A Newry dad-of-two and recovering alcoholic is running 10km a day over 100 consecutive days in aid of the charity which offered up a light during the darkest of times.
Thirty-two-year-old Barry Bannon had struggled with alcohol for years, and coupled with his declining mental health, a spiral of addiction quickly set in.
He was at risk of losing not only his family – but also his life.
“I was stuck in a bad cycle of not knowing how to deal with my emotions and using alcohol to cope and didn’t know what to do or what to live for anymore,” admitted Barry, who is raising money for Davina’s Ark, an aftercare addiction centre based in Newry.
“After almost losing myself and my family due to my addiction, I knew I had to make big changes to get myself and my loved ones back. I got in touch with Davina’s Ark and from the outset they were understanding, treating me as a person and not just an addict.
“Davina’s Ark has helped me tremendously with my addiction and get me and my life back. I know my journey is far from over but I am extremely proud of myself. Not only do they help and guide the person with the addiction but also help bond the family back together with counselling etc.
“Being an alcoholic didn’t only affect me. It had a massive impact on my family and loved ones. Davina’s Ark gave us all a better understanding of what happens to the body and brain in active addiction. It is a brain disease but with hard work, dedication and determination, the brain can rewire itself back to its previous state. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the support from Davina’s Ark and my amazing family.”
Barry says there’s still a “terrible stigma” surrounding addiction.
“An embarrassment almost,” he said. “No one wants to talk about it. But it shouldn’t be this way. Millions of people are affected on a daily basis by some sort of addiction. Gambling, alcohol, sex or drugs.
“People always assume that an addict is someone who is lying on the street drunk or with a needle in their arm but an addict could just as easily be a successful business owner who is managing to function outwardly while their home life is falling apart. Or someone whose innocent game of bingo on an online gambling site has spiralled out of their control.
“Addiction does not discriminate. It does not care about gender, religion, social status, age. It sneaks into your life and takes hold. Before you’ve realised what is happening, you’re powerless to its grip. If you abuse it, it will abuse you and take everything from you. However there is help and hope for everyone.
“Davina’s Ark have given me so much help, support and encouragement. They were the bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I’m hoping to raise more money this year to say a massive thank you to them for helping to save me from myself.
“I know sharing my story leaves me in a vulnerable position but by doing so, I am hoping to break the stigma surrounding addiction and if by speaking out I encourage at least one person to seek help, then I’ll be happy.
“I look forward to the challenge ahead. I know I’ll be giving back to the people that have helped me and my family. I’m sure everyone knows at least one person affected by some sort of addiction and I would really appreciate if everyone could support us. Every little counts.”
To find out more about Davina’s Ark in Newry, click here.