In talking about a meth habit, I am talking about a disease that has no cure.
It is a terminal disease, which affects all of us in New Zealand, and now sadly in the Cook Islands.
It is filling emergency rooms and therapy clinics with victims, our prisons with inmates, our streets with homeless people, and our homes with broken families.
For me this disease is also known as alcoholism and drug addiction. And I have it. I am both an alcoholic and a drug addict. If you know me, take a good look at me, as I am what one looks like.
Addiction is a bad disease that affects good people and families, me and mine included. I didn’t grow up thinking I would become an alcoholic or an addict. My parents didn’t raise me for that to happen; no one expected that to happen. But it did. I had everything I could ever want in terms of being loved and cared for, but I still became addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
The lowest and worst of my depravation as an addict was marked by selfish squandering of an annual income in excess of $120,000, more than half of it going into drugs and alcohol and associated immorality, the deceitful theft and selling of family assets and possessions in order to feed my bad habits, lying and general poor behaviour.
Twenty years ago I was amongst the first wave of methamphetamine users and addicts in New Zealand. In 2000 I was in a place where there was no hope, no help, no ‘love’ – my wife and my children had abandoned me. I had given up on myself. But the people who really loved me had not completely ditched me and I realised in the pain and grief of abandonment that I had to get into recovery, regain my sanity and resume my role as a husband and father and take control to the point of resuming my career as a journalist and editor, latterly as a publisher.
But continuing so-called controlled drinking and abuse of soft drugs led to the inevitable ill health that comes with heart disease --coronary failure and stroke – and thence to relapsing.
Then another stroke put me back on my deathbed in hospital where at last I came to my senses, realising that without a complete and radical change of lifestyle I was headed to my own premature funeral.
That was a year ago, resulting in a turnaround that took me to a treatment program at Capri Sanctuary in South Auckland where I acquired the skills of recovery in the form of better health, mindfulness meditation and a wellness strategy with new coping mechanisms such as reading and writing, woodworking, gardening and returning to my favourite sports of cycling, stand-up paddling and surfing.
Nowadays I follow the 12 steps programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous taking one day at a time in order to resist the urges to feed my addictions, and savouring the rewards of sober living such as waking up without a hangover and feeling energetic and positive.
Not only has this saved my marriage and most of the important relationships in my life, but I am free from guilt to speak openly and honestly about the perils of substance abuse and, where possible, to help other suffering addicts and their families.
This is why I am committing Cook Islands News to addressing the problem of drug abuse in our community.