Mahana Southern Maori Mental Health & Addiction: Hunter Chisholm

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April 12, 2023

Two-week long “benders” became a normal part of my life but I started sabotaging everything else. Nga Kete supported me to stop drinking and I have been alcohol-free for just over one year. I will never look back.

I started drinking when I was 11 or 12. I knew even back then that I had a taste for it and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to go to the pub.

I didn’t really know anything about alcoholism until I was in my 20’s and I was introduced to AA. I knew then that I was an alcoholic but I pushed it aside. I was young, busy and functional. If I had dealt with it then, it may have been easier but I just kept going.

I couldn’t understand why I was an alcoholic. I had some trauma in my childhood and my Dad left when I was three, but otherwise I had a normal and happy upbringing.

But throughout my life, everything revolved around alcohol. It was an awful cycle. I would have “benders” where I would drink to excess for two weeks straight without eating. I turned into a liar and a criminal, all to get the next drink. I would mend bridges with people only to sabotage it two weeks later. Anything and everything was an excuse to drink.

Things started changing for me when I became a Dad. I booked myself into residential rehabilitation and after my son was born I spent nine months looking after him as a stay-at-home Dad. I thrived on it and I absolutely loved it. But this little guy on my shoulder was still there telling me to drink and one day before my son’s first birthday, I relapsed.

It all went downhill from there. It was like a bad dream. I was in and out of rehabilitation trying to get a grip on it. I’ve been charged with drink driving six times now, and I’ve been to prison three times. Each time was alcohol-related. I was ripping ATMs out of walls and committing burglaries just to get more alcohol.

Things got so bad that I would have seizures and psychotic episodes when I was coming off a bender, and once I even slept in Thompson’s Bush for eight days and spent the entire time drinking between 60 and 80 bottles of wine and vodka.

One day I suffered a seizure causing me to fall and bite my tongue in half and smash my teeth. I ended up in hospital for 21 days.

During my hospital stay a doctor told me I had a 50/50 chance of death if I kept drinking the way that I was. I had never thought of death as being final, and that was a massive wake up call for me.

I reached in and grabbed all of the will I had left to get out of the hole. I did it slowly and with small steps, but to me the small steps were great strides.

I found Nga Kete about three years ago. I started coming to the Te Rongo Pai group every Wednesday where I would talk about my issues with alcohol and there was always someone to listen. It was important to me to be able to talk about it.

I continued going to counselling here at Nga Kete and I found it very helpful as well, just the talking and getting it all off my chest was what I needed. I have always felt comfortable at Nga Kete; they are non-judgemental and they have always been there for me.

I continue to attend group and counselling to this day. I’ve also enjoyed the Rongoa service,  and I am a patient at He Puna Waiora Wellness Centre.

I’ve been alcohol-free for one year and I really like who I am now. I stay away from negativity and gossip. Today I can pay my bills, I can buy food, and I have my son every second week. I’ve dropped off forms to get my driver’s license renewed and I seen my Mum for the first time in five years.

I love life. I’m not tired anymore. I’m meeting obligations and I don’t let people down anymore, especially myself.

I’m still gaining knowledge and learning. Every piece of the puzzle is a step forward. 

Now that I’ve stopped, I didn’t realise how much of a weight on me it was. The intense drive to have the alcohol.

The fulla on my shoulder is finally gone, and I really don’t miss him.

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