My name is Paul Garrigan, and I’m a mindfulness teacher (mindfulness program manager) at Hope Rehab Thailand. I originally come from Ireland, but I spent my twenties in England and now live in Thailand. As well as being a mindfulness coach, I am a registered nurse and freelance addiction writer.
A Bit More About My Drinking History
I was born in Dublin in 1969 and spent my early years in Sallynoggin before my family moved to Shankill. I discovered alcohol during my early teens and used it as a means to cope with my parents’ break-up. Alcohol had always intrigued me and my family problems provided the perfect excuse to experiment. During those early years I would always vomit after drinking but this did nothing to dissuade me – drinking was a skill I felt determined to master.
I briefly went to live with my father in Cork after my parents’ separation, but problems with alcohol, and a few brushes with the law, meant a return to live back in Dublin. During my time in Cork I was expelled from school. In just over a year I had gone from the top class in one school to the bottom class in another and then out of school altogether. I turned sixteen that summer so it wasn’t a problem. I found work in a supermarket in Dun Laoghaire and had enough money to drink in pubs – I felt like I’d found heaven.
At eighteen years of age I left Dublin to go live in England. I found work in a bar in Oxford and could now drink all day long. My drinking became a problem and two years later I returned to Dublin where I attended an out-patient treatment program for alcohol abuse. I thought the real problem was other people and not my drinking. I returned to the UK but didn’t remain sober for long. My addictive behavior continued to deteriorate to such an extent that I had a mental breakdown and ended up begging on the streets of London.
At twenty five I entered my second treatment program and managed to stay sober for 24 months. During the previous five years I had been able to continue my education and somehow managed to get my ‘A’ levels which meant that I could go to university. I decided that I wanted to work as a nurse and so began a three year training program. I also started back drinking.
I qualified as a nurse despite my return to alcohol. I enjoyed my new profession but my addiction made my life miserable most of the time. After a couple of years, I decided that going to work in Saudi Arabia would be a great idea. I hoped the fact that alcohol was banned would keep me sober. A medical prior to my move to Saudi showed elevated liver function results which suggested that my liver was being damaged by my alcohol abuse. I consoled myself with the thought that Saudi would mean a life free of addiction. This did not prove to be the case. In Saudi I found that there was lots of illegal booze available and things became worse instead of better.
While on holiday in Vietnam, I made the decision not to return to Saudi – I felt sure that I would drink myself to death if I did. I found work teaching in Thailand and over the next few years my mental and physical health deteriorated further. I more or less gave up any hope of escape from addiction. Six years had passed since the doctor’s warning about my liver, and I suspected that even if I managed to give up the booze I would be dead before forty. I continued drinking.
I had become interested in meditation as a teenager, and I had always returned to this during my sober periods. I began turning up at temples in Thailand for meditation retreats in the hope that these would cure me. At one 26 intensive retreat at Wat Rampoeng in Chiang Mai, I experienced a profound sense of inner-peace, and I knew that this was what I’d been looking for all my life. I drank again soon after leaving this meditation retreat, and the fact I’d experienced such mental freedom meant the hell of addiction felt even worse – I see this now as the beginning of the end.
In June 2006 I was living in a Thai village and drunkenly surfing the internet for any solution to my drinking problem – this was something that I did regularly. I came across a website for Wat Thamkrabok – another temple. Something about this treatment option excited me, and for the first time in years I felt real hope about the possibility of escape from addiction. I checked myself into this facility within a couple of days of hearing about it.
Wat Thamkrabok is a Buddhist temple in Saraburi province Thailand. It specializes in treating addicts and is famous for using a daily vomiting session as part of the approach. The other unique thing about the temple is the Satja vow – a promise never to drink again. If you relapse you cannot return to the temple because the vow can only be taken once. Wat Thamkrabok helps addicts from all over Thailand and the rest of the world.
My addiction ended in June 2006 at Wat Thamkrabok. My life today is more wonderful than I could ever have expected. Of course, things aren’t always perfect, but I experience a sense of inner ‘okayness’ that never goes away – I credit my regular mindfulness practice for most of this improvement. I got married soon after leaving the temple and my son was born a year after that.
In 2010 my memoir of addiction and recovery Dead Drunk was released by Maverick House
In this Irish TV show interview I talk about my story:
You can contact me at; firstname.lastname@example.org