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Sean’s Story

Seán’s story – as told by Tom Holton – Galway Simon Community Addiction Counsellor

Seán is one of us.

A husband, a father, a grandfather.

He knows what it is to work hard and build a successful career. To provide for his family, put food on the table, and a roof over their heads. And he knows all too well what it’s like to lose everything.

Nobody sets out with the intention of losing their job and their home. But my experience has shown me that it can happen to anyone. Seán was working abroad when life took a wrong turn. He’d already become a heavy drinker, but when he lost his job, the drinking got worse. By the time I met him, he was caught in the grip of addiction. You see, the thing with addiction is, it creeps up on you.

My name is Tom and I’m an addiction counsellor with Galway Simon Community. I’ve been Seán’s constant companion on his road to recovery and I’m writing this to share that journey with you.

Homelessness can strike anyone. And it often spirals into other problems: addiction, loss of relationships, loss of hope. After Seán lost his job, his marriage fell apart and he lost touch with his daughter. He returned to Ireland and was trying to rebuild his life, but he was unemployed and homeless, and just didn’t have the support he needed. With nobody to turn to, and heartbroken at the loss of contact with his daughter, he once again turned to alcohol.

When I met him, he was a broken man.

“I don’t want to go back out on the street anymore.” That was one of the first things he said to me and I could see the plea for help in his eyes. He’d just spent 14 weeks in rehab and was in a halfway house. But his time there was coming to an end, and I knew he needed a safe environment in which to continue his journey to recovery.

Seán moved into a Galway Simon house, where he felt safe. It was the secure footing he needed to rebuild his life. I can still recall the gratitude in his eyes the day he moved into that house. “When you’re used to nothing,” he said, “and someone’s prepared to let you live in their house and make sure your needs are catered for, it’s massive.”

You see, if you met Seán, I really think you’d like him. He’s a hardworking man, just trying to rebuild his life. He’s always been grateful for any help he’s received. And he’s not afraid to be honest about his challenges. Seán needed me to meet him right where he was at, to travel his journey alongside him and accompany him into recovery. He shared his innermost struggles with me and it was a privilege.

I know first-hand what that road looks like. Because I too have walked it. I

know that relapse is part of the disease of addiction, and Seán was no exception. He’s gone through a period of stability and then he’s relapsed. And those periods are when it’s more important than ever to keep the connection going. It’s vital that we continue supporting someone without judgment, even if they sometimes take two steps forward and one step back.

Galway Simon’s relationship with Seán spans 7 years. I’ve been by his side since the day I met him.

Seán joined my relapse prevention group, an essential support network for staying sober. Soon after, he found a place of his own, and when the pandemic forced our group meetings online, he continued to attend.

Because the bottom line is, homelessness can happen to anyone and addiction is not a choice. It could be you or me. It could be your son, daughter, sister, brother.

Galway Simon doesn’t judge, doesn’t abandon, doesn’t give up. We will be there for as long as it takes

Seán has now rebuilt his relationship with his daughter and obtained a passport, so he can travel to meet his grandchildren. He plans to get back into education as he rebuilds his life. Through it all, thanks to the generosity and compassion of our supporters, Galway Simon will be there.

Tom Holton

Addiction Counsellor

Galway Simon Community


Please note Sean’s image has been changed to protect his identity, however his story is very much true.