Set Free by Faith: Michelle Hoani Heihei
Set Free by Faith...
The Gisborne Herald Published: April 30, 2017 9:01AM
SHINING EXAMPLE: Michelle photographed by her 10-year-old daughter when she was two years, one month sober and 20 months clean of drugs.
MY NAME is Michelle Hoani Heihei (née Cosgrove). I am a 30-year-old mother of four from Gisborne but currently living in the Far North. I was born and bred in Kaiti, before moving out of town at the age of 18. I attended Kaiti Primary, Ilminster Intermediate and Gisborne Girls’ High schools.
Although I had a reasonably good upbringing, there were traumatic experiences that caused a lot of pain and hurt in my life, leaving me a troubled individual. I was sexually abused at a very young age and told by the perpetrator not to tell anybody, so I didn’t. I never felt comfortable enough to say anything so I suffered in silence throughout my childhood years . . . until I discovered “liquid courage” in a bottle. The very first time I got intoxicated, I had a new-found confidence and was able to open my mouth for the first time about the molestation I endured. I felt so brave.
I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the age of 12 or 13 and was full-on smoking dope, drinking alcohol and having sex. I was a high school drop-out at 14 and moved out of home at 15. I was careless and disrespectful and disobedient towards my mother.
My dad died unexpectedly from a heart attack when he was 34. I was only 11 years old. For a year, I re-lived that moment over and over again. It felt surreal. Behind closed doors, I cried every single day for three years. I would cry myself to sleep every single night. Nobody knew.
I stopped doing that the day I discovered the “healing powers” of alcohol. It helped me with my grief. It felt like I was healed. I had accepted my dad was gone, that he wasn’t coming back, there was nothing I could do about it and nobody I could blame for it. I felt I could move forward. Alcohol was the medicine that made me feel better.
I hated school. Always felt like an outsider, uncomfortable, shy, fearful, rejected, ridiculed. I suffered from a severe anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and depression that went undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Kids at school used to tease me for being skinny and underweight, and spread rumours that I was poor and had no food at home.
This wasn’t true. But I did suffer from an eating disorder for six years during my teenage years then again later on as an adult because of my unhealthy lifestyle. I tried my hardest to put on weight. I didn’t like being as skinny as I was. I would live off a diet of fatty foods and junk food in the hopes I would get bigger but I never did. I would get stoned and munch out but that did nothing. This led me to be unhappy with my body image at times. I would starve myself. At least I could control that.
I would drink alcohol and feel six feet tall, powerful, strong, fearless, beautiful, sexy and unstoppable. Every problem, fear, worry and concern would disappear when I was drunk. I could block out the reality of my life even at the age of 14.
Living to party
As I entered my late teens I lived to party. I would drink anything that I thought would get me drunk — even methylated spirits and cough medicine. I would take whatever high was offered to me, even crushing up pain killers and other prescription pills and snorting it in the hopes I would get a buzz — but I never did.
I would take drugs to enhance the effects of the alcohol or to even replace it at times when I couldn’t get drunk. I had problems holding down a job because of my drinking. I enjoyed working because I enjoyed making money to fund my lifestyle. But there were times I wouldn’t show up for work because I didn’t want to stop raging. Other times I would walk off the job during smoko break because I couldn’t wait until knock-off time to get drunk.
I became a mother at 19 and for the first time, alcohol and drugs ceased to be a problem. I was able to hit them on the head. By this stage, I had moved away from Gisborne. I eventually gave up smoking, drinking and doing drugs in order to have a successful and healthy pregnancy as I had suffered several miscarriages prior to that.
I found the ultimate happiness in being a mother. I loved my baby, my family and my life. Parenting filled the void for me. I went on to have three more children in quick succession but after baby number three arrived, I couldn’t handle the stress and picked up where I left off with drinking and drugs.
What started off being a quiet drink away from home once a fortnight soon turned into several people drinking at my house for two days every single weekend.
Things went from bad to worse. I started dropping my standards as a mother and a person. I wasn’t myself when I was drunk — nor was I really myself when I was sober either. I was full of anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, stress and hatred. It led to more destruction. Destruction of my relationship, my family, my parenting, myself, my wairua. I was losing myself. I picked up the glass pipe in a moment of weakness and temptation. Because I already had an addictive nature and suffered from the disease of alcoholism, it didn’t take long before I was hooked on meth.
Entire weekends lost
At my worst, I would spend three to five days a week partying, drinking the entire weekends away when I was meant to be having family time. I invited people into my home to drink and do drugs, smoking meth in the house while my kids were in bed sleeping. Other times they would be in the lounge watching cartoons or playing games on the iPad. I would take them to the park, kids’ birthday parties and outings when I was drunk and high, drop them off and pick them up from school when I was wasted, and allow my house to get trashed from parties to the point it was unfit for any child to be in.
I would spend my rent money and bill money on partying then be left in debt. I had a toxic relationship with my chidren’s father and exposed them to domestic violence, my inappropriate drunken behaviour and that of other adults. I neglected and deprived them of quality time and attention and would buy their affections with McDonald’s and candy to make me feel less guilty about it.
I hid a lot of things from a lot of people and became a professional liar. Those closest to me knew absolutely nothing about the extent of my drinking or that I was even using meth.
I’ve almost died twice from drinking too much — both times I passed out, vomited and choked on my own spew and stopped breathing. I’ve had alcohol poisoning more times than I can remember, almost gone to rehab but never did, almost lost my kids to CYFS (Child, Youth and Family Service) and drank until I was seven months pregnant with my fourth child because I was too greedy and selfish to stop.
My health wasn’t the greatest. I would starve myself for days on end, stay up partying with little or no sleep and drop kilograms of weight within days. When I partied, my staple diet was alcohol and maybe a few of the kids’ crackers or potato chips. At my lowest I weighed 47kg.
I would drink so much alcohol I would vomit or get the shakes and have to have a strong drink to cure it. I would smoke so much meth, I would give myself a migraine headache and often be left holding my head in pain only to want more and more of it.
I had problems left, right and centre. I had tried many times to give up drinking and failed. I knew deep down I was an alcoholic and drug addict. The longest I went without any stimulant was eight weeks and the first thing I did to celebrate was have a big piss-up. I had told myself for three whole years that I would go to AA and give up drinking and I never did.
I got so sick of the darkness, the depression, the ugliness, the lies. In my darkest hour, I was a complete mess. I was rugged. I hadn’t had a shower for six days, had worn the same clothes for four days straight, hadn’t eaten, was wasting away, didn’t want to look after my own kids, didn’t want to be around anybody, didn’t want to be drunk and sick anymore but didn’t want to be sober and sick anymore either.
I was stuck in between two worlds. I had a bottle of beer by my side. And then when I was at my lowest, I looked to the highest! I surrendered my will and called out to God for help.
“God, I’m sick. Please help me. Please make me better again even if it means you have to take the bottle away from me forever. I’ll never have another drop of alcohol as long as I live. I’ll go to church and follow you if you make me happy, fix my relationship, my family and my life!”
That day, something inside of me changed. In my spirit. I had a revelation that I was never going to achieve the life I wanted if I kept walking down that path. My family deserved so much better.
One month later I walked through the doors of AA. I was three weeks sober. I felt the presence of God in that room. I knew I was in the right place. God Almighty gave me the strength and courage to give up the waipiro (alcohol). I couldn’t have done it without Him. All the bad behaviour, bad habits, mannerisms, hate, anger and attitudes starting dropping from me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. There were many struggles, temptations, trials and tribulations. But I only grew stronger.
God led me out of South Auckland where I had spent the previous 10 years and led me to the Far North. I started attending The Heart Of The North Celebration Church in Kaikohe and became a born-again Christian, inviting Jesus Christ into my heart and making him the king of my life.
That’s when the real change came. I was made a new creation and given a new slate, a new way of living. I was healed of all my pains and hurts, I forgave every wrong that had ever been done to me, every wrong I had ever done and every sin I had ever committed was forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, for he died on the cross for my sins and the sins of many others.
Today I am two years, two months sober, 21 months clean and a healthy 60kg. I no longer suffer from an eating disorder, severe anxiety, agoraphobia or depression. I no longer suffer from addiction or have a dependancy on drugs or alcohol. I no longer carry all that anger and resentment around with me.
I am happily married to my soul mate and the father of my children and we have both been water baptised as Christians. We attend a wonderful church and our entire family love to worship the Lord including my young children.
God Almighty and Jesus Christ set me free from a life of addiction, destruction and death. They healed me, gave me love, freedom, comfort, security and peace. They fixed me, my life, my relationship and my family. They mended what was broken and still continue to do so.
I used to think there was no better feeling in the world than being drunk and high but I was wrong. The love of God and Jesus is the ultimate high. Better than any stimulant could ever make a person feel. No matter what you’ve done in your life, if you’re feeling empty, come to the Lord and invite Jesus into your heart. He will become the change you need. He will set you free.
“He who is in Christ is made new. Old things have gone. Everything is made new.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17