PARADISE FOR THE LOST
Southeast Asia is a favourite destination for travellers, holiday-makers and those wanting a pair of budget breast implants. For some, it has also become a place of transformation – New Zealanders with addictions are turning to treatment facilities in Bal
of any party, though she hasn’t touched an intoxicating substance for two decades.
Winter grew up wanting to be a heroin addict – “I’m not really sure why, but it was attractive” – with a plan to be dead by the age of 30. Her OE was organised according to where the best dope was: Australia, Thailand and Bali. Once, she emerged from a druginduced blackout on a plane, and asked a flight attendant where they were going. “She said, ‘We’re about to land in London.’”
“It never really dawned on me that eventually, I was going to have to stop,” Winter says. “I kind of knew that people went to jail or they died. Those were the two options I thought there were.”
Three days after her 29th birthday, Winter found herself at Higher Ground, a publicly funded rehabilitation centre for people with severe addictions to alcohol and other drugs, on Te Atatu Peninsula in west Auckland. Winter’s friend – also an addict – had retrieved her from hospital after another overdose and decided enough was enough: Winter was going to rehab.
At 29, she was the youngest in the group of 19 men and six women. She was angry, confused, and had no desire to get clean.
“I had no idea what else I was meant to do with my life other than use drugs. I had no career prospects. I just loved heroin.”
Winter wasn’t exactly a poster child for rehab. She loathed 12 Step meetings. She threw tantrums. She tried to smother a snoring roommate with a pillow. She punched a fellow client for falling off the wagon. Technically, she says, she broke every one of Higher Ground’s house rules. Except for the one banning residents from using.
While in treatment, she appeared in court on fraud charges. Instead of giving her jail time, a judge put her on parole, ordering her to undergo urine tests and attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings regularly for two years. When the time was up, Winter planned to use again.
Twenty years on, that hasn’t happened. After Higher Ground, Winter returned to Invercargill where a counsellor, bored of her self pity, suggested she herself train in the role.
“He said, ‘You need to learn how to care about other people.’”
Since then, she has worked for methadone programmes in Blenheim and Wellington, at Arohata and Paremoremo Prisons, for the Gambling Helpline, and at DARA Rehab in Thailand.