Lower Sixth Visiting Speaker: From Homeless Drunk To Government Advisor

Chip Somers used to stand in the dole queue with shoes held together by gaffer tape, blood covering the only pair of trousers he owned and scabs in his hair. He spent years living on the street, drunk and addicted to methadone. The 64-year-old former drug addict and ex-offender has since spent thirty years involved in helping those dealing with addiction. He runs a charity providing treatment for alcohol and substance misuse, and advises the government on drug rehabilitation.

His talk on alcohol awareness given to the Lower Sixth recently was extremely practical but also hard hitting. What alcohol does. What the law says. What percentage of the listening audience were, based on current data, likely to experience some kind of dependency in the future (10%). What to do or not do when someone has drunk too much (don’t give them a cold shower or make them walk around – they are most likely to get hypothermia or injure themselves falling over).

This is his own reflection on what caused him to become alcohol and drug dependent:

"In my teens I was quite capable of putting on a front, making jokes, teasing people and getting involved in banter. However the outside did not match the inside. Inside I felt dreadfully insecure about myself, conscious of various physical aspects of my face and body that made me defensive. I felt shy, unsure and always a little bit out of the group. I would never have dared voice this and so it got hidden. When I discovered alcohol could hide it so easily I embraced drinking wholeheartedly. Alcohol enabled me to temporarily make the inside match the outside. As a result I never learnt how to naturally develop confidence and social skills. I realise now I was like a chameleon adapting and performing a role within whichever group I was part of. I was hardly, if ever, real"

At least some aspects of this powerful reflection will probably strike a chord with many of us.