Lynn Ruane grow up in a loving and working class family in an area known for poverty. She did not know she was “disadvantaged”. She just knew school did not suit her. You were not allowed to be yourself, it assumed everybody learned in the same way. She became disruptive and rebellious.
At just 13 years old, Lynn Ruane saw her friend die in a road traffic accident. She realised she might not live long enough to fulfil her dreams. To ease the pain and escape reality, she started drinking. Then she was onto cocaine and ecstasy. She got hold of heroin. But in the local library she learned she would become addicted, so she flushed it down the library toilet. At that stage, she was robbing shops and cars to buy drugs.
Pregnant at 15
Lynn became pregnant at 15. Her dreams was to be old enough to get the lone Mother’s allowance and get a house. But she also wanted to be a good role model to her unborn child. She begged the school to take her back and did her junior cert when eight months pregnant.
A new beginning
The social welfare department told Lynn she could go to An Cosan which is a centre providing a different type of education. Lynn describes it as a place where you could be yourself, it was holistic and allowed her to heal. Crucially the centre provided child care.
Fighting against the system
Lynn broke new ground getting the Institute of Technology in Tallaght to change their policy so she could be considered a mature student at just 18! She became a homeless and addiction project worker and changed the services there.
Filling the gap
Lynn introduced a new way of treating drug harm. Most services concentrate on the mechanics of addiction. How to deal with triggers. Lynn believes talking about triggers is in itself a trigger. Lynn focused on “filling the gap”, moving towards activities which make life worthwhile and enjoyable. She believes education and learning is a key part of escaping drug harm. An important point for anybody trying to reduce their drinking. We‘ve often written about this. (Link here)
Funding cuts means go to college
When addiction services were devastated by funding cuts during the austerity years, Lynn realised she did not have the power or words to defend her service. So she went to Trinity College becoming the president of the Student’s Union. Lynn began to realise she was a victim of bad policy, her experience of education, the fact the school system was unable to help students deal with a bereavement. Her lack of understanding of what life could be in her early years.
Meeting Lynn Ruane
With my Dual Diagnosis Ireland hat on I met Lynn some years ago. I was very impressed. She used her terrible experiences to energise herself and make a difference to other people’s lives. Her insights into our very dysfunctional society and alcohol treatment systems were crystal clear. What struck me most of all was her honesty about her life and the mistakes she had made. She “owned” her mistakes but did not dwell on them. She was not ashamed of them. Another key point for anyone trying to control their drinking. Accept and learn from your mistakes. But don’t keep punishing yourself or being ashamed for drinking too much.
Lynn goes public about her sex life
In the middle of all the scandal and media coverage about women being forced into having sex, Lynn wrote a powerful article for the Irish Times. I flinched when I first read it. It was so honest and raw. Would her family be hurt by it? I knew she was bound to get criticism and boy did she get it.
In the article which you can read here, Lynn admitted to losing her virginity at just 13. She states she just did not know how to say no.
“From that point onwards, sex was an activity that I felt was expected of me”
“On many of those occasions, I was way too intoxicated to even remember the encounter”
Again showing the role of alcohol in unwanted sexual contacts. as we discussed here.
Thanks to Lynn, Trinity College have now introduced mandatory sexual consent workshops.
Lynn becomes a Senator
Lynn decided to run for senator and again beats the odds. Rarely does someone succeed on her first attempt. She also unseats a serving senator, which hardly ever happens. She has been very active in the Seanad speaking on a wide range of issues.
Publishing a book “People Like Me”
Lynn Ruane has now written a book “People Like Me” which is due to be launched Tuesday the 18th of September. Over 400 people have said they will attend and the event is booked out.
We’ll be there to help her celebrate. At just 33 years old Lynn is an inspiration. Not just to women who drink too much but too many Irish people.
So if you’re struggling to get your drinking under control, use people like Lynn Ruane to inspire you. If Lynn can succeed against all the odds so can you. You can have a happier life.