This story will be told in detail in the coming weeks. The gentleman who wrote it arrived safely in Limerick yesterday evening. As you will read below; this is only a brief account of the horrific experience he suffered at the hands of people who are supposed to have compassion but they don’t. Cuan Mhuire was founded by Sister Consilio Fitzgerald, for whom people have the highest admiration, but down the years she has lost control sadly. Some of the staff now believe they have the right to bully and abuse vulnerable people. I want to find out like others what really is going on behind the walls at Bruree, Co. Limerick. The doctor overseeing that establishment presides over what could be classified as a concentration camp run by little Hitlers. My friend was left at a bus stop in the heat; he was offered no water but he contacted people in Dublin and eventually arrived safely at a hotel in Limerick.
Again I ask people to come forward because I am sure there are many more stories like this. Bruree appears to be run through fear and bullying and I will be writing to the HSE and the Charities Regulators (Eamon Timmins) to see who is funding the people who don’t care. This is to be continued.
Based on a friend’s assurance through administrator Eileen that the Cuan Mhuire recovery centre at Bruree would be suitable as a retreat for a long-term recovered alcoholic with remaining symptoms of anxiety & depression, I travelled cross country to arrive at Bruree reception late Sunday evening.
In my entry interview I was told for the first time that I had to surrender all communication devices, including anything electronic. This developed into an awkward conversation with the admitting nurse and the counseling priest, since my friend had already told the staff that I would need to be working a light schedule on the computer daily.
After the last train had already departed for Dublin for the evening, the conclusion of that conversation was that I was perfectly free to “take a week off and get my affairs in order.” In other words, refusing to surrender the communication devices on immediate notice would have left me on the street for the night in Charleville (a farming town).
All I had asked for was an hour or so to send a few pieces of email to friends, family and colleagues that would explain my sudden disappearance from phone and email for an indeterminate period. All I was given was time enough to send one explanatory email & phone call while the “facilitator” on duty for the night stood and watched.
After that I was allowed to pull some key items out of my bags according to their admission standards. I had been recently travelling for a long period in search of a non surgical treatment for an orthopaedic condition, with good results from over the counter, non-prescription medicines. I was not allowed any of these medicines despite arriving in obvious pain.
There was a more rigorous search the following morning with the result that my belongings, which had been carefully sorted during a six-month journey, were randomly distributed between at least six different bags which were to be held in different places by different staff according to rules which were impossible to keep track of.
The first morning I met a doctor from whom I had to practically beg to be allowed to keep two bottles of well documented vitamin pills (Vitamin C & Vitamin B complex) that are standard issue in drug & alcohol rehabilitation centres all over the world. I explained that I suffer from Achilles tendinosis for which the only current solution is pain management, and for which I only take adult strength aspirin (325mg), but the doctor wrote in my chart that I was only authorised to take baby aspirin (75mg) as if I had told him I’d had a heart condition instead. This led me to spend my first 24 hours in the Centre in unremitting pain until the release of the first of my asprin pills was finally authorised.
I won’t criticise the lack of activities at the Centre which are paced in favour of a twelve-week rehabilitation cycle. I heard several people in their first two weeks literally talking about “going mad” with boredom. There was a “reading room” on the hallway which I thought would have a well stocked library, but only had three discarded paperbacks.
I was later told that 1) a “Sister Agnes” had every book in that reading room incinerated in the last month, stipulating that there were to be no non-Catholic books on the premises, and that 2) if you were reading any non compliant book, you had better keep it hidden: otherwise it would be discarded.
I had with me an old, non Internet enabled Kindle with a number of spiritual & self-help books, and I renewed an enquiry to have it released from custody after I realised that the only thing to do there was read paper books (effectively prohibited as well). I offered for them to inspect the Kindle and verify 1) there was no Internet access from it, and 2) that my books were all compliant with healthy recovery standards.
The admitting officer Eileen said, in apparent contradiction of her initial conversation with my friend: “There’s no way that will ever happen” with the reason that if any devices were seen in use by any other member, then they would ALL want access to their own devices. I was also told “We won’t know what’s on it” even though I offered to show them the entire contents of the Kindle. As most people would have, I took this as a violation of good faith.
During lunch time after my second morning there (today, 03 July) I was abruptly ordered out of my seat by an administrator Bernadette (who never introduced herself to me; I had to gather her name second-hand) to a closed-door meeting with Sister Agnes which was like an interrogation. They demanded in a manner I thought ill befitting either a religious person or a health care worker what I was doing in a rehabilitation centre when I was 10 years sober, which implied that I had misled them.
The close friend who had made the arrangements for me to stay there had been trying to get in touch with me past the communication barriers, and had been repeatedly been put off even though he had important news about my family and my own long term health issues. The disturbing nature of the communication blackout had led to tense conversations between him and the staff, for which the management were now holding me responsible.
The question “What are you doing here?” was asked a number of different ways even though I had already given them a complete description of my medical issues and recovery history two days earlier at the entry interview. I understood that this “interview” was an expulsion and I apologised for any inconvenience the last two days had caused, and for any assumption that the centre at Bruree was a “retreat” that would be suitable for recovering alcoholics with post acute withdrawal symptoms.
They seemed satisfied with this conclusion and said they would have me on the first train out, and that I should be ready to leave within about a half hour. At this point all the items I had been travelling with for over six months were scattered in at least a half dozen bags. The manager Bernadette repeatedly asked for me to commit to a leaving time even though I hadn’t been given my mobile phone back yet and couldn’t even have begun to make arrangements for where I would be going next.
After this “interview” when I returned for my mobile phone, she had gone through the amount of cash I had left, taking out the fees for staying at the Centre (without providing a receipt let alone an inventory of what I was being charged for), and concluded, based on this count of my apparent funds, that “I didn’t have enough money for the train” and therefore could only afford the bus.
Finally I was able to get my scattered items together and repack the case and computer bag I had arrived with. A carton of duty free cigarettes had been kept in an undisclosed location (I was told they would be kept in my larger suitcase and hadn’t checked), and only the facilitator (himself a graduated patient) stopped me on the way out and asked if I’d double checked for the carton of cigarettes. I asked and sure enough, the cigarettes had not been included in my returned items.
They had said they would “drop me at the bus station in Limerick” but after 5 minutes of driving I was left on the side of the main road up to Limerick at the Bus Éireann stop, being told I could make the rest of the way on my own and that the bus stopped every hour. After a half hour of waiting I was able to pay the Bus Éireann driver €10 for the remaining trip up to Limerick station, roughly 48 hours after arriving at Charleville for my rehabilitative stay at Bruree.