Sean Ronan had never written anything before, but he put pen to page to share the striking reality of his son’s heroin addiction, one he still fights to this day.
The first-ever performances of Sweet Dreams Mr. Heroin in Canada are coming to Penticton and Summerland, showing the struggle of addiction from the perspective of the addict as well as their family.
Ronan, writer and director, penned Mr. Heroin eight years ago about his son, a heroin addict of 22 years. Ronan, a tiler by trade, never thought of himself much of a writer.
“The funny thing is, I never wrote anything in my life, and I never read a book,” Ronan laughed. “It’s crazy. It was just through the pressure of what I was going through 15, 16 years ago. I thought I had to do something.”
Ronan wrote the play to explain the battle that is having a son or daughter addicted to heroin.
The play is split into two halves, the first depicting the familial side of addiction and the second showing a day in the life of an addict.
While it has been years since he wrote the play, the struggle is still a daily part of Ronan’s life.
“(My son) is 43 now and he’s still on heroin. I don’t know how he’s still alive to be honest with you, but he is,” Ronan said. “It was very hard, but I’ve learned to cope with it now. Writing this piece has helped me deal with a lot of it, to get some part of my life back.”
The play was originally commissioned by the Drug Awareness Board in Dublin. Mr. Heroin has been performed around
Dublin for years and was brought to the U.S. for the first time last year. He attends performances in Dublin, talking through the play with parents of addicts. As well, Ronan hopes the performances acts as a preventative measure for youth.
“It’s a huge addiction, heroin, you’re never going to beat it. It’s always going to be there,” Ronan said. “(I’m) Just trying to stop young people from taking the initial heroin. If I achieve that, it’s a good thing.”
Ronan passes on lessons he has learned during the longtime struggle.
“I wasn’t dealing with him as an addict, I kept dealing with him as my son,” Ronan said. “I started buying heroin trying to keep him at home, started locking him in his room and all sorts of completely crazy things.”
His son has “learned how to live on heroin,” Ronan said. “I don’t think he’ll ever come off. It’s only a matter of time.”
Ronan meets his son twice a month, every second Saturday. Over the past three years the relationship between the two has stabilized.
“The relationship we have now is good, but it took a long time to get there. It was a lot of issues. He was in prison, he developed schizophrenia. I put him in the mental hospital, it was through some advice that I put him in, and that’s one thing he hates me for,” Ronan said. “It was an awful place, it’s still here in Dublin, it’s an awful place. I should have never done it, but at the time that’s what I was advised to do.”
Ronan said his son has accepted his addiction and begs on the streets of Dublin.
However, Ronan hopes to not only help those who have children who are facing addictions, but to humanize those who are addicted.
Ronan recalled a time where his son committed a robbery at a pharmacy with a broken bottle. He needed €60 and the woman behind the counter gave him €80. He gave €20 back, and later turned himself in.
“He still had those values even though he’s a heroin addict. That’s what made me write the second (half). I want to show people how an addict lives and what they go through.”
“This might sound a bit odd, but I have a huge respect for addicts. A lot of people in Dublin, not sure how it is in Canada, but a lot of people in Dublin here, reject them totally,” Ronan said.
“The second part of the play, I want to show the human side of an addict. What they go through, a day in the life. It’s not all about robbing people, of course they do, if they can’t get money for their heroin they will do anything.”
Ronan said the 55-minute performance is “hugely intense.” He said in five years, at least 20 people have walked out of different performances. Not out of disgust, but because the performance hits too close to home.
He would like to create a link with Mr.Heroin to addiction centres in Ireland, the U.S. and Canada.
“I want to change the attitudes people have. It’s not easy and I entirely understand,” Ronan said.
An unlikely writing career opened up after Ronan penned Mr. Heroin. He was seeing a counsellor due to his depression at the time who suggested he write his feelings down.
He has since written 13 plays, after connecting with a theatre company in Dublin.
“It’s a weird way to get into something, but that’s actually how it happened for me,” Ronan said.
He eventually got connected with a theatre company in Dublin and his new career grew from there.
Ronan laughed when he admitted most of his other plays are comedies.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, you know?” Ronan said.
Sweet Dreams Mr. Heroin comes to the Nest and Nectar in Penticton (301-1475 Fairview Rd.) on Oct. 18 and 19. The play also visits the Summerland Centre Stage on Oct. 15. The Penticton performances feature an appetizer buffet for the Oct. 18 showing and a candy buffet for the performance on Oct. 19.
The performances will feature a question and answer portion with Ronan afterwards.