Seeping into all corners of society

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METHAMPHETAMINE: P, Ice, Crack, Speed, Crystal, different names — but the same drug. We’ve all heard it ruins lives, and now it is insidiously saturating the fabric of Southland communities.

Police, counsellors and front line social agencies all say the same thing: it is in all walks of life. It crosses all social barriers, incomes and genders. There’s no such thing as the run-of-the-mill crack addict.

The Southland Express spoke with recovered addict and former wholesale distributor Sam Payne. The now 29-year-old said the drug was so rife in the city it was easier to buy than
cannabis.

It was being bought by corporate people, students, mums, dads and even grandparents or your everyday Joe Bloggs neighbour.

Her addiction started as a teenager. She was in a stable relationship at the time. But it was after a friend’s car accident things changed.

She wanted to go and party with her friends, but her partner was ready to settle down.

The new man, a cliche ‘‘bad boy’ from a gang, was more exciting.

‘‘I was jumping through hoops I thought I would never jump through. It was all exciting — it was all go. And I started smoking meth.’’

Life changed quickly. She lost her job and driver’s licence and the new ‘exciting’ boyfriend was now beating her up.

A particularly bad beating landed her in hospital. But meth became her escape after she was discharged.

A move to Christchurch made things worse as she sank deeper into gang life.

‘‘I went completely off the rails.’’

Despite ‘‘smoking continuously [meth] all day, every day’’ she still did not believe she was addicted.

‘‘I was making so much money, I could smoke. I believed it was my decision.’’

A move north to Nelson, where she started working in a pub, also reconnected her with meth. Things quickly spiralled out of control again.

But in the wild mix came a job promotion: pub and restaurant manager. Relationship conflict flared and it blew apart.

A new and heavy relationship took her even deeper into the meth world where she was now distributing. When the police raided the pub, significant amounts of cash were found.

After being released on bail, the pair left Nelson and drove to Christchurch. ‘‘He picked me up in the car and on the way down to Christchurch we got pulled over and found with just over a kilogram of meth in the car… with a street value of $1.4 million.’’

He went to jail and she ‘‘lost everything’’.

‘‘We lost our house. I had no idea what to do with myself, so I went back into meth heavier than ever.’’

Moving back to her family in Invercargill did not help. ‘‘I lied to my entire whole family.’’

There were further raids and arrests.

‘‘They keep letting me out. That was half the problem — letting me out.’’

But the last arrest came with a possible nine-year jail sentence. Instead, she was given an early release with a bracelet which allowed her to keep dealing.

Another two-year sentence provided a bit of a ‘‘wake-up’’ call and an opportunity at an intensive rehab programme.

‘‘After six weeks there, I realised something had to change and it’s not the meth issue, it’s my issues of why I do it.

‘‘So I grabbed every opportunity at the rehab.

‘‘This one psychologist from Spain worked with me and he was just unbelievable.’’

Therapy was confronting but managed to get to the bottom of her ‘‘main issue’’.

Selling the drug was one addiction, while taking it was another, she said.

‘‘You need to understand why you behave the way you do.

‘‘I thought, ‘I’ve got to get into this deep stuff and get an understanding of myself…’ It worked.’’

She discovered her real addiction was money — because she [wrongly] believed it brought security and mana.

‘‘It was a lot of work to change my thinking on that.’’

After being released, she chose Auckland because she had no contacts there. One brief lapse left her feeling deflated and disappointed in herself.

‘‘I felt dirty. So I didn’t touch it again. And I’ve never touched it since.’’

Clean for two years, when she sees people from her former world, she feels sad but still understands the journey they need to walk.

It was not an easy one, but entirely possible.

‘‘I’ve become stronger and I’m ready to kick off where I was meant to kick off 10 years ago.’’

Goals, structure and maintaining a routine were big keys to her success.

‘‘I don’t believe you can do it on your own. They need to want to go somewhere.’’

She wants to help people out of addiction, get into motivational speaking and talks to those in jail on how to get out of addiction.

She sings high praises for Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust in Invercargill, which was continuing to support her on her journey.

‘‘I’m an addict, and I’m always going to be an addict. So I have day to day things I have to get through.

‘‘I want to give my son the best life. A lot of people don’t have that.’’

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