The headline in a 1983 edition of the Waikato Times read: "Hamilton man found in possession of morphine."
Reformed drug addict Stephen King will never forget it.
"It was the lead story in the court pages and it was there for all to see," Mr King said.
These days Mr King is helping addicts who have succumbed to the power of addiction.
Mr King is the director of the Waikato Alcohol and Drug Community Support Trust which was founded in 2000.
"The house is for people returning to the Waikato who have gone out of town for treatment and are coming back – they come to our halfway house and then eventually reintegrate back into the community," he said.
And further expansion is imminent with a half million-dollar facility set to open beside the Hamilton rehabilitation house where family and friends of addicts can also be provided with the tools for recovery.
"I'm committed to involving family in the recovery process because addiction is a psychologically infectious illness that creates dysfunctional family dynamics."
If an addict was to recover, he said, it was important that whanau should be involved.
"They also have a recovery to embark on."
The now 56-year-old should know. For 12 years he was a drug addict, starting off with marijuana and moving on to opiates.
"I was 17 when I left school in 1970.
"It was the whole hippy culture – Woodstock and all that – we cottoned on to marijuana or Mary-jane as we called it."
Mr King was the first born of three children into a middle-class Wellington family but moved to Hamilton at a young age.
"I went to St Paul's Collegiate which turned out to be a very good decision."
Mr King said he derived huge benefit from the private school which taught him sound values.
"It certainly served me well later in life."
At first his family had no idea about his growing addiction.
"At 17 I was smoking pot in nightclubs and pubs and was fully addicted by the age of 27.
"I had a good 10 years doing everything – opium, LSD – I was an opiate addict and in the end was doing heroin, morphine and other opiates."
By the age of 19 Mr King had fathered a child from a drug-addled night on the town and later went on to father a second child, a son, during a more long-term relationship.
He slowly declined – work commitments fell apart and he became distant from family.
Mr King was arrested in 1983 on Te Rapa Rd where he and an associate were found in possession of morphine.
A nine-month sentence of periodic detention followed and Mr King was told by the court magistrate that he would be "put away" if he ever came back to court.
Then came a defining moment.
"I was at a tangi where a cousin of my second child's mother said to me `when you're dead and gone or living in Australia – whenever you are spoken of in front of your son – you will be remembered as koretake (useless)... who wasn't there to support his family and contribute to the care and upbringing of your child'.
"That brought about a decision to enter residential rehab and it was the best thing I did."
Mr King soon found that drugs and alcohol weren't the problem – it was the addiction.
"Drugs and alcohol were just how I was coping with life.
"I now had to learn new ways of coping."
Mr King found his way thanks to a 12-step recovery programme through Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
"I learnt the theory of recovery but then had to practice walking the talk out there in the community," he said.
"I have been clean 18 years but I will always be an addict," Mr King said.
Since his recovery there have been many more defining moments like when he caught up with a old associate at a rehab centre in Auckland.
"I was working at the centre in the mid-90s and a woman that I had known came to visit her partner.
"She recognised me and said `I know someone who's looking for you"'.
Mr King was soon reunited with the daughter he had fathered as a 19-year-old.
"I was invited to her house in Hamilton.
"I remember wandering up the driveway and saw a young boy (her son) at the ranchslider – he was the spitting image of me at the same age."
Mr King knew he had the right house. "My getting clean has given me all sorts of rewards like reconnecting with my daughter, she is married to a wonderful bloke and I have three gorgeous grandchildren."
"Time," he said, "is a great healer."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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