HOPE’S HELM Dolores Duggan cofounded Hope House with Attracta Canny, and the centre took in its first resident in September 1993.
Dolores Duggan throws open the doors of Hope House Addiction Treatment Centre in Foxford
For a quarter of a century, two Mercy sisters, Dolores Duggan and Attracta Canny, have been a guiding light for thousands of people who have passed through Hope House Addiction Treatment Centre in Foxford.
The former secondary-school teachers – who both insist on not being referred to by their formal title of Sister – founded Hope House, a former Sister of Charity convent, in 1993 after they recognised the need for a residential treatment centre in the west.
“We opened 26 years ago, and we were the only treatment centre west of Dublin and north of Ennis in Co Clare. You had a long way to go if you needed residential treatment,” Dolores tells The Mayo News.
The centre, located on the banks of the Moy, specialises in the treatment of alcohol, drugs, gambling and other dependencies. The treatment includes a 30-day residential programme, which adopts a holistic approach and provides individual and group counselling, family counselling, educational input, relaxation, meditation and spiritual enrichment. This is followed by a two-year ongoing care programme designed to help residents learn how to take responsibility for their own recovery.
“Nobody gets addicted overnight, and the problem doesn’t get fixed overnight. The ongoing continual care is crucial to the treatment of addiction and the journey of recovery,” Dolores explains.
However, the residency is just the beginning. “The 30-day programme is only putting in the foundation. You have to build on that foundation with continual care. If you do that you have a wonderful chance of beating your addiction,” she adds.
“People might think, ‘Oh God, you went to Hope House and got broken down and built up’. It is nothing like that, it is about exploring with a client and getting them to gain some insight into small changes they have to make that are going to help them stay clean and sober and help them improve the quality of their life and the lives of their family members.”
Tools of recovery
Whether it is an addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling, Dolores says the most difficult step to overcoming your demons is to admit you have a problem.
“With an addiction problem one of the most difficult aspects is that people don’t know they have it or don’t know the extent of it. It is like a disease that tells you that you don’t have it. The process of what is happening here through the whole 30 days is to help people come to that recognition. If you begin to see the seriousness of that problem then you might begin to use the tools of recovery to help yourself stay alcohol, drug and gambling free,” explains Dolores.
She is continually impressed by the mettle shown by those who stay at the centre. “I have great respect for people who come to treatment because it is a brave move to come in and be with a group of people and share and explore and listen to how people feel,” she reveals.
Hope House also offers a Family Programme for the family members of addicts, where they join every Wednesday for four weeks for group and individual sessions.
“The whole process of living with addiction is very difficult for families. The family members are often forgotten, but they suffer too,” says Dolores. Recognising this, Hope House places great emphasis on supporting the people close to the addict, who have also felt the impact of addiction deeply. “It is important for us here to treat the whole family not just the addicted person. We ask family members to be present for the assessment, and they get a lot of hope and support from that, to know that the recovery is important.”
One in ten
In the past quarter of a century, Dolores and Attracta, and the rest of the Hope House staff, have seen lots of changes in Irish people’s addictions. While alcohol remains the biggest addiction, in recent years they have noticed an increase in the use of cocaine and other drugs. She also says that more and more women are becoming addicted to alcohol as drinking wine at home becomes more common. Dolores has also seen a serious rise in gambling, which she says is at almost epidemic proportions, even amongst women.
“There is no stereotypical addict. In people’s minds there is – it is usually the homeless man in the city with a cheap bottle of wine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only 3 percent of addicts end up like that; 97 percent of alcoholics are still at home, writing in our newspapers, teaching in our schools, pulling our teeth … it has no respect for any profession.
“Most people think when they take their first drink or dabble in their first drug it [addiction] will never happen to them. In fact, one out of every ten people who place a bet or take a drink or drug will become addicted to it. I am here 26 years and I have never met an addict who said ‘I knew when I started this was going to be a problem’.”
While there may be underlying reasons that cause people to suffer from addiction, Dolores says that the availability of a product is one of the main factors. She says that in recent years easy access to drugs like cocaine and benzodiazepines has prompted a rise in their use.
“Making something available is going to make more people addicted to that substance. There is no doubt about it in my mind. There is a lobby for legalising [drugs], but we have to recognise that availability is a a huge contributor to addiction developing.
“Why do we have a gambling epidemic in Ireland at the minute? Because of the availability of new warm, welcoming, comfortable and bright bookies and access online. That is why … availability is a huge problem, and that is often forgotten.”
Funding the centre
Hope House has a capacity for 12 to 14 residents at a time, with a staff of 19 – of which eight are addiction counsellors. Some of the staff are former addicts who have gone on to retrain as counsellors.
The centre’s main income is through treatment fees, which are subsidised, and the rest comes through fundraising. This year, Hope House has been chosen as one of three charities nominated for the Ireland West Airport Knock 5k Charity Fun Run/Walk, taking place on the airport runway on Saturday, March 30.
“If we didn’t raise money through fundraising we would have to charge residents about another thousand euro,” Dolores explained. “People are very good and, naturally, those who are most supportive of all are family members of people who have got well. They always want to give something back.”
Dolores and Attracta worked for the health board in the mental-health sector before setting up Hope House and now, looking back, and Dolores is proud of their achievement. “When we opened first we were a bit naïve and didn’t know how it would go, but we put our shoulders to the wheel and gave it our best shot. Back then we did not think 25 years on it would have gone from strength to strength. We just looked at the need and met it. Sadly, the need is still there, and if anything, it is still growing.”