Tears are streaming down Dylan Hoete's cheeks. His partner of 12 years, Learna Tawhai, is sitting next to him, clinging to his arm.
Her eyes are pooling, ready to overflow. Her man is way past that point. His emotions are spilling over.
"I still feel it every day," Hoete says.
The 27-year-old swallows mid-sentence.
"Especially when it comes to them. It took me that long to get my sh** together."
Hoete is talking about the couple's three children, who he says lived with other family members for a period of time from 2017.
Hoete and Tawhai, who is 28, were – and technically still are – drug addicts, albeit now in recovery.
On this chilly but sunny August morning, they both say they've been sober for "one year and five months and one day".
Their children have been back with them since January this year.
They are bouncing on a trampoline just outside the front door as Hoete continues.
He says being away from his children was the hardest thing he has ever gone through.
"I didn't like them not having their dad there and for my sister to have to bring them up. My youngest – I missed out on heaps. She wasn't even 1 yet. Missed most of it. Missed most of her growing up. It hurts. Even my daughter – my oldest – I never was there for her first day at school."
Last year, Hoete and Tawhai were homeless and sleeping in their car in Tauranga.
Their meth and synthetic drug habit left them with nothing. No kids. And then no home.
Now Hoete has a fulltime job, the family is back together and they're living in a rental home.
The turnaround started when they met Liz Kite, a local clinical drug and alcohol counsellor who also does volunteer work with the homeless in Tauranga.
Kite threw them a lifeline – a place in a house she had bought for people who wanted change, many of them homeless and addicts. She herself is a recovering alcoholic.
She developed a dependency for alcohol at the age of 15 and says she overcame it through the help of Narcotics Anonymous and treatment.
Kite has been sober for more than seven years and says she has committed her life to helping others.
Hoete remembers his hesitancy when the idea of the house was first pitched to him.
Tawhai was talking to Kite in the Tauranga suburb of Greerton and ran over to him to say they had somewhere to live, a chance to get off the street.
But Hoete had enough money at that point to buy drugs. He says he thought to himself, well, he might do that first, and then move into the house later.
"And then I was like 'nah, you've got to get over this, bro, just go."
The house had rules – you couldn't use drugs, you had to go to three Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week, and you had to get rehabilitation if you thought those meetings weren't enough. A doctor would visit and do check-ups and help with the withdrawals.
Hoete and Tawhai moved in but didn't last a week.
"Because we were just so used to that life," Hoete says.
They ended up back on the street, using drugs again.
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Then the couple saw Kite at a Saturday night Narcotics Anonymous meeting the next week. They sat across from her, feeling guilty.
They talked after the meeting and Kite gave them a second chance. They moved back in.
"Since then, it's been nowhere but up," Hoete says.
The withdrawal was "horrific". At one point, Tawhai was found banging her head against a concrete wall.
She weighed 60kg and was regularly unwell. There was a lot of anger.
Tawhai says her memory was a blur when she was on drugs.
"It's all clear now. And I can relate to people out there in the world," she says.
"I really just want the ones out there on the street just to get some help and give them a chance to get into a house."
Hoete, who is 6ft 2, a big lad, weighed 93kg back then.
Drugs – alcohol and cannabis to begin with, synthetics and meth later on – had been his life for a long time. Years of daily use.
He says his synthetic habit, to begin with, was easy to feed through visits to the local dairy. By the time it became illegal, Hoete says, the market was already flooded, and then the dealers started making it themselves.
At its worst, he says he and Tawhai were probably smoking an ounce of synthetics and an ounce of cannabis a day.
"I didn't know how I was getting it. When you want it that bad, you just find ways and means to get it. It's amazing how you do it."
Synthetic drugs can be deadly.
A Coronial Services spokesman says there have been nine cases in New Zealand between June 2017 and May this year where the cause of death has been confirmed as synthetic cannabis toxicity.
He says there are about 54 cases during that period which provisionally appear to be attributable to synthetic cannabis toxicity, "a total of 60 to 65 deaths since June 1, 2017".
Those are the latest numbers to May this year; an update is expected in the next few weeks.
"There are also a number of deaths where while synthetic cannabis contributed to the death, synthetic cannabis toxicity was not the ultimate cause of death," the spokesman says.
There have been several deaths in Rotorua and the surrounding region in the past year linked to synthetic drugs, including, in November , 37-year-old Corey-James Brown.
Hoete and Tawhai were homeless for about nine months last year, mostly sleeping in their car in Greerton.
Hoete says once the kids had gone to live with other family members, the couple's drug use got worse. He says they were drowning their sorrows.
"You'd get nowhere because you're just looking for the next hit so you didn't have to feel like this."
It was while they were living in Kite's "whānau home", which they all called Te Whare Pegasus, that their next breakthrough came.
At a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, they met Scotty Moroney, a 39-year-old recovering addict.
Moroney says he battled with drug addiction for more than 20 years, including meth, and has been clean for just under five years.
"I saw something different in Dylan," he says.
"We meet hundreds and hundreds of people [at Narcotics Anonymous], we get so many people come through that don't really want to be there. And Dylan and Learna had this desperation in their eyes. They're a really special couple."
Within about a month, Moroney had offered Hoete a fulltime job at his civil contracting company, Bay Directional Drilling Limited.
"He had never had a job before."
Now, more than a year later, Hoete is a site foreman. He works hard, sometimes 50-hour weeks, at $22 an hour.
"I really love and support people that want to get clean and better their lives," Moroney says.
He says probably two-thirds of his 12 staff are recovering addicts.
"I'm very, very proud of what we do."
A big part of Hoete's life now is Brothers of Addiction, a club Moroney founded more than three years ago to mentor and support men trying to recover from addiction.
"I realised there was a need with a lot of these guys for brotherhood and camaraderie. A lot of the guys that come to me are ex-gang members and stuff like that."
The club, which is now trying to become a charitable trust, has big dreams for the future. Moroney says they want to set up a drop-in and residential care centre for men recovering from drug addiction in Tauranga.
"I wouldn't really be here today if it wasn't for them," Hoete says.
Life is very different now.
Hoete and Tawhai say they don't spend any time with their old friends, some of whom are still living on the street and using drugs.
It's all part of recovery, Hoete says. You need a full lifestyle change.
"People, places, things."
Hoete says his mum dying when he was in his early teens was the beginning of his downward slide. She was his rock, he says, the one keeping him in line.
In some ways, Kite appears to have taken up that role. Hoete, during the interview, calls her "Mumma Liz".
Not everybody who passed through Te Whare Pegasus is doing so well.
Asked what was different about Hoete and Tawhai, Kite says: "They did what I told them to do."
She laughs loudly. They laugh, too. Kite adds "Or else". And then there's more laughter.
"Nah, they wanted it," Kite says, suddenly serious.
"They wanted their kids. They did all the stuff that they needed to do for healing. I'm just so proud of them."
Kite isn't running Te Whare Pegasus any more. After 13 months, it became too much, she says.
"When people come in, their brains are chemically dependent so they've got to go through withdrawal. That's huge."
She still has several other houses she rents out to the likes of Hoete and Tawhai.
"I couldn't get anywhere to rent when I said I wanted to help homeless people off the street. So I had to buy them myself."
Kite says she has done well over the years through property and now is using that success to help others who otherwise would struggle to secure a place to live.
She says people cannot give up drugs without a roof over their head, and they need others around them.
"I believe the connection with people that don't use is the biggest turnaround."
At Te Whare Pegasus, everyone helped each other, she says.
The success of Hoete and Tawhai was a team effort – the other recovering addicts living with them played a part, as did Moroney and the Brothers of Addiction, Kite and her Under the Stars organisation, and the local doctor who came in and did check-ups at no charge.
Tayelva Petley, the Oranga Tamariki regional manager in Tauranga, says Oranga Tamariki never had custody of the children.
"It was agreed in a family group conference in 2017 that the three children would be cared for by their paternal aunty and uncle until the long-term goal of returning them back to their parents was achieved. In October 2018, we closed our intervention phase as we were confident the children were in a safe environment back with parents and whānau."
Mike Bryant, the Ministry of Social Development's Bay of Plenty regional commissioner, says it was great to hear about the positive outcomes Hoete and Tawhai have achieved.
"We have provided a range of assistance over the last couple of years and will continue to offer any support that is available," he says.
"Dylan and Learna can be proud of their efforts and we wish them all the best for their future."
Hoete says he had no birth certificate, no form of ID and no bank account when he moved off the street and into Te Whare Pegasus.
Now, thanks to Under the Stars, he has all of those things and a learner's driver's licence.
He says now is the best time in their lives. The kids are happier and he has this great relief that he is no longer relying on a substance. He's no longer doing something he doesn't want to do.
"We don't even fight any more," he says with a smile. "And if we do, we just laugh at each other. It's just stupid little things.
"Most of the time it was over drugs – 'I want it now, go get it for me and if you don't get it I'm going to get all upset'."
Hoete and Tawhai say they've both had trouble with the police and the law in the past, but nothing in the past year.
It has been, in many ways, a year of new experiences for the young couple.
A few weeks ago Hoete took his eldest daughter to school because he had the day off. In the afternoon, he returned and stood with the other parents and waited to pick her up.
"I felt weird," he says now, his cheeks still wet, his voice still shaking.
"And then I realised it was because I had never felt like that before – being an actual parent ... it felt cool.
"I was thinking to myself, this must be what an adult feels like when they're grown up. I had never felt that before – just being responsible and just being a father, really. Because drugs had taken that away from me, which had taken it away from them. And I felt guilty for choosing drugs over them."
He still feels that guilt, the rush of tears and emotion make that clear.
But Hoete is working hard to make up for it. He hopes their story will inspire change in others.
"You've got to really want it," he says.