Timmy Ryan arrived at Addaction Chy residential rehabilitation home in Cornwall thinking it was his last chance at surviving.
Now he’s returning as a member of staff after beating his alcohol addiction and becoming an inspiration to everyone who walks through the door.
The 50 year old tells his story:
“When I went to Chy in December 2014, it was my last chance saloon. The doctor had told me it was the end of the road for me; that my alcohol addiction was going to finish me.
It’d been with me a long time. A childhood surrounded by violence and spending time in and out of care had led me to drink. I guess I was about 14 years old when I started drinking.
I was a complete mess, carrying around a head full of physical and mental abuse. It was like torture and I used anything I could to ease the madness of it all.
For most of my life I managed to be a functioning alcoholic. I held down a construction job and drinking was a big part of that world anyway. It was a rollercoaster. I could be in control for a couple of weeks, but then it’d take the slightest thing and alcohol was back in charge. Gradually, it ground me down and alcohol become my master. Over time it took everything: my marriage, friends and family. It’s a terrible disease that took complete control of me.
Everyone used to say I was so distant. I couldn’t look people in the eye, didn’t think I had the right. I couldn’t share with anyone as it destroyed me inside.
At 47, I’d already had two heart attacks and the doctor said the third would be goodnight forever. I had an irregular heartbeat and wasn’t looking after myself. I wasn’t taking my medication, lost loads of weight and was literally drinking constantly. I was slowly drinking myself to death and was aware of it but I couldn’t help it I was drinking to stop the shakes and heaving. The good times had long gone and I was a shell of the man I once was. I was powerless over my addiction and my life had become a complete nightmare full of regret, self pity and consequences.
My daughter, who was 14 at the time, was walking down the road holding my hand and said: “I don’t want you to die”. It took until that point to realise what I was doing to everyone around me as well as myself. I thought to myself ‘you selfish b*stard’. Then I saw myself in the reflection of a pub window and I was looking at a tramp. It was time to get a grip.
I had managed to get to the front door of Addaction about 10 times before, but had stopped with my fingers on the handle and then walked away again. I’d been so frightened about what was going to be behind that door. I had burnt all my bridges elsewhere and thought they would be negative towards me too and send me somewhere else.
When I finally opened the door, it was the complete opposite. The staff were so supportive and non-judgmental. They saved my life.
That was the start of the journey. When I had those first one to ones it was like a storm came out of me, sharing everything I’d never spoken about to anyone before. It was amazing having finally said the words, they held so much less power over me.
When I arrived at Chy the staff were equally fantastic. I spent three months in the main house and three months in the move-on flats in the same grounds.
For years I had a head full of negative thoughts I used as excuses for all sort of things. Treatment took all those excuses away and there was nobody to blame but myself. I took responsibility in a way I never had before.
You think nobody cares about you, but until you start caring about yourself nobody will. You have to believe in yourself and admit to yourself that you are worth it. But you can’t do it on your own; you need people like the staff at Chy to put that belief back into you.
After treatment, I relocated to Cornwall and started volunteering with Chy doing painting, DIY, that kind of thing. At the same time I did courses in maths and English, which was another milestone in my life. I completed a mental health awareness course and a Level 2 counselling course. I also volunteered for the homeless service.
I love being in the house telling my story. I tell new residents how it is and don’t sugar coat it at all. They love the honesty.
After about 10 months volunteering, a job came up. I was so proud of myself just going for the interview, to actually get the job has absolutely blown me away; I broke down crying realising how far I have come. It’s been so much hard work, but I owe Addaction my life. I wish I had found recovery 20 years ago and it’s a privilege to help others on that road.
I live in Falmouth now and wake up every day and see the bay outside my window. It’s like a dream.
I’ll always be an alcoholic, but I don’t feel the need to tell people now. I live for future and not the past.”
Addaction Chy is a residential rehabilitation home in Truro, Cornwall. Visit www.chy.addaction.org.uk to find out more.