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

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - COVER STORY -

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.

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