Recovering addict is the only man above ground of 17 who started rehab

Last man standing: John McMahon after finishing the Quest Lough Derg Challenge earlier this month.

A PUNCTURE slowed him down and took some of the wind out of John McMahon’s sails when he took on a tri-challenge earlier this month. But nothing can put a puncture in his zest for life since his recovery from drink and drug addiction.

The 39-year-old told the Limerick Post that “Southill was a great place to be a child but it was also a place where I fell in with bad company”.

“Drink was something we all experimented with when we were teenagers rebelling. And there was a bit of cannabis around, but nothing really big in the way of drugs”.

Ironically, John’s first brush with addiction was with a medication prescribed for him after a traumatic incident in his teens. He became hooked on Xanax and street drugs followed, ecstasy, speed, and cocaine, and all the while, alcohol.

“I went into Bushy Park rehabilitation centre and, after I finished the programme, I was sober for 15 years,” John says.

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“But there were ways I still wasn’t fully committed in my own head. I didn’t really get it that I had a problem and that the problem wasn’t cured.”

In April 2020, John had falling back into drink and drugs and was severely obese at 20 stone. He was a heart attack waiting to happen. And then it did happen.

“It was a massive heart attack. I remember waking up in intensive care and my mother, in full hazmat gear,  was rubbing my hand saying ‘don’t die John, please don’t die.’ I knew right then I would never abuse my body again.”

The father of two went on to recover, shedding seven stone and taking up a cycling and fitness regime that he had always wanted to follow.

“It used to make me very sad that I couldn’t run or play soccer. I couldn’t have run to the corner before, now I’m running 14k and cycling.”

John says he uses the tools he was given in Bushy Park to learn to live clean again.

“It’s a chilling fact, when I look back, there were 17 of us who started rehab together 23 years ago. Of those 17, only one person is still alive – me.”

John appreciates every day of the new life he now has and is looking forward to even bigger challenges than the one he had earlier this month when he completed the Quest Lough Derg challenge in Killaloe to cycle, run, and kayak, despite the unfortunate puncture in his tyre.

“What I would say to anyone who thinks they have a problem is talk to a professional, a GP, or someone who knows what they’re talking about.

“There is hope. People do beat addiction and get a whole new life. If I did it anyone can.”

If his completing the Quest challenge despite a punctured type proves anything for John it’s that a bump in the road is never going to stop him.