Deb’s Story

Posted on September 24, 2018 by Iosis

“Now I feel so strong. I’m strong for my baby.”

After getting in with the wrong crowd as a teenager, Deb’s life spiraled into a haze of alcohol and drug use. When she was forced to give up her baby son at birth, she knew it was time to get help. So she turned to Merivale.

Like many kiwi children, Deb had a fairly sheltered upbringing. She was a good student, she helped with her little brothers – family life was good. When she was around 15, she started hanging out with a new group of friends – which involved lots of social drinking.

“As a quiet and reserved girl, I liked the alcohol and the confidence it gave me. It was fun,” she told us. “Whenever there was a party on, I’d be there.”

She left school, got a job and went flatting, spending lots of time with her friends. In her early 20s, she began to drink more – substantially more – but didn’t think it was a problem. However, things started to fall apart when she met her first serious boyfriend. They moved in together but the relationship wasn’t working and, in her own words “I covered up our problems with drinking.”

From bad to worse

At around 21, she began smoking cannabis because she’d built up such a tolerance to alcohol. Her relationship fell through and her mental health deteriorated. She was drinking all the time until she passed out. She started another relationship with Drew*, who was also smoking cannabis.

A month later she became pregnant and that was a turning point for the relationship. “He was super excited and I was uncertain because of my state of mind.” When Deb was six months pregnant, they moved into a caravan in South Auckland. “It was really hard – I didn’t drink much but I did pick up my cannabis use. We were there for a couple of months and my due date got closer.”

Love at first sight

“When I had Connor, I didn’t sleep at all. All through pregnancy I had felt detached, but as soon as I had him I felt indescribable joy and I couldn’t imagine being without him. I wanted to watch him all night.”

The next morning, social workers came from Oranga Tamaraki and found high levels of cannabis in Deb’s system. “They said that mum would take care of him. I was shell-shocked. Then they took him off me and gave him to my mum.”

“Something inside of me switched”

Deb didn’t give up hope that she could get her baby back. The hospital social worker told her about Merivale and Deb knew that’s what she had to do to get her baby back.

“Something inside of me switched. I kept reminding myself the reason I was here was my boy. I knew that he needed me and I needed him.”

“When I walked through the doors I was very emotional. I was handed a baby I didn’t really know and he didn’t know me. We spent quite a few days in isolation. After a while, I realised I could do it and I can – look where we’ve got to!”

Merivale – transforming mothers lives, for good

Merivale is a residential parenting programme for women who have a background of abuse, addiction, or domestic violence and who are struggling with the challenges of parenting. Women receive counselling and attend a range of life skill, self-development and parenting classes.

Like many of the women here, Deb was referred by Oranga Tamaraki. Like almost all of them, she’s got her life back on track.

A powerful bond with her baby

“By the time the two-week orientation had finished, Connor and I were joined at the hip and had formed a really strong bond. I continued with the routines my mum had started so he settled quickly.”

“Now I feel so strong. I’ve met so many other mums – they have been an inspiration. I’ve come a very long way, particularly in the last three months. I’m now confident that I won’t make the same decisions as in the past.

“The Merivale programme teaches you real life skills. Now I have a clear picture of what I want to do: to be happy with my boy, have a career and to enjoy my life. In here it’s all about what you are feeling and in the past I have always tried to push those feelings aside with drink.”

Happier times ahead

“I learnt from all the programmes and I’ve learnt from my son. I appreciate those precious moments with him, especially now that I’m sober. I’ve learnt the importance of a routine and how it is safe and comfortable.”

“I want to create a life where Connor is always learning and growing in a positive environment. I hope he’ll grow up with a lot of self-confidence and that I’ll be happy in myself.”

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