I feel like I’ve been stuck in the bottom of a very deep and dark hole for the last 15 years. But after nearly a year with The Mission, I’m doing everything I can to live a better life, and be there for anyone else who needs the support I was fortunate to have.
Growing up, my parents gave us a good home, but I felt like the odd one out. I was never really encouraged or felt valued, and I didn’t have a bond with my father. The only time he took notice of me was when he was punishing me, and I was always on edge around him. I felt like I was a loser, and I started drinking and smoking marijuana. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to break the habits I was getting into, and enrolled for a Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) Course, which is a six-week programme at an army camp. For the first time in my life, I was healthy physically and mentally, and confident in myself.
When I came back home I found a good job, but my old feelings and drinking problem started creeping back in. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from an anxiety disorder and depression. I lost complete control of my thoughts, and I started believing everyone was judging me for going back to my old ways. I had a constant sense of dread, and I was saying things to myself like, “You’re useless”, and “You’ve let everyone down”. Drinking became my only way to cope. I stopped showing up for work, and I became like an empty vessel.
I was so scared, but I didn’t want anyone to see it. I pushed my friends and family away to the point where I stopped being invited to family events, and I started staying in hostels and lodges. I always had intentions of stopping drinking and getting healthy, but deep down I believed that I had no future and I was less than everyone else. I kept falling into the pattern of drinking, getting kicked out, and then going to the next place.
Last year my brother offered me a place to stay for a bit, and I realised I needed to reach out to someone who could truly help me. While searching the internet, I came across The Mission’s supported Transitional Housing. It meant a lot to me that they were willing to help, and I arrived at one of their Pā last May.
When I first walked into my room, I lay down and felt so relieved. I had a bed, a roof over my head, food, and a safe and supportive environment unlike anywhere I had been before. I reached deep down inside myself to really give it 100%. I put my trust in the staff, and in their promise that this was a safe place where no one was going to judge me. I wanted to make sure my room didn’t become my own ‘bubble’ so I forced myself to spend time in the common room. I felt OK about doing that because I could just stay quiet if I wanted to and I felt respected being able to do that. It was good to know that I was around others who were wanting to make a better future for themselves. I didn’t feel alone anymore.
The staff at Te Pā really stood out to me, especially as some of them actually had a similar life experience to mine. Someone who understood what I was going through was always available to talk to. I had people around me I could relate to and who I could turn to for advice and encouragement. They made it easier to bring up the hard issues I was holding inside. In my counselling with Peter, I started dealing with the unresolved issues and anger that I held onto for so long. I hadn’t matured in many years, and I had to nurture that little kid inside me so he could finally grow up. I still had to struggle to go against my old ways, so his tips and tools helped a lot. My defences started coming down and I was able to start finding myself, and my new direction.
Te Pā gave me a reason to get up each day, like our morning meetings where we talked about a positive quote for each day. I also enjoyed doing programmes like the wānanga with Robert, Poutama group outings where we visited places like the beach or the zoo, and Money Mates with Rahel where we learnt about budgeting. Everything at Te Pā gives you a chance to finally calm your mind, leave all of your worries at the door, and have some breathing space to reflect and focus on your next move. I started really wanting to evolve myself as a person, and feeling a sense of pride in myself. Even little things like the way the rooms are so nice, show you that you can have better than what you came from. You learn to respect the place, by cleaning your room and common areas, and being hygienic, and you can even learn how to cook.
Every now and then I have thoughts of going to the liquor store just for a one-off, but I can get past it. The Mission has given me so many good experiences that it’s not worth losing everything I have gained. I’m still on my journey, and I’m still learning, but I feel so different – I wake up happy. My confidence has grown so much, and I’m proud to no longer just be ‘a negative statistic’. Another massive thing for me has been really connecting with my father for the first time, and he is supporting me in everything I’m doing.
I’m also volunteering one day a week in Tā te Manawa (Community Lounge). I like being here for anyone who needs a listening ear, and my goal is to one day be part of The Mission team at Te Pā. I want to help others who need help to get through whatever they’re going through, and to let them know that they can create the life they deserve. There’s always hope when someone cares about you – even someone you don’t know. I’m so glad that The Mission was here for me because instead of still being stuck in that dark place, I get to look forward to what each day will bring, and I’m excited to see what comes next!