A statistic no more
9 October 2017
When Tama Wilson came to The Salvation Army’s drug and alcohol recovery centre on the Gold Coast he brought with him years of addiction and crime. He shares his story of how he found hope.
My life has a romantic beginning in New Zealand. In Maori culture, when someone in your family can’t have children, someone else in the family offers their child. I was given to my first cousins, Thomas and Matatu. These two people loved me so much, but when I was 18 months old, Thomas had an asthma attack and died. Matatu was only 17 at the time and didn’t have the skills to cope with this trauma and to raise me alone. I was made a ward of the state and, until I was 16, lived in 21 different homes.
I got married early, to Lisa, and we started a family in Australia. I wanted to know a bit more about where I was from so I wrote to social welfare in New Zealand. I got a box full of documents back, one of which said: “This man will be a statistic”. At the age of 16, I went to Perth to meet my biological parents. They weren’t living up to my expectations, they disappointed me and I judged them. It was then that I started using drugs.
I was committing crimes and, at 17, was locked up in prison in Perth. I was not that stressed at the time – I thought I was just fulfilling everyone’s expectations and becoming that statistic. After being released, I went back into the same lifestyle. I went back to New Zealand, back into drugs, and eventually back into prison.
After being released, I realised I had no solid foundation; there were questions I couldn’t answer. Loss, resentment and lack of confidence were painfully real. I once again put a mask on and hid my unmet needs with drugs. My wife and kids left me, and I started living in a house with three other addicts and a dealer. I was back in Australia, I had no job and I had no dreams. On 28 March 2016, my criminal activities caught up with me and I woke up with the police standing over my bed.
When I was going from the courtroom to a holding cell, the Southport Court chaplain, Major Kay Nelson, passed on a message from my daughter. My daughter wanted me to know that she loved me. These words changed my life. I decided right then that I would stop doing drugs. Upon my release, I started rehab at The Salvation Army Recovery Services Centre (Fairhaven). I went from a hostile and negative environment into a loving community. I quickly learned that we can’t change our thinking without taking off the masks and armour. There is help out there, including spiritual help.
I graduated from Fairhaven and spent two months as a volunteer graduate. I now live with a friend. We are both separated from our wives, and have our kids coming over. I am just meeting people in social situations, talking about life, not judging, just sharing. I didn’t know people did that.
I am outside prison in more ways than one. Spiritually, mentally and physically. I have time to process normal activities and enjoy different people. I can’t help but acknowledge a higher power – humans just couldn’t do what the Salvos have done for me. And then there are people like Major Kay. I used to be scared of the whole church thing, but not now.
I am spiritually restored. The Salvos have help restore my faith in God and opened doors so I can grow in my faith. It’s my responsibility. God is with me. I have been given back my life.
By Tama Wilson