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Danielle’s Story

Posted on June 20, 2018 by Iosis

“I want to break the cycle for Missy”

Iosis: Our Stories - Danielle playing with her baby daughter

With an attempted suicide, shoplifting, drug taking and violent relationships in her past, Danielle didn’t think she had any hope of regaining her baby daughter – until she came to Merivale.

A tough start in life

Danielle had an upbringing that you wouldn’t wish on anyone. She grew up in a split family in Northland with three half-siblings, all from different parents. She tried to commit suicide at 12 years, and the subsequent attention taught her to do “more stupid things to get more attention.”

Danielle left school at 15 and started using drugs at 18. After years of being bullied at school and living in foster homes or with her grandparents, she became addicted to meth by the time she was 20 years old.

Drugs, violence & a baby

Things got worse. She moved from one violent, drug-fuelled relationship to another. After a particularly violent beating from her partner, Pete*, she became hooked on Tramadol as well as meth. After he tried to strangle her and she was hospitalised, her mother called the police. She left him and moved back North to her family.

There, she met Matt*, the father of her child and things started looking up for a while. Then, once again, her life started unravelling. When her baby was placed in foster care by OT (Oranga Tamariki) because of her drug use, Danielle asked OT what she could do to get Missy back.

“On paper, I was a mess, with my attempted suicide, shoplifting and drug taking – I knew I would struggle to get her back.”

They suggested she come to Merivale, where, finally, her life took a turn for the better.

What is Merivale?

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.

Most mothers graduate after six months and can then leave the programme with their children in their care. Like many of the women here, Danielle was referred by Oranga Tamaraki. Like almost all of them, she’s got her life back on track.

Iosis: Our Stories - Danielle & her daughter

“I knew I needed to be a good mum”.

When Danielle first arrived, she undertook a six-week detox and has now been off Tramadol for over six months. Through our Alcohol and Drug Early Recovery Skills programme, she learned that she used drugs as a tool to fix her “brokenness”.

“I didn’t know who I was. Pete* had broken me down to nothing. It took me a long time to get over that and start to get my confidence back”.

Since going off drugs, she has never felt better. “I see things so differently now – I’m present with Missy and I’m actually there. I’ve worked hard on fixing myself,” she says. “I can now say that I can give Missy what she needs from a mother.”

‘Never give up’

Merivale’s residential parenting programme is a structured environment and many mothers find it challenging to adapt to the rules when they first arrive. Danielle admits that initially, life wasn’t easy at Merivale.

“I had a terrible time at the start, especially when I was going through detox. I remember one day when I nearly gave Missy up to OT. But I kept going – never give up.” She says. “I thought when you finally get to leave with your head held high, it will all be worth it – no drug can compare to family. ”

A better life ahead

Danielle is planning to return to Northland and will continue to attend voluntary drug and alcohol courses.

“I want to study, I’d like to help others who find themselves in a similar situation,” she says. “But mostly I want to be a good parent.”

“Today my life is very different – I know what is going to happen every day. We have our routine and I want to break the cycle for Missy. I want to build a solid foundation for her.”

What she’d like to share with others

“No drugs are okay – whether they’re prescription drugs or illegal. Nothing is okay when you have a baby to care for.”

“Merivale has given me this gift of teaching me how to be me and I couldn’t have done this without them. The people are so wonderful and caring. I’ve made lifelong friends here,” she tells us. “Every single person here has touched my life and taught me something that I can take away.”

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