Brother Russell House
Frank, 50, a resident of Brother Russell House, shares his story on how Novas helped turn his life around.
At four years of age I was sent to school in a local convent, which also became my home. Life there was hard and we weren’t treated very well. I remained there for 10 years, but would often meet my father in town at the weekends. It was he who introduced me to alcohol when I was about 10 years old, and that’s when my drinking started.
At 17 I joined the army, where I started to drink heavily and constantly. I was thrown out of the army after 3 1/2 years because of my drinking habits. From there my life descended into chaos. I lived in a couple of flats but was never able to maintain them due to my alcohol addiction, my relationships failed also.
Things hit rock bottom a couple of years later, when I lived on the streets of Ennis for 1 1/2 years. For most of that period I lived in a tent on the church grounds. There was nothing good about this time. It was so cold and so lonely. I had nowhere to wash or shave. The winters were the hardest of all. There were times I thought I would die like this. It was the worst time of my life.
This period ended in a jail sentence, after I broke into an off licence. While prison was hard, it was better than the streets, nothing was worse than being homeless. From prison I went straight to Brother Russell House, and it was there I began to turn my life around.
At the beginning I continued to drink heavily. I was difficult to deal with and my addiction continued to escalate. However, the staff stuck with me, even though there must have been times they wanted to give up. With their support and care, I began to cut down on my drinking. I drew up a drinking contract with the manager, Eugene, where I was allowed some cans after 7pm while I watched the soaps. I was not allowed to drink during the day and I was never allowed to drink spirits. I have abided by this contract for many years now. I am no longer a danger to myself or to those around me.
Around the same time I was offered work in the kitchens of Brother Russell. I work there three days a week, helping the chef prepare food and making sure the place is clean. It’s a great way to keep me busy during the day, to keep me distracted from drink. The staff have also recently helped me make contact with my daughters in England, and we now exchange letters. I am so grateful for this.
I have tried to live independently on a couple of occasions in the last few years, but it always breaks down. I don’t think I’m able to live on my own. Brother Russell is where I belong. It has given me dignity and a purpose. I was treated with compassion and patience and I will be forever grateful. This is my home now, the only home I’ve had since I was 4 years old.