After a four-year stint in prison, Daniel Moore (34) from Blanchardstown overcame drug addiction and homelessness. Now five years sober, he’s completing a diploma in UCD and partaking in the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge for the second time
“How did I get here? That’s the question I remember asking myself when I was escorted to Mountjoy Prison at the age of 23 to serve a four-year sentence for dealing drugs.
I was a good-enough chap when I was younger. I grew up in a foster family and I was well looked after. I never had to ask for anything but I guess, being a foster child, I always just felt a little left out.
I smoked hash for the first time when I was 13. My friend robbed it from his older brother and we smoked it together. Funnily enough, I didn’t enjoy the feeling, but it didn’t stop me. After that I got a little bit more curious. I started hanging around on the corners, doing all the usual stuff that parents don’t like.
I started drinking at a young age and then I got a job as a lounge boy in a local pub, where a lot of crazy stuff went on. I suppose I was attracted to that kind of lifestyle. I used to get invited back to parties, and that’s when I tried my first line of cocaine.
Whatever it was that I was looking for, I found it in that drug. As time went on, there was more drugs and more partying. I thought ‘drugs are there to make you have a good time’. I didn’t see the type of drugs I was doing as bad, and yet I used to look at people who were addicted to heroin and living on the streets and almost turn my nose up at them. I’d think, ‘Man, how did you let it get so bad?’
Things started to get a little out of control when I was 20. At the time I was working as a cabinetmaker, fitting kitchens and wardrobes. My partner was pregnant with our first child when I was suddenly let go.
I had to do something to make money and I knew, from growing up in the area, that selling drugs was a good way to make quick cash. I started selling heroin and then crack cocaine, which is a fast-moving drug and a quick money-maker.
This went on for about a year-and-a-half before I was caught. Police from the Blanchardstown and Finglas Garda Stations raided my house and they found €45,000 worth of crack cocaine and around €6,000 worth of heroin.
I knew I was caught red-handed so I had to make a decision. Either I could drag it out or I could just get it over and done with. Around six months later I was up in front of the judge. He told me a charge under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act carried a mandatory 10 years. But then he said, ‘Because you took full admission, and you didn’t waste [Garda] time and it’s your first major criminal record, I’m giving you a sentence of four years’.
The first few days in Mountjoy were a blur. I didn’t know how to play it. I’d seen movies like The Shawshank Redemption and I was thinking, ‘Am I like Red or Andy?’
But then I remember sitting in my cell on the third night and thinking ‘you just have to come to terms with this’. There’s no getting out of here. There’s no point in crying. And there’s no point in acting like a hard man, because it won’t do you any good’.
The first few days in Mountjoy were a blur. I’d seen movies likeand I was thinking, ‘Am I like Red or Andy?’
I made the decision there and then to just be myself, in that state of being a boy that was about 12 years old. I’m not this hard man, I told myself. I’m not this person who you think I am. I’m not him.
That’s the attitude that got me through jail. I made friends, I got along with the prison guards, people liked my company. I didn’t have any trouble. I was just there to serve my time.
Being released from prison was really, really weird. It was as if I didn’t know the area I grew up in. People I knew had grown up. I remember walking into the house and I was like, I don’t have to go back, I’m out now.
I made so many promises to myself, but they went straight out the window because I was still seeking acceptance. People wanted to be my friend, people wanted to know about me, people wanted to talk to me because I was in prison. I had this street cred and I loved it. I grabbed it with both hands.
I started partying a lot and my partner wasn’t happy with what I was doing. But I didn’t care because all these people who I thought were my friends were accepting me. I was sitting around people’s kitchens at all hours of the morning doing drugs and talking shit.
Things got really, really bad. I went from sniffing at the weekends to doing coke during the week
And that’s when things got really, really bad. I went from sniffing at the weekends to doing coke during the week. I was a functioning cocaine addict. As time went on, myself and my partner had another child. I thought that would stop me, but it didn’t. And the more and more it went on, the worse things got.
Looking back, I just wasn’t talking about how I felt. I wasn’t speaking to anyone about my time in prison. I wasn’t speaking about my childhood and not knowing my father and mother.
And then it got to the point where I’d nowhere to go. My foster parents wouldn’t take me. My partner wouldn’t take me. My friends wouldn’t take me. That’s how I ended up on the streets.
I had a bit of money left so I bought a car for around €200, and that’s where I lived. I’d brush my teeth and wash my face in public toilets. I was still using drugs. The only thing that changed was my location.
It got really, really lonely and suicide crossed my mind on numerous occasions. I remember sitting in the car on my 29th birthday, freezing cold and covering myself with a jacket.
A guard knocked on the window and said to me, ‘Look, you need to move’. I looked at the guard and said, ‘You really think I can move?’ I said, ‘I’ll be quite honest with you, guard. I’m living in this car and I don’t have any money.’
If I ever come across that guard again I’ll shake his hand because he then turned to me and he said, ‘Look, that’s OK.’ And then he turned back and said, ‘Just look after yourself’.
That’s when I realised that’s what I needed to do. I needed to look after myself. I needed to be a father to my kids. I needed to be a partner to my girlfriend. I made the decision to enter a residential programme in Coolmine, a drug and alcohol treatment centre, and that was the start of my journey to recovery.
The counsellors in Coolmine really, really supported me throughout my programme. They got me thinking about the things addiction took away from me, and one of the things was football. I always loved playing football and that’s how I ended up representing Ireland in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico in 2019.
I remember standing on the pitch with my hand over the crest of my Ireland jersey as the national anthem was playing. And I just welled up. I was thinking, ‘at the start of this year I was living in a car and now I’m representing my country here in Mexico City’.
That’s when I realised the world was my oyster, that there was absolutely nothing stopping me. Back in Ireland, I got a job working in electrical sales. When Covid-19 hit, it was a real test for me, so I set up a local running club for people who might be feeling isolated. It now has 80 members. I’ve raised nearly €10,000 in the last two years for charity by doing the David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge, which I’m doing again next month. I also took part in RTÉ’s Ultimate Hell Week.
I was in a cycling accident in 2022 and there was a moment when I thought I was paralysed. This sudden fear came over me and, during my recovery, I decided it was time to start living life the way I want it. You have to do something that makes you happy, something that’s rewarding.
So I left my job in August to study a diploma in Community Drugs and Alcohol in UCD and I’m now working in a residential setting, helping women who are recovering from addiction. I know how tough it is. I know what they’re going through.
If anyone reading this is struggling with addiction, I want you to know there is help out there — just look for it. And don’t be a victim of your past. I was a victim for so many years and I thought that was me for the rest of my life. It’s not. Once you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”
You can find out more about Daniel and his latest charity challenge @danielmbradley
As told to Katie Byrne
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction contact the HSE Drugs & Alcohol freephone Helpline (1800 459 459) or email email@example.com