MP Darien Fenton speaks out for the first time about her battle with heroin.

My addiction was a long time ago-more years than I care to remember -in the 1970s. It's a time I've put behind me but it's still not easy to talk about. I was very young and susceptible to the influences of the day, where taking drugs seemed cool. No doubt it's the same for many young people today.

I dropped out of uni and followed the travel trail of my times: Penang, India and Kathmandu, countries where life was on the margins, facing perils that no parent would tolerate these days. I can't believe I put my parents through such agony and my sorrow at that endures. It's my abiding regret.

In many ways it's a miracle I survived, given the risks I took with both drug-taking and travel to unsafe countries.

But at the same time, I saw unbelievable poverty and struggle that had a lasting impact on me. There's nothing like death and disease close up to focus the mind.


When I returned home I sought help with my drug addiction with a methadone programme. This New Zealand health-funded programme saved my life and I pay tribute to the nurses, doctors and counsellors who were part of it.

Professional and public health services made a real difference. It enabled me to put aside my personal demons and find peace and love in the loving relationship with my family that endures today.

But what really changed me was a job where I experienced first-hand workmates who lost their lives through workplace accidents and coming face to face with families who were struggling.

A lot of people helped me through that period and I became an active and contributing New Zealander.

It is possible to survive drug addiction and people should not be written off because of it. I know it's a hard road and there's no easy answer or formula, but love, support from and for others,empathy with those worse off than ourselves can make the difference.

I would never presume to lecture anyone, but if my experiences can make a difference, then of course I will be there, especially for young people looking for guidance.

Read more: Opiates claim Kiwi lives