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Westmeath's Luke Loughlin Out Of Hell After 10 Years Of Addiction

9 July 2022; Luke Loughlin of Westmeath celebrates his side's second goal, scored by teammate Kieran Martin, 18, during the Tailteann Cup Final match between Cavan and Westmeath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

By PJ Browne Updated

As the Westmeath and Cavan teams awaited the throw-in of Saturday's Tailteann Cup final at Croke Park, Luke Loughlin's thoughts turned back a year, and how far he'd come in his recovery from an alcohol and drug addiction.

"A year ago I was in a very bad place. I had to come to terms with an addiction to alcohol and drugs," Loughlin, who scored two points from play in the Westmeath victory, told RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland.

"Basically, my addiction was anything that could take me out of reality. I was ruining my life every time. It was like there was a big button on my chest, ‘self-destruct’, time and time again, and this was going on for 10 years.

"This time last year, a video went around of me asleep at the side of a train track. I was on a bender for two months. In the middle of that two months, I had 10 days in bed and then I went drinking again, and drugs, obviously. And another five days in bed.

"I just thought about all of the people that messaged me just saying how it made them feel seeing me healthy and happy. It was never really about the performance. It was about seeing the smile on someone's face.

"I thought about my mother, Una, who I had put through such hardship the last 10 years and it’s so nice to see a smile on her face."

9 July 2022; Westmeath manager Jack Cooney, centre, celebrates with Luke Loughlin, left, and David Lynch after their side's victory in the Tailteann Cup Final match between Cavan and Westmeath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The day of the Tailteann Cup final marked exactly 12 months in recovery. Last year, he spent three months at the Cuan Mhuire addiction centre.

"It changed my life," said the 27-year-old.

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"I was able to focus on myself for the first time ever. I was able to deal with the problems that I had from when I was a child. I was able to deal with my addiction.

"I didn't realise I had an addiction. I can see now the problems I had. It was just crazy. I could stay off the drink for maybe a month, convince myself 'Get things together'. I'd do good for a month, and then I'd be like, 'I need to reward myself now. It'll be different this time'.

"I could go on the beer for two weeks or go missing for two weeks and missing from work. I was so consumed by what other people thought about my image. I was so insecure about the way I looked.

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"I genuinely got to the stage where I just hated everything about myself. When I was drinking and doing drugs, I was becoming someone else. Ultimately, the person I was becoming was killing me. I was killing everything about myself: My reputation, my family life. I needed to get away from it big time."

'The Westmeath team is such a special group of people'

Loughlin credits football, and time spent at Wolfhound Fitness in Mullingar, as being major parts of his recovery.

"When I came out of Cuan Mhuire, I got time off work for a long time," he said.

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"I spent so much time [in Wolfhound gym], and not just training. Joe and Katie were basically my aftercare. I'd be able to talk openly and freely about stuff. I've never left the gym in bad form.

"This was the first year that I've made it from pre-season with Westmeath to the last game of the championship without getting dropped, without doing something stupid with drink. I'm very proud of myself over that. It might sound so small to someone else, but it's huge to me.

"The Westmeath team is such a special group of people. I'm delighted that we've won something. It's something to show for the hard work that's been going on for the last time.

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"Everyone on this planet has problems. It's all about talking about them. You don't have to be this big macho alpha [male]. You don't have to be like that; you can be normal, show weakness. You can let things out, and you feel so much better talking about stuff."

See Also: Galway Officials Gave Half-Time Ultimatum To Referee

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