One year free from addiction – meet the Tipperary man who turned his life around

Today Tipperary man Keith Morris (28) is in a great place. Life is good.

A year on from finally giving in and accepting help for an addiction that destroyed everything in its path for the guts of ten years, a Gaa and Golf mad Morris reflects on the good, the bad and the ugly and the good again by way of looking back on some before and after photos.

Morris has a smile on his face nowadays that lights up any room he enters. Partly because of his joy at his beloved Tipperary ending an 85 year famine by winning the Munster Senior Football Championship with victory over Cork but mainly because of where the last year and his recovery has brought him.

He walked through the gates of Cuan Mhuire Athy on December 19th 2019, a broken man, whereas a day short of that same date in 2020, he now walks around a happy, content man, delighted to have been given a second chance at life and ready to face the future, a future free from addiction, a bright future.

Keith Morris; “One year clean, sober and gamble free today.

I look back now on the photos as a way of reminding myself of the effects that drugs, alcohol and gambling addictions can directly or indirectly have on you physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Looking back at the first few photos makes me scared as hell to be honest. Embarrassing as it is to admit, as a young 27 year old man at the time, I was a clinically, chronic alcoholic and drug addict.

This is a vulgar picture to paint so I apologise, but waking up with soaking wet sheets, sweating profusely, shaking uncontrollably, urinating into a bottle beside the bed because you’re too afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of someone seeing you and literally tearing the skin off you’re face with anxiety and fear, due to withdrawal was a near daily occurrence for me in my last few years of active addiction. And all this at 27 years old.

It’s very hard to believe how much damage can be done in such a relatively short period of time (10 years drinking and using) due to the disease of addiction. I had virtually nothing left in my life. I lost my job, my house, all respect and dignity, my friends, my family, my relationships, my interests and most of all my peace of mind due to my addiction.

I take total responsibility and ownership of the fact that these things happened because of choices I made. At the end of the day nobody physically made me take that drink, snort that line or put that bet on. Things that are widely socially acceptable today, may I add and only a few years back it was just fun to me too.

But I never knew that eventually I was going to need these things just to actually feel like a normal human being. I just didn’t think it could happen to me.

It’s hard to comprehend for somebody who hasn’t been there but when you live on the edge of life for long enough like I did, eventually, that becomes the new normal.

Disease is a word that is commonly misinterpreted and frowned upon when associated with alcoholism, drug and gambling addictions (believe me I would have scoffed at the thought of it too one time) and there is still a huge stigma attached to it which needs to be changed, but if you break it down into 2 words, it starts to makes sense.

Alcohol, drugs and gambling had me at a Dis-ease with myself. Unless I took that drink, snorted that line, put on that bet, I couldn’t function.

On the 19th of December last year my family desperately brought me to the gates of Cuan Mhuire Athy and begged them to help me. I had lost all motivation to make the most of life at that stage and couldn’t beg myself.

The other option I had was to go to Merchants Quay in Dublin where I wouldn’t have lasted long in all honesty. Probably wouldn’t have been alive past Christmas such is the harsh reality of the life I was heading for.

The last few pictures are taken over the course of 2020 and paint a completely different picture thankfully. The last year I can safely say, has been the greatest year of my life. In the middle of a global pandemic I’ve managed to change more emotionally, physically and spiritually than all of my other years combined. And I couldn’t have done it without the help of Cuan Mhuire, family and friends, a lot of special people that believed in and saw the goodness in me when I couldnt see it in myself. Only for them I wouldn’t be posting this and I am eternally grateful 🙏

Now I feel the future is bright. I am currently still in Cuan Mhuire on a CE scheme, working as a facilitator with residents in the drug detox, preparing them for the rocky road to recovery that lies ahead. In the new year I will begin my studies in addiction counselling and strength and conditioning, two things that I am extremely passionate about and both play a huge part in my recovery today. Just over a year ago, even in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have believed this could happen.

Dont get me wrong though, recovery hasn’t been easy. The more I learn about this disease, the more I realise it has very little to do with just abstaining from alcohol, drugs and gambling and more to do with learning how to deal with more deeper rooted issues and building a life you dont need to escape from.

There is still a lot of harsh truths and realities you have to come to terms with and I still deal with anxiety, low self esteem, jealousy, self-pity etc from time to time, amongst a whole host of other things. But it is much better and easier deal with these things sober rather than in active addiction. It’s worth every inch of the struggle.

When I look back at the first few pictures now I don’t recognize that person anymore. A shell of a human being is all I was. But I know that I can always be that person again if I choose to pick up, use or bet again.

The difference is that I have a choice now. In addiction you lose the ability to have a choice. There is no other alternative in the mind of an addict.

I don’t want to glorify my accomplishments but to show people, especially with the rate of suicide, (3 that I have heard of in the past week) and relapse currently in Ireland, that there is way out of that deep dark hole of the depression that comes from struggling with substance abuse, alcoholism and compulsive gambling.

I’d urge people struggling to pick up the phone today, call a treatment centre, Pieta House, an AA, CA, NA or even GA member. Anybody I have met through recovery is more than willing to help people who need and want it because we have all been there before. We understand and I am more than willing to help anyone that I can too with my own experiences.

We all want to stop living the lives we were living in addiction, but the answer is never suicide. Reach out for help and have someone who has done it help you to do the same” – Keith Morris

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