It’s believed that over a million New Zealanders are currently at risk of their alcohol or drug use becoming problematic. While this number might seem shocking, we didn’t get here overnight. This has been the result of generations of choices – and arguably, an historic lack of targeted support for those just starting down the path of an unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol.
To get an inside perspective on how this has affected the lives of ordinary New Zealanders, the PIVOT team spoke to Mitch Ingram: a recovering addict/alcoholic with years of sobriety under his belt, and owner of Recovery Companions, a peer support programme designed to walk alongside those recovering from addiction.
“There’s just not enough help in New Zealand for people with early onset of addictive issues. It’s the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff usually, not the ambulance at the top of the cliff. And that’s what needs to change. We really need to offer help very early on and not when it’s too late because the cost and the fallout, you know: health, crime, marriage break ups… all of that can be saved if you get to it early enough.”
It was more than a decade before Mitch got the help he needed. Despite having a relatively typical upbringing, tragedy in his family compounded an existing drinking habit, which quickly led to drug use. When Mitch finally ended up seeking support, he was told that his situation wasn’t really so bad.
“It’s funny because they ask you what you’re using and then they say, Actually, you’re not at the higher end of the scale, so you’re okay. And I couldn’t have got any lower than how I was feeling, and I was ruining my marriage, was ruining my job.
And I lost the opportunity. I could have still been, you know, happily married with, you know… who knows where I could have been if I’d got the opportunity in the early stages.”
Mitch Ingram, recovering addict and owner of Recovery Companions.
Mitch believes that if he’d received the right kind of intervention earlier, things could have been different.
“Most people don’t want that life. You know, most people want what’s classified by society as a normal life. We don’t want to live by the drug. We don’t want to. For me, I had to wake up every morning and use to get through the day. All that I really wanted was to wake up and not have that feeling. I wanted to actually enjoy my children. I wanted to enjoy going to work again … So I think if you can get to people earlier, you can help.”
As the professionals at PIVOT know, any effective intervention must be focused on holistic wellbeing, dealing with the root cause of problematic relationships to drugs and alcohol. For Mitch, working through the trauma that had occurred in his close family was crucial to his own journey.
“I think it’s those wraparound services… You know, there’s more to it than just addiction. The using part, for me, was the last part of the puzzle. It was going back and dealing with my sister’s trauma and my sister’s fallout and understanding that.”
It took a stint in prison for Mitch to finally come to terms with his addiction – but with PIVOT by Explore’s 8-week programme, we aim to turn things around long before people reach that stage. Using private and group counselling, alongside personalised goal setting and actionable information to improve health and wellbeing, we’re giving people the support to make healthier choices now, before current habits lead to more harmful consequences.
If you or someone you love could use some help to make healthier lifestyle choices, chat with the Explore team about PIVOT on 0800 605 001 or email [email protected]