"Where do you come from?”           Reflecting on Community, Drugs and Identity

I started the book, “Where Do You Come From?”, in 2018. At the time I had started to write and reflect on my varied work experiences across community social work, research and teaching roles. By choice I have worked either in public housing settings or with issues — educational disadvantage, drug problems, community development — that are most associated with these or similar places. 

While undertaking this reflection, I also began to explore early childhood events, particularly growing up, and working, in Ballyfermot, and their influence on my own journeys around social networking, learning, work and the development of ideas and relationships. 

Although I have written two separate theses — M.Litt (drugs) and PhD (alcohol) — I have found that the detached, abstract method has limited value in a reflective journey, and unsuited to my efforts to integrate the self and the social. I have found a personal narrative — which I use in this book — more instructive, more fulfilling and hopefully more informative. 

“I was an accidental drug worker however, as the issue never featured in my college lectures or practice training, and I never previously expressed any interest in the topic. But the issue did find me, and has stayed with me ever since through a variety of other roles. "

A seminal experience for me in both life and work was in my role as a newly-qualified community social worker in Dublin's South Inner City, 1980–85, where I witnesssed at first hand Ireland’s first heroin-use epidemic, and the arising problems and conflicts. I was an accidental drug worker however, as the issue never featured in my college lectures or practice training, and I never previously expressed a particular interest in the topic. But, surprised as I was, the issue did find me, and has stayed with me ever since through a variety of other roles. It was also obviously, central to my last employed job as coordinator of the local drug and alcohol task force in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (Co. Dublin), (2013–2021). 

In looking to the future, I have concluded that a radical overhal of drug policy is required. The current dominant narrative centres on whether it is primarily an issue for criminal justice or health and social care. While both perspectives have huge importance, the drug issue — like alcohol — needs to be dealt with primarily in economic and cultural terms, as an issue of commodity that, for public health purposes, requires strict regulation and licensing, but not prohibition.

The book “Where Do You Come From?” helps to explain that conclusion.

 Barry Cullen 2018 | barry@kfcullen.ie | Banner photo -  Sea, Sky, Sand & Steps, Whiterock, Co. Dublin