Hard climb out of addiction

21:36, Jun 23 2013
rawinia stand
Rawinia Young turned her life around when she gave up alcohol and marijuana last year.

Rawinia Young has been sober and clean for 15 months.

But her road to recovery has been long, hard and life- changing - and it's ongoing.

The New Plymouth woman remembers the moment when she knew things had to change.

She had returned to her home town after many years of living in Australia and was spending time with her mokopuna.

"I was smoking weed and drinking when I was back here and I noticed I was doing it openly in front of my eldest grandson, and I thought I can't do this like I did with my own children," she says. "I think the grandchildren were pivotal."

At the time Rawinia was working in the cafeteria at the Taranaki Base Hospital, presenting a happy face to the world.


"But I was slowly dying on the inside."

Rawinia was seriously depressed, and her alcohol and marijuana addiction had become so bad she began having flashbacks and hearing voices.

"I became so unwell that I took myself to Alcohol and Drug Service at the hospital and I pleaded with my counsellor to send me to rehabilitation."

In June 2011, Rawinia, of Te Atiawa descent, went to Te Whare Oranga Ngakau, a Maori addiction residential centre at Rotorua.

During her three months there she joined in sessions based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Programme, learnt about whakapapa and was taught life skills. "We were kept fit. We were taken out on hikoi and learned the stories about the Rotorua area. We were educated on lots of things."

For the next seven months after returning to Taranaki, Rawinia had ups and downs, but since March last year she hasn't had a drink or a whiff of marijuana.

"I feel free. I function with so much more clarity and I make better decisions," she says. "I have so many tools to help me with recovery."

Many of these have come from the three support groups she goes to - one on goal setting, another on maintenance and a women's group.

There are many different groups based on the 12-Step Programme and Rawinia recommends these to people in need. She says it's important to ask for help.

"Don't be afraid to reach out and don't waste years, like I have, trying to get better. Nobody expects you to stop whatever you are doing instantly - it's a process. There are truly people out there who care and you are not on your own."

Rawinia says the people she has met through AA have become like family. "There's no judgment in these places - being with like- minded people makes you feel safe."

In the tough times, there's also the phone. "Whenever I've got down and out I have used Lifeline and the Alcoholics Anonymous Helpline."

She is studying te reo Maori through Te Wananga o Aotearoa at the Rangiatea campus in New Plymouth and has gained vocational support from Pathways, an organisation dedicated to helping people with experience of mental illness positively to shape their lives.

The 52-year-old has received budgeting advice, and had support from Progress to Health to become motivated to exercise.

Through the Taranaki District Health Board, she has completed a course on mindfulness. "That's helped me to be in the moment rather going back to the past or too far into the future," she says.

"It's also taught me to see things for what they are rather than over- dramatise things."

Gradually, Rawinia is stepping back from the amazing support groups and organisations that have aided her recovery.

"I had this tunnel vision; they have given me all these options to look at. I have such 'wow' moments now."

Rawinia also feels ready for the workforce and would love to work supporting women. "This is about me turning my life around to help others."

That includes being involved in her community of Marfell, where she helps on the breakfast programme for children at school.

She has planted a garden, has made her home a haven and, because she is strong in her Christian faith, begins each day with a karakia.

But her recovery journey continues. "For me it's taking one day at a time."

For more information contact Like Minds Taranaki on 7590966 or email mental.health@xtra.co.nz.

Taranaki Daily News