Manawa Ora, Mahana: I'm Excited For My Alcohol-Free Future

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January 8, 2023

Heavy drinking for 40 years, leading up to more than an 18-pack of beer a day allowed me to blank out the pain I was feeling from childhood trauma, but when my health started playing up and I was afraid of losing everything, NKMP stepped in and changed my life! I have been sober for almost four months and will never look back.

I’ve been a heavy drinker since I was 14 and over the years it continued to get worse.

I had a traumatic childhood. I spent my first few years in a children’s home and at 14 I was sent to live with my abusive, alcoholic father. My younger siblings were sent to my Mum’s. I could never understand why I was the only one left with Dad. It felt like a punishment. She told me later it was because I reminded her too much of my father. We never had a relationship after that.

My dad was an awful man. He would abuse me mentally and often beat me up. I felt like I was completely on my own. Every day he would come home from work, shower and head to the pub where he would stay until closing leaving me to fend for myself. I would steal money off him sometimes so I could feed myself, but he would find out and beat me up.

My first experience with alcohol was when my father was at the pub and I was trying to find something to eat. I found a bottle of Port and thought I’d try it. I really enjoyed it so I had more and next thing I knew I was passed out on the kitchen floor. My dad arrived home, picked me up and put me on my bed. He didn’t care and he never spoke of it again.

I continued to drink a lot. I was trying so hard to hide all of the pain and anger I felt towards my father. I would often get into fights with other people and eventually I was sent to a mental institution. I stayed there until I was 16. During my time there, I was abused sexually, mentally and physically. I continued to get angrier and angrier and I continued to drink (home brew made by another patient).

Once I got out, I got my own flat. My whole life revolved around drinking and getting into trouble because I didn’t care about anything else. I was now trying to block out my father as well as what happened in the institution. When I was about 18, my Dad kicked a coffee cup out of my hand and that was it. I was so angry. We didn’t speak for years after that.

He remarried and his wife was one of the best people to ever come into my life. She really cared about me, and it felt like, for the first time I had someone in my corner. In her early 60’s she was dying of cancer and she asked me to promise that I would look after my father in his elderly years. Because I respected her so much, I did as she asked, even though he continued to push me away. He passed away about seven years ago, but he continues to live on inside my head.

My drinking continued to get worse as I got older. By now, it had become a lifestyle. An 18-pack of beers a day was normal, a lot of times it would be more, and I was spending around $400 every week. This carried on for about 25 years. It made me feel bulletproof.

I would only drink at night, after work, but I would clock-watch and think about it all day. I’d be up at 6am or earlier to go to work but I always felt tired and sluggish during the day.

I met my wife 19 years ago. She has been my rock and I don’t know how she’s continued to put up with me all of this time. I was always emptying our bank accounts just to drink and everything else would suffer. She would be in tears because we couldn’t afford basic things. I will never put her through that again.

Things started getting really bad. I was on the brink of losing my marriage and everything else. I walked into my boss’ office at work one day and started talking. I had a complete breakdown. I told her what was happening and that my health was also starting to suffer – enlarged liver, spleen and prostate.

She told me to leave and go see an EAP counsellor, so I did. Once I was there, she took me over to Nga Kete and I’ve never looked back.

I was referred to the Manawa Ora Alcohol and Other Drug Community Withdrawal Service and Mahana Southern Maori Mental Health and Addiction Service. The withdrawal service was great. The nurse didn’t judge me. She was there to help and she helped me. I know at this stage I was ready as well and I found it easy to stop because I was excited about getting away from it.

The nurse would talk to me, explain things to me, and I felt I could relate to her. The Mahana counsellor was the same, there was no judgement, and both have been incredibly helpful and supportive.

I know if I have cravings or I am feeling down, I can give the counsellor a call. He always picks me back up. He has also referred me to an ACC counsellor to support with past trauma.

They are both fantastic. I am so impressed with the services. I don’t have enough words to express how I feel about what they’ve done for me. Without them, I would probably still be drinking, feeling lost, not knowing how to stop.

Thanks to Nga Kete I have done it! I have stopped drinking entirely and for good. I don’t miss it at all.

I feel good. I feel happy. I’ve got lots of energy. My health has improved tremendously. I drink lots of water. We’ve got money in the bank. At 58, I just brought my first ever home which I never thought would have been possible. I’m so excited for my alcohol-free future!

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