Around 20 years ago, the direction of my life completely changed. The relationship with the father of my children broke down, and my whānau were going through treaty claims which meant dealing with intergenerational mamae (hurt). The leadership, wairua (spirit), and feeling of safety that surrounded us growing up had fallen away, and I was hit with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. I didn’t have the tools to cope. I got involved with the wrong people, and lost my way. I started taking drugs at parties, which escalated to heavy daily usage, and I became addicted to meth.
In 2014, in an attempt to break away, I relocated to Australia with my youngest daughter. I lived clean for three years, and built a glorious lifestyle for us. I attained a high-paying management position, lived in a beautiful apartment, and had a healthy lifestyle. But my daughter was longing for cultural connection, and she missed her older brothers and sisters. It wasn’t fair to deny her that, so we came back home.
But trying to reestablish ourselves was extremely difficult. We had nowhere to live because of the housing shortage. My daughter and I lived in a caravan for six months, and then we continually moved from place to place. Drug taking had become so prevalent in my turangawaewae (tribal home area), everywhere we went I was coming into contact with people, places, and things that triggered my addiction. I crashed and burned big time, and fell back into addiction.
Thankfully my older children and ex-husband were there to help keep my youngest daughter safe, because over the next few years I reached the point of total desperation. I felt like I didn’t matter, and that I had nothing to offer anyone. I was a shell of a person, and was in and out of the mental health ward. The drug taking got so bad that my body and brain would shut down, and I’d suddenly find myself unable to walk and talk. It was worse than rock bottom. At one point I became eligible for emergency accommodation, and moved into a Dwell Housing complex. Being in such a lovely house signalled a new start for me, but I continued struggling with my drug use, mental health, and budget.
It felt like a safe place to ground myself…
Then one day in June last year, I came upon The Mission’s Tā te Manawa Community Lounge. The way it’s set up is bang-on for making you feel comfortable quickly. The volunteers visited me at my table to offer food and a barista coffee. It felt like a safe place to ground myself, connect with new people over kai and feel part of the community. I was also asked if I wanted to talk to a Mission social worker. That’s when I met Rachel. It was such a relief being able to reach out and say to her, “I’m really not coping.” We quickly formed a bond, and she started putting in place individualised systems around food, budgeting, and social work.
Rachel took the time to get to know me, and to see me for who I was inside. She recognised that I was capable and passionate about life, but being stuck in such a bad space had left me without the will to live. Her support made me feel embraced, and it inspired me. For the first time in years, everything started coming together. She began visiting me at home to go for walks together, as well as catch up about my progress, offer suggestions, and arrange advocacy with agencies. It all helped improve my physical and mental health, and I started attending rehab and addiction therapy groups. I also started working with Jill, my amazing Mission Financial Mentor, because I owed a huge amount in high-interest debt. Setting up an automated payment system and consolidating my debts through Newtown Ethical Lending was such a relief!
During the Covid Lockdowns, I was grateful to receive food support to make sure there was food available at home, and to help stretch my budget. And then shopping at The Mission’s Social Supermarket was even better. At the Supermarket, you can choose the food that’s right for you. Getting the chance to bring home a special treat for my daughter gave me so much joy, and at Christmas time I was invited to shop at The Mission’s Toy Store to choose presents for my grandchildren! The Mission also gifted me a membership to the Kilbirnie Rec Centre, which I would struggle to afford otherwise. I started going to the hydrotherapy pool every day. It makes me feel so good physically, and I belong to a beautiful community of diverse people.
The Mission’s services are all about manaakitanga (compassion). They want you to take your independence back, and that makes you feel more connected to what they are trying to do for you. The whole experience creates a beautiful and rewarding feeling. Over time, I started healing, and I vividly remember the first time I woke up with a smile on my face!
I’ve had the most amazing support to be able to get to this point. I have all the right people on my team to keep me safe, as I am still at risk with my addiction. Rachel continues to be there for me at just the right time, and I’m still working with Jill. I’m on top of my bills, and have almost paid back all of my debts. Being able to provide for yourself makes such a difference to your state of mind.
I’m determined to continue on my path because I see that I can be a better version of myself. I’m nine months clean, and my children and grandchildren are glad to have their mum back. I’m studying towards a diploma in homeopathy, because now I want to help others heal. I’ve also taken on the role of Group Service Representative for the Wellington Women’s NA group, and it’s amazing being able to contribute. I’ve renewed my faith in God, and I have hope – something I thought was never going to happen for me.
Through my experience, I’ve learnt how isolation feeds addiction. You hide from other people, even your loved ones, because you’re ashamed. But connection is the opposite of addiction. I just needed to find gentle, patient, and caring people, who weren’t going to judge me, and who would make me feel that I do belong.
I have been so inspired by the wonderful people we have in our community who think about others, and support organisations like The Mission. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who is part of The Mission. I just want you to know that my whole life has changed because of all the support you’ve given me!