May 31, 2024
July 2023
Tū Ora Story

Brian's story.

Brian once found comfort in the bottle. Today, he finds solace in serving the community.

On the surface his family life seemed pretty normal – he grew up with his mother, father and siblings. His family was tight-knit. Brian was often visited by his cousins and had plenty of mates to hang out with. He liked to play sport, dabbling in rugby, softball, football and rugby league. Money may have been tight, but there was always clothes on his back, a roof over his head and a bed to sleep in. But there was also a lot of alcohol.

For years his father struggled with alcoholism, as did his uncles. That had an impact on Brian, who took his first sip aged 11. “I had a love/hate relationship with alcohol. I despised it before I picked it up, but I discovered I loved it. It allowed me to escape the reality of someone else’s addiction. “It was normal. A lot of my uncles started around the same age. It made it easier for me to access, so alcohol played a big part on both sides of the family."

As he got older, his drinking became heavier. In his early teens he spent his weekends hitting the bottle and by the time he was 18, it had become a daily habit. “I’d go to work drunk, get home drunk. I was under the influence of alcohol 24/7.” As his alcohol dependence worsened, coupled with regularly using opioids, cannabis and psychedelic drugs, he drifted towards crime to support his habit. Shoplifting was his go-to, whatever he could get his hands on.

Brian was sent to prison for the first time aged 17 and by 19, was in and out of prisonlike clockwork. During his last stint behind bars, as he was undergoing a drug treatment programme, Brian’s case manager told him about the Navigate Initiative. He admitted that entering Navigate was a scary thought, but something he had to do for himself and the sake of his family.

“It was around the time I found out my eldest nephew had been born. I actually had the lightbulb moment that I needed to start working on myself and change my life around to become the uncle he needs."

As time passed and Brian settled in and grew in confidence, he became more and more invested in the NI activities behind the wire, specifically church services and T-shirt printing. He developed a daily routine – a key part of the reintegration process. Once on the outside, he was able to put it into action.

I was able to figure out what I needed to do. I was able to pay my bills, I was able to get to work, I was able to find other places to get help...just to connect with the community a lot better as well. I learned how to become comfortable serving the community.

Today, Brian is a regular at Narcotics Anonymous and heavily involved with his local church. He has a job he loves as a groomer/yard hand at a vehicle dealership, which he’s held on to for about two years. “It was a nerve-racking experience,” he says of Brian's story returning to work. “I've been out of the workforce for quite a while. In a lot of ways working has really helped me transition from prison life back into the community."

He relapsed about eight months into the job, “disappearing” for about six months, but Brian recovered, and after an honest chat with his employer, was welcomed back with open arms. So valued is Brian, his employer recently celebrated one year of sobriety with a special lunch that all of his fellow staff attended.

The support he has at work matches that at home, where he flats with another Navigate graduate. Pathway is helping Brian get his driver’s license and supporting him if he needs a chat.

He says working with Pathway has been life-changing and implored others to do the same. “Take the opportunity with both hands. It’s a great resource.”

Names have been changed.

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