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Personal Stories: Alcohol

Tuhaitara’s Story

Group of people clinking glasses of beer

Tena koutou katoa, greetings all.

No Waitaha, ķati Mamoe, ķai Tahu me Tauiwi oku iwi. I am a descendant of the first nations peoples from the southern lands of Aotearoa on my mother’s side with Dutch, English, Irish and Australian bloods on my Papa’s.

I grew up in a time where I was fortunate as the eldest daughter of my Mama and Papa to have both sides of my Taua, Poua and grandparents, aunties, uncles and many others. My parents were young parents, living between a city, a port and a papaķaika. I was raised between my parents and my Taua on my Mama’s side. When with my parents I visited my Grandma/Pa consistently on my father’s side. They owned land for market gardens and my Papa gave me a horse that grazed on their land.

I loved both sides of my family/whānau staying often with many aunties and uncles. We visited and stayed with family/whānau all the time having Christmas, Easter, all holidays and events together, staying at baches around our marae every weekend. We attended taķihaķa, hui, runaķa etc.

When I reminisce those treasured moments, inside, my inner Hine laughs with joy & weeps for those times lost to memories long past. I believe I had the best life as a tamaiti.

There were many parties and many gatherings at places I will never recall, where drinking was a part of all occasions. There were lots of arguments, screaming and punch ups. At times when the party came to our home we, including our cousins and friends’ kids, would be shepherded into a sleepout out back of house. There were times where we five kids would be awoken suddenly, made to get in the car, startled, scared and half asleep. We spent many a time in the car with chips & drinks at a pub I soon learned was called “the drain”. I never thought as a kid any of this was bad, and as I grew older, it didn’t change.

In my teens I babysat for a Maori/Euro family/whānau down the road. They brought the parties home from the pubs all the time. Those parents gave me alcohol at age 12 to try, saying my parents would never smell it so I would not be in trouble. At a young age I became addicted to alcohol and I took it wherever it became available.

Every side as far as I can think back was alcohol/drug related. From my Taua who had card nights with black berry nip, to her pakeha husband, my step-grandfather, who was a full on drunk, and a criminal. My grandfather on my father’s side was part of the 6 o’clock swill and classed as a heavy drinker. There was also my Mama who my Papa would complain could not handle her piss.

Alcohol and all other drugs have saturated my whakapapa and family/whānau tree blood lines. We have died through alcohol and other drug related issues, or from mental health impacts, some still undiagnosed as yet, but prevalent none the less.

Addiction in any form has amplified the violence, opened the gateway to assaults and sexual abuse on the vulnerable, injured and ended intimate relationships, never to be restored again.

Fortunately, I am one of two in my whānau, who have found recovery. I have recently celebrated 18 years of complete abstinence from all mind altering chemicals along with taku hoa rakatira. I have broken the cycle of addiction. Sadly my babies were in their late teens when I did. However the greatest outcome thus far is for my mokopuna, who will know no addicted Taua, and for this I’m eternally grateful.

Kia tau te rakimarie Peace be with you.


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