"It was always top shelf for me, I was the wine connoisseur of drugs," Kevin Hollingsworth said of his time on drugs. "I was so high the desire to use methamphetamine was stronger than my desire to live." Wham, bam, how much more in-your-face can a former drug addict's confession be? It's nine years since Hollingsworth had his last P (methamphetamine) puff, he's now a fully registered clinical practitioner and addiction counsellor. This is his unvarnished story, it comes with a warning, it's not for the faint-hearted.
"I had my first cannabis smoke when I was six-years-old, I was around adults using it and I wanted to be part of the scene, other kids would drink cactus juice to get high but I only ever wanted cannabis.
I'd go to school stoned, had trouble reading and writing because I couldn't pay attention. By high school I was a regular user, every Friday night a bunch of us would go to Koutu because that was the place to buy tinnies.
One of the older guys had a car, money, he'd shout us a $20 tinny or two, they were like candy to me.
When I was 15 I left school because of my addiction - my [drug] behaviour was worth more to me than my education, or so I thought. Mum saw me walking home and said 'you've finished school early', I said 'nah, I've left', she told me I'd better get a job, pay rent.
Te Arawa Lakes Trust gave me a chance with a motor mechanic's course, I was earning $85 a week, paying Mum $30 I wasn't happy about it, that was my weed money.
By the time I did a mechanical engineering diploma at Waiariki [Polytechnic] I'd shifted into severe cannabis use. When I graduated I moved to Great Barrier Island where the drug culture was huge. I was the only petrol mechanic on the island, operating my own business at 19, had all the dope I could smoke but was going to the mainland at weekends, partying big time.
I got into speed, LSD, whatever I touched was from the top self, I was the wine connoisseur of the drug scene.
After two years I came home, driving around in a deregistered van earning money as a mobile mechanic to buy whatever drugs I could get my hands on.
When I was little I'd walk past White's Automotive in Ngongotahā and think 'I want to own that one day'. I was 22 when the owner offered it to me. I got a $10,000 Enterprise Allowance from Winz to purchase the company, pay the rent, I was a really hard worker, operated a good business with a lot of customers however I hung around with the wrong crowd. I was part of a Ngongotahā syndicate that got busted, at the time it was one of the biggest drug busts in Rotorua - meth, ecstasy, cannabis were involved.
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Five weeks into the eight week trial I was so over it I pleaded guilty to procuring cannabis, got sentenced to community work.
Straight away I was back into the underworld, it fed my ego, I was using whatever I could get my hands on, my life was in turmoil.
I sold the business, moved to Auckland where the drug scene was through the roof.
I went to a tinny house to buy an ounce of weed and the guy said 'I haven't got any of that, try this bro'. It was P [methamphetamine].
I went straight from liking it to needing it, to outright addiction. I allowed it to take over my life, I didn't care about the lower drugs any more, I was totally out to it, reflecting back it felt like I was on the pipe 24/7. One month the most I slept was three days. I was so high the desire to use P was stronger than the desire to live.
I used my mechanic's skills to trade for it, suppliers wanted power rigged in their houses, their muscle cars modified.
One day I'd just scored 14 grams when I smashed into another car due to three weeks non-stop on the pipe. The cops searched me, found the meth, arrested me for possession for supply.
I was released on bail, my addiction soared out of control, I got into more trouble, then one day I was arrested for something I hadn't done. My lawyer advised me to go before a jury, we had CCTV footage that showed I wasn't where the cops said I was.
I was already on bail but the judge gave me bail again with strict conditions, I continued to use P.
A year later I went on trial for the possession for supply charge, was found guilty and jailed for two-and-a-half-years.
Three months into the sentence I went on trial for the charges I was innocent of, the verdict came back not guilty. The jury had no idea I was already in The Rock [Mount Eden prison].
My first day there I realised I had three choices - hang myself, agree to give in to inmates' demands or harden up.
That night I heard the sound of running water or so I thought, when my cell was unlocked next morning I witnessed an inmate who'd hanged himself, the sound of running water had been him urinating on the floor. I decided there and then hanging myself wasn't an option.
Murderers and rapists were looking me up and down for using P, that's when I decided to take option three and harden up.
In The Rock I was suffering symptoms of depression, needed treatment for my substance abuse. I completed rehab programmes, got certificates, but what prison did do for me was make connections, open up a network of suppliers.
One day my mother called saying I needed to get leave, my father was on his death bed.
Two officers escorted me home, Dad was crook but sitting up holding a Waikato can.
By the time he died I'd been shifted to Rangipo [prison] and they wouldn't let me out for the funeral, that really affected me mentally.
Towards the end of my two-and-a-half year sentence I faced the Parole Board with 52 achievement certificates, they gave me a release date with one condition, that I walk the talk.
Out in the community I was talking the walk, got back into it [drugs]. I was suffering grief, the loss of my father, missing his funeral meant I hadn't had closure, I felt guilty, ashamed.
I was doing drug runs up and down the country, smashed into a 18-wheeler truck, walked away unscathed then got run over in my parents' drive by another user high on meth, all I could think of was meth.
One day Mum said my picture was in the paper [Rotorua Daily Post], that I was wanted for drugs-related charges. I handed myself in, that's when things started to change for me, I felt guilty and ashamed.
My mother showed me tough love, she gave me a bed, fed and supported me, she didn't enable me, there's a big difference.
I went to counselling, at first I only told my counsellors what they wanted to hear. The community still looked like prison to me. I had a convictions list longer than both my arms, no one would give me a chance.
It wasn't easy to get clean after being a user for so long but slowly I began to see the light, realise recovery was up to me. I went to the Far North, connected with my whakapapa (genealogy), maunga (mountain) awa (river), that's when I reset my moral compass and took it out into the world.
I went back to Waiariki, studied social work, got a diploma, moved on to the degree course.
I started work as an addiction counsellor in Rotorua, I did a level 7 degree in addiction counselling that led to an Otago University scholarship for post graduate study in applied addiction counselling.
Now I'm a registered clinician and addiction counsellor delivering community-based programmes on marae, at St Luke's church, in schools, to health professionals and a walk-in clinic. I've just started a job at a residential mental health facility in Tauranga.
I'm doing presentations here [Rotorua], in Tauranga and Taupō with the support of the police and koeke (elders of Te Arawa).
My dream is to go back to prison and run these programmes. By talking to you I want people to know P addiction should be everyone's business not hidden away, that people can change but it's up to them to want to. If I can do it [come off drugs] anyone can do it."
Hollingsworth's progress from major drug addict to registered clinician and addiction counsellor has made him a double award winner.
In 2016 he took out the top spot in the Cutting Edge newcomer practitioner award for integrated practice in Rotorua.
Drawing on his passion for digital art, the following year he produced a poster based on the Monopoly board format. It illustrated the concept of his addiction and the cycle of change that followed, it was judged the best entry in the Cutting Edge best poster competition at Te Papa where it was exhibited.
Born: Rotorua, 1974.
Education: Ngongotahā Primary, Kaitao Intermediate, Western Heights High, Waiariki Polytechnic, Otago University (extramurally).
Family: Wife, 2 step-children, 19-year-old son. Father Kevin Hollingsworth (deceased), mother Hinepare Hollingsworth - "She's my rock", 2 brothers, 1 sister.
Iwi Affiliations: Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine. "My dad was Australian, a lovely lovely man."
Interests: "Whānau first, my recovery second." Self care by biking, exercising, going for runs, mentoring and coaching, digital art.
On his life: "I've done a 360, eh?"
"I had to go back to my childhood to rehabilitate myself and know who I am today."
On methamphetamine: "It's the most evil drug out there, it's killing our iwi, whānau, hapū."
Personal philosophy: "Count your blessings and be grateful."