12 Oct 2017

'I got sick. I lost my daughter, I lost my moko'

1:28 pm on 12 October 2017

Methamphetamine users have shared harrowing tales about the personal cost of their battle with addiction at an anti-P rally in Whanganui.

Event organiser Donna Lawrence with some supporters.

Event organiser Donna Lawrence with some supporters. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

They described how they had lost their jobs, or had their children removed by the courts. Some detailed their descent into madness while others spoke up for those who did not live long enough to beat their addiction.

But there were also remarkable stories from those who, against all odds, had survived to tell their tale.

Whanganui mother Riana Potaka got herself arrested so she could get off P.

Whanganui mother Riana Potaka got herself arrested so she could get off P. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Whanganui mother Riana Potaka said she was so desperate to break her P addiction that she got herself sent to jail.

Ms Potaka said she was on home detention when the drug got a real hold on her.

"I was pretty much isolated and my visitors pretty much used to come around with meth so I sort of jumped on the band wagon and kept on going and going.

"My kids ended up missing out on quite a bit because I was spending all my money on meth."

Ms Potaka said it was difficult to get help.

"I was reaching out and trying to get help where I could and it wasn't happening as fast as I needed it to so I ended up giving my kids to my mother and cutting my bracelet off and going to jail for three months."

Whanganui anti-P rally

Rally attendees. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

On her release the 27-year-old got help from relatives in Auckland to get into rehab.

Ms Potaka said more needed to be done to get meth addicts help.

"They definitely do [need more help] especially those reaching out and asking for it because there's absolutely nothing for them in Whanganui."

Event organiser Donna Lawrence was an addict for 25 years, and knows the perils of P all to well.

"I got sick. I lost my daughter, I lost my moko. I lost all contact with my family and I was driven into a lonely space where I knew if I didn't pull my finger out of my arse I would lose everything.

"I had already lost everything."

After three near-death experiences Ms Lawrence finally listened to the pleas of her daughter and grandchildren, and has been clean now for three years.

She organised the rally to raise awareness about the dangers of methamphetamine and to gather support for a walk-in centre for addicts in Whanganui.

Ms Lawrence said support organisations such as NZ P Pull needed more government help to assist addicts turning their lives around.

"We have support amongst grassroots people. We have support among our own community, our old people.

"But we need support from the DHB, the government organisations, because they are the people who get paid, who get funding. We get nothing."

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall was at the event to show his support for a walk-in centre in the city.

He said the P problem in Whanganui was no worse than in any other New Zealand city, and warned the drug did not discriminate according to social status.

"I know a young father who had a great job working in Whanganui. Great parents. Somehow he got obsessed with P. The family broke apart, he ended up in prison and lost his job naturally and it took four or five years to put his life back together."

Mr McDoual said it was important for him to be at the event.

"I'm really proud of the people who have come here today, in particular the ones who have dealt with their addictions, and want to show the community as a whole supports what the people are doing here."

Ms Potaka, who now has one of her children back in her care and a new life in Auckland, said it was important that addicts knew there was a better life out there for them.

"So my journey is really paying off, my recovery. There is a life out there beyond your wildest dreams if you choose to stay sober. There's an internal calmness about you that's, yeah, magic."

The NZ P Pull organisation has established eight walk-in centres around the North Island for people seeking help for P addiction and has plans to start up three more, including one in Whanganui.

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