Kataraina says her mokopuna (grandchildren) gave her the motivation she needed to change her life.
Kataraina needed major heart surgery, but her body would not stand the surgery unless she made some serious changes. Her body was suffering from more than a decade of mental and physical abuse and the effects of drugs and alcohol to mask her suffering.
“The doctors told me I had a 40 to 60 percent change of getting through the operation. I needed to give up drugs and alcohol. I was dumbfounded – I didn’t realise how much damage I had done to my body. But I did everything required of me and within six months they said that number had gone up to 90%. I was okay with those odds. Even if they decided not to do the surgery, at least I would be clean and sober.”
Kataraina had heard about the Auckland City Mission Withdrawal (Detox) Service from a friend who was there. She learned that the Mission provides a range of services for people struggling with addiction, including assessments, a residential social detoxification centre and a team of Community Alcohol and Drug Workers.
She knew that she needed the Mission’s support.
“I needed to get away from unhealthy environments and people, so that I could prepare my body for the operation.”
Auckland City Mission’s Withdrawal (Detox) Service offers a live-in detox programme, upporting people with their treatment. The team offers budgeting advice, support group meetings including Alcoholics Anonymous and emergency food and clothing. They also liaise between the client, their rehabilitation treatment facility of choice and their support group, and help with other problems such as debt.
“ I self-referred,” Kataraina says who entered the Mission’s detox service. “The three weeks in Social Detox gave me that chance to get away from the environment I was in and to stop using drugs and alcohol. You do morning check-ins, you go to your meetings, you pitch in with the chores like cooking and cleaning, you go for walks and you get to do craft activities.
“Then, when the Social Detox team learned more about my story, they asked me if I’d heard of Te Whare Hīnātore.”
Auckland City Mission’s Te Whare Hīnātore is a transitional housing programme with a kaupapa Māori approach. It houses and cares for women experiencing or facing homelessness for up to 12 weeks before helping them into permanent accommodation. Kataraina joined the programme in January 2021.
“When I went there for the assessment it was so comforting. They made me feel so welcome. There was no judgement.
“Te Whare Hīnātore was amazing. I had my own room for the first time in years and my own bathroom! I was in awe. Having downtime to myself in a safe place was what I needed to reflect on my life, to learn to love myself and respect myself. Looking back, I was my own worst enemy. My ignorance, the using, was unbelievable.
“I found Te Whare Hīnātore so peaceful and so positive. I would wake up with tears of gratitude. It gave me my life back. The professional skills the staff have in that job – their patience, their kindness – is what got me through. They showed me how to be humble.”
Having been through the detox programme, Kataraina was clean and sober for the first time in many years, and was part-way through her Te Whare Hīnātore programme when her opportunity to have heart surgery came up in February 2021. She had one of her heart valves replaced, and another one repaired. What should have been a few days in hospital turned out to be three months as there were complications because her other organs were damaged from drug and alcohol abuse.
She says it was an extremely difficult three months, but her key worker from Te Whare Hīnātore and her doctors helped her get through. She was able to return to Te Whare Hīnātore and successfully complete the programme.
Kataraina has now moved into new accommodation and is thrilled to have a quiet, safe place to call home. She is recovering from her surgery and preparing for another surgery later in the year.
“I prayed every night for 10 years for a safe place for my youngest son and I,” she says. “When I look back now, God gave me more than I could have imagined. I have cried so many tears of gratitude. I am working on my relationship with my older children and am so grateful to have my mokopuna. There is something special about grandchildren – you just can’t get enough of them,” she says.