Matthew Moynihan has seen and done more than most in twenty-three short years. His life has been a rollercoaster, not aided by a difficult start, and he shared his experiences with Ryan Tubridy. His mum, whom he describes as “an excellent person, the best person I know” gave birth to him while living in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork and has struggled with schizophrenia, which Matthew is proud to say is very much under control these days. He describes his childhood as “scattered” and after experiencing a lot of upheaval and trauma Matthew turned to drugs and alcohol as a way of dealing with his reality.
“I was about eighteen when it started to become a problem. I had a breakdown and ended up in hospital and I couldn’t cope with my reality so I started using alcohol primarily but also cannabis as a way of dealing with the stuff that I couldn’t deal with.”
Matthew describes how this “maladaptive coping mechanism” brought him from top student at his boarding school to homelessness in a few short years.
“I started to become withdrawn. I started to use a lot of cannabis, use a lot of alcohol on a more consistent basis and as that happened my motivations, my desire for further education, my prospects, disintegrated. It really hit the fan when I came to Cork.”
On his first morning in Cork, twenty-year-old Matthew woke up in Cork University Hospital and was later moved to Mercy University Hospital. He had become so used to hospitalisation at this stage he says “they were more like hotels to me in my addiction.” Matthew was diagnosed with OCD and Borderline Personality Disorder, which he says left him more vulnerable to developing addictions.
“People with mental health issues have a much higher predisposition to substance abuse than the average person so you become more mentally ill because of substance abuse and you use more substances because you’re more mentally ill and that vicious cycle continues.”
Matthew found himself living in a homeless shelter on and off for three years. While he’s very grateful for all help he received from the Vincent de Paul, he also describes the experience as “absolutely terrifying”.
“It’s haunting every day in those places. You’ve got seventy-one people generally in active addiction. At that time I managed to stay sober there as one out of seventy-two – statistically, it was quite difficult to do – but you almost have to be sociopathic in your level of empathy to get through. You have to switch off. I had to go to college, I had to come back, I had to stay in my room, I couldn’t deal with it.”
Matthew saw education as his only way out and completed a FETAC level 4 in employment skills while living at the hostel, determined to battle his demons and create a new life. After coming to the frank realisation that he didn’t want to die, Matthew attended a twelve step programme and pulled himself “out of the gutter” one day at a time.
“I’m doing very well. I study radio broadcasting… I want to be a presenter. I also have published poetry in various countries and I run a poetry event here in Cork called Spotlight Poetry. Outside of that I have my own podcast but on a personal level in terms of my happiness and my health, I have lost maybe five stone in a year, I have started exercising again, I am happy and that is something I wasn’t for primarily the large part of the twenty-two years of my life so my life has gone from darkness into light really. ”
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