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Dan Gebski interviews Ernie Campbell

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”– Mohammed Ali

DG: Ernie I am honoured to have you in my project From Zero to Hero. My first question to you is. Who is Ernie today?

EC: I don't know personally who Ernie Campbell is and hopefully this interview will explain why I say that.

Today I'm a man that takes one day at a time, I don't make too many plans.

Ernie Campbell
Ernie Campbell

My mental health has to be my priority because if I don't look after it then my life changes and those around me. 

I was up until recently spending the majority of my time trying to find ways of improving life for those that have nothing i.e homeless, elderly vulnerable within our society by raising money through fundraisers.

After just over 6 years fundraising I am stopping having raised over £100,000 for numerous charities.

The people of Newry  and further afield have been the main pillar of support for that total and for that I can't thank every single person enough.

DG: What do you think about Newry as city? Is Newry a diverse city and would you recommend to live in Newry?

EC: I'm a proud Newry man, born and bred, but more importantly I'm a Dromalane man.

The friends I grew up with I am still friends with today.

When I grew up people didn’t  have a lot of money and what we had we treasured and it was a society where people looked out for each other.

Front doors were left often and people had very little to fear with that.

We played football for hours, we collected for bonfires etc.

Newry today people don't leave their front doors open and you can see why.

Kids don't play football for hours or collect for bonfires and it's a shame because my childhood I wouldn't swap for the childhood kids today have.

Newry has changed and is it for the better ? I have to say no.

Would I recommend Newry to live in? Yes..Absolutely... But we need big changes..As does everywhere in Northern Ireland not just Newry.

DG: Do you think family is a blessing in our lives and why?

EC: Family is everything in life, because that is the support you pull on when life gets tough and life will throw curve balls and situations at us all that we won't be able to solve or deal with alone.

But equally important is to have close friends you can talk to, some people unfortunately in life don't have the strong family support to fall back on.

I'm not talking about the type of friends where if you have an addiction they think another hit is the answer, I'm talking about real friends that will talk you out of bad decisions, friends that will do everything to help you day or night.

The same goes for family, if you have family members that cause or create constant negativity then you need to remove them from your life.

If you are surrounded by family or friends that you can talk to and confide in then you have a strong foundation to build a great life on.

DG: Let us talk about the topic helping others? Could you tell me about your addiction journey please? And how did you come out if it?

EC: My addiction stemmed from a sport injury suffered 7 years ago.

I was using anabolic steroids at the time and training was going fantastic, I was building a good physique, I felt confident for probably the first time in my life.

But that all came crashing down one night as I trained, i was doing a shoulder workout when my shoulder completely collapsed, tearing all the muscle away leaving me with no power down my right hand side.

What people have to understand is that steroids as with drink drugs etc when you abuse it the ramifications will be severe and in some cases life threatening.

When I was growing up and to this very day I can never enjoy any sporting activity or something I have done for charity because no matter what I do I always think I can do better and the mental effects have also had their repercussions with this.

I was treated with Cortisone injections to deal with the pain which was severe at the start, but as with all pain killers after a period of usage the impact is less and less and so I was switched to Tramadol tablets for the pain.

I slowly became addicted but was able to acknowledge that early and asked to be switched to a different pain killer, it was then that i was introduced to Co-Codamol 30/500.

Again the relief I felt due to their strength again slowly became addiction but this time I wasn't mentally strong enough to fight against it and so began a long torturous road of addiction.

When i say torturous I don't mean just for me, far from it, I mean for my family.

An addict doesn't really care about what's going on around them as long as they have their drug of choice etc the families are the ones picking up the pieces, they are the ones trying to help keep a family together.

Ciara my wife was the rock that held us together, she never gave up on me even though i had given up on everything.

I was placed in Ward 15 in Downpatrick for a month and when I said earlier I don't know who I am today it's because a part of me never left that unit, it took a huge part of me mentally and I have never gained it back.

But having said that it was the price I paid for my mistake, no one else was to blame, I was the one who took the steroids I was the one that lifted the weights my body couldn't physically deal with. I created my addiction.

But without my family I would never have made it through my addiction....NEVER 

DG: We all know you should be awarded as a HERO for loads of things you have done in our community. Could you tell me about the fundraiser you were a part of in Newry during the lockdown please?

EC: I hate acknowledgements for what was achieved during the Lockdown.

Gavin and myself came up with the idea, but i'd say we came up with hundreds of ideas over the years.

Without the support of the people of Newry and further afield we couldn't have imagined raising anywhere close to £42,0000+

There were at least 100 people within the team, Inside the first 24 hours we had close to £1000 and a team of people ready to do whatever it took to fund the purchase of PPE for the staff in Daisy Hill/Craigavon hospitals, Carers in the communities and Home care staff.

There were fantastic teams making scrubs in their hundreds, We had hauliers picking up and delivering sanitizer, people donating PPE, people having fundraisers to support ours and off course people donating money.

It was huge effort by everyone

DG: I know you were a volunteer for one of the groups who are helping people in need and the homeless. Why do you think that helping the homeless is so important? And why did you decide to do it yourself?

EC: Again I have to thank Adele and Gary from PIN (People In Need) for taking me to Dublin one night and the sights I saw were absolutely heartbreaking, to see people with kids looking for  food and clothes was just unbelievable.

From that night I have been trying to raise money for food and toiletries to help support PIN, especially in winter with warm underwear, clothes, shoes etc.

With over 10,500 now confirmed as homeless in Ireland I think it's very important to support groups like PIN that go to Dublin every single week.

Those people are the heroes in every single sense of the word.

DG: if you had one day to do the best thing you ever dreamed of. What would that be?

EC: To ensure every child born or living in poverty has a secure and loving home to grow up in.

To remove every corrupt politician from power and power handed to the people trying to change lives and make a difference.

DG: What advice would you give to the young people who feel lost and struggle on daily basis with their life?

EC: I'm probably the last person to give anyone any type of advice but what I will say is that every day brings a new challenge and a chance to change your life, no matter how many times life puts you down, try your best to get back up.

If you have an addiction I will say if you think life gets better as an addict I can promise you it does not and with every day you live that life you're a day away from being happy, don't wait until tomorrow because tomorrow may never come.

In life if you have food on your table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head you are extremely rich and fortunate because tonight someone is pulling a piece of cardboard out of a bin to use as a mattress in some doorway.

DG: I would like to thank you for being my friend and wish you and your family all the best in the future?

EC: 

Dan its been a pleasure mate thank you for the chance to share my experience/opinions.

Take care mate

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