 at the age of 60.

"It's a part of me that I want to talk about because I want people to know the road I went down didn't happen by accident," Kaitriona said.

"I spent a lot of my childhood visiting dad in prison and seeing mum on heroin. I was in and out of care. I came from a really tough place.

"Things can go wrong in a young person's life sometimes because of family circumstance and poverty but in a way coming from poverty made me a fighter.

"But I know that just isn't the case with everyone. Not everyone can find the strength because life just pushes them down.

"I want to try to give those people hope. To know that it is possible but if they can't pick themselves up, they shouldn't be blamed," she added.


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