Speech by Wayne Linklater – 2014 Graduate of St Marks Programme
Hi, it's great to be back in Blenheim amongst you all. Blenheim will always hold a special place in my heart, it was here that I was given an opportunity to save my life.
I was here over last summer for 5 months and what a summer it was. Sunshine every day which was great for the soul.
I loved being part of the Blenheim community. I got to experience some wonderful places in the region like swimming in the Wairau River, trips up to local forest areas, collecting shellfish at Whites Bay and many others.
The people up here are very cool. Everyone I met gave me a wonderful sense of belonging. I got chatting with this joker I met in town one day and I happened to ask him what he did for a living....."Oh, I'm the Mayor" was his reply.
When I arrived at St Marks I was a very broken man. I'd been in recovery for about 4 months but was just hanging on by the fingertips during this time. Just before I came I'd had a small relapse and thought I'd blown my change of getting the help I needed.
I was scared, paranoid and alone, full of self-loathing and doubt.
For the previous 30 years I'd been running away from my emotions and fears by medicating myself with alcohol and drugs on a mostly daily basis. I'm now 46. In that 30 years I don't think I would have put 3 days in a row together without getting hammered one way or another.
I came to realise that it had been a frightened little boy running the show.
Having finally been given the opportunity to reflect on my upbringing, I can now see that I was set up for failure.
I grew up in West Auckland with teenage parents who were both heavy drinkers and drug users. I can best compare my early home life as a cross between "Outrageous Fortune" and "Once Were Warriors". Most of my childhood memories revolved around constant parties, people fighting and my parents fighting.
It was pretty usual to see either my father or my mother with a black eye or bloodied lip. My older sister and I looked out for each other because no one else seemed to.
When I was eleven I came home from school one day and found my sister dead on her bed, she had had a heart attack. This event certainly didn't have any effect on slowing my folks down until when I was twelve my father took his own life.
So at this point it was just me and mum left. She continued to carry on her hard out partying lifestyle with me in tow. I was dragged around places I shouldn't have been in and saw sights that a teenage boy shouldn't see.
Around this time I started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana regularly.
My mum met her future husband and the day I turned 15 they told me it was time to "go forth and live your life son", and they skipped town.
So at 15 and 1 week I was working fulltime and flatting with others. This is when my substance abuse became a daily habit.
One good thing to come out of my childhood was my involvement in playing rugby league. I started when I was four and finished in my early 30's. Because I showed some ability at this sport, this was an area where people took notice of me and I got looked after. This is where I had some positive role models and got to learn about boundaries, discipline and leadership.
For the next 30 years I stumbled through life and it's mostly been ok. I've had some very good and well-paying jobs in Sales and Marketing roles. I got married at 23, moved to Christchurch, split at 29, have two beautiful children who I have brought up in a shared custody capacity, travelled a lot through work and sport and partied as hard as I could.
The problem was I'd stopped growing up emotionally very early on. I've been pretty skilled at putting on a good front but behind the mask was a very tortured soul, bankrupt of any spirituality or sense of fitting in.
Around June last year my life had hit rock bottom. I was barely functioning as an employee, I'd lost control of my finances, I had no friends or support, my physical and mental health was very poor and I truly believed I was going insane and would soon be locked away.
In this insanity I found a moment of clarity and for the first time in my life I asked for help.
This was the start of my journey into recovery which took me into institutions such as detox at Thorpe House, supported residence at Elm Tree Lodge, AA and NA fellowships and finally St Marks.
What a gift St Marks has been for me and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to find myself. How many other people get the change to take 5 months out from their daily lives to spend just working on themselves? An amazing gift that is.
Being an addict I was an incredibly self-centred person who thought the world revolved around me, then to be thrown in with 13 others who thought the same way was the hardest thing I have ever done.
St Marks takes a therapeutic community approach to recovery which basically means "my recovery is your recovery". So we were a group of very sick people expected to learn from each other.
I hated it! And for the first two months I started each day with the decision, can I handle this pain or shall I run away like I always do.
I soon came to realise that this is all part of the process. I began to learn that taking on other people's crap makes me sick, I was given tools that made me start to believe in myself and through therapy addressed and got rid of all that anger and fear that I had been carrying inside.
The staff at St Marks are truly amazing people. They gave me love and understanding and showed me that I am a worthwhile special person, not the waste of space I always believed I was.
Paul Hathaway could read me like a book and always seemed to have the right advice for me at the right time. I'm so grateful that he was my main support person and it showed me that men helping men is incredibly powerful and that has inspired me to go down the career path I am now pursuing. Gina, Sandie, Ginny and the other ladies gave me so much love and caring that I so needed at that time and Lois, once I bought into the programme, taught me that if I can trust her and her staff I will make the changes needed to have a wonderful life.
Not everyone finishes the programme at St Marks but even if you spent just one week there it can only have a positive effect on your life. Oh and the food must have been pretty good, I put on 10 kilo's.
Because I choose to not put mind altering substances into my body my life is so different now.
First and foremost I believe in myself. I trust others and I just don't let anything bother me. I've found a Higher Power who allows me to hand over my crap so I don't have to carry it around with me.
I have a cool home again where my children live with me part of the time and in contrast to a year ago I have lots of wonderful people in my life who love me because I've learnt how to let them love me.
I'm studying fulltime for a Diploma in Mental Health at Polytech and in the future I'd like to get a degree in nursing.
Alongside study I work 20 hours a week as a Mental Health Support Worker which gives me the opportunity to help others and that in turn continues my growth as a person. I'm the dude now responsible for handing out the drugs to residents. Who would've thought!
I'm truly honoured to have been asked to make this speech and share some of my story on behalf of the other people to have gone through St Marks over the last year.
Life keeps getting better every day. I'm a little uncomfortable to be held up as a St Marks success story. Yes, today I am, and for that I am truly grateful and proud, but tomorrow will be here soon so I have to do the recovery work all over again. I can only try my best in this life – one day at a time.