Alone in a Rotorua emergency housing hotel room, Emma Corlett says she hit "rock bottom" after first trying meth five years ago.
The recovering addict is 14 days clean as of Friday and is at the start of her journey to stay that way.
Corlett says she is starting to ''see the light" - she has been going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and will start counselling soon.
But when she first sought help, Corlett was told a place in residential rehab would not be available until November - a scenario described as "unacceptable" and an "absolute nightmare" by those trying to help her.
Riders Against Meth have called for a "major overhaul" of meth addiction services and increased funding while other treatment providers say they are "at capacity".
The Government says it is aware demand for addiction treatment services has grown in the past decade and more needed to be done to support people and that it "already got work underway to help address that".
Corlett arrived in Rotorua from her Taranaki hometown on August 26 and said she had an on-and-off meth addiction for four or five years, which spiralled in the past year.
"I became dependent. I couldn't get out of bed without it, spending all my money on it ... I hit rock bottom."
Corlett said it had been "definitely overwhelming" navigating the system and she would have "given up" if she was not supported by a friend and her mother.
Corlett's mother connected her with Riders Against Meth founder Mark Anderson about two months ago and he offered to help. Anderson lives in Rotorua and went to pick her up from Taranaki.
They went to Te Pokapū The Hub, as they had been advised it could help her straight away. Te Pokapū helps anyone needing emergency housing support.
"When we actually got there ... it was so hard to get into this motel ... and then they told me there wasn't a rehab available until November," Corlett said.
Asked about the difficulties of seeking help, Corlett said: "I wouldn't be able to do it if I didn't have my mum behind me and Mark ... I would have just given up.
"I'm so proud of myself - this is the longest I've been clean in a long time."
Asked how her detox had been, Corlett said she was "drained" the first week. She made sure she went to sleep and woke up at a good time and was spending her time doing art and going for walks.
She said she was "doing better every day" and rehab was "still a question mark for now".
"But I definitely have some work to do on myself so I don't feel like I have to pick up the pipe again."
Corlett said she eventually wants to become a counsellor or social worker and help people who have gone through what she has.
No time to waste: 'In six months' time, you could be in jail [or] dead'
Founder of community support group Riders Against Meth and recovered addict, Anderson said it was an "absolute nightmare" helping Corlett get the support she needed.
The three-month wait for rehab was "unacceptable" and in his view, treatment providers were "overwhelmed" with demand.
"When you're an addict, you just don't have time ... in six months' time, you could be in jail [or] dead."
Anderson was working on a submission to Health Minister Andrew Little. He believed meth and drug addiction were "devastating" the community and more resources were needed so people could be "free of the shackles of addiction".
In his opinion, accessing support needed to be streamlined, wait times for treatment needed to be shortened and there needed to be preventative education around mental health and drug addiction.
He also wanted to see more addiction workshops, support staff and facilities available.
Addiction services seeing 'high level of demand'
Manaaki Ora group manager Marita Ranclaud said it offered three main addiction services in Rotorua and all were experiencing "a high level of demand".
Its national service - Te Whare Oranga Ngākau - had an average wait time of about three months and is the only residential drug rehabilitation centre in the Bay of Plenty. The waitlist was impacted by factors such as bed availability, contract requirements and individual circumstances.
Ranclaud said within the residential service, the percentage of people where meth was the drug of choice could be as high as 85 per cent.
She said Manaaki Ora was funded "to a certain level of resource" that was at capacity, and further investment was needed.
Ranclaud said she would love to see a local methamphetamine withdrawal service offering up to 10 days' respite in a "safe environment" - which Manaaki Ora had a suitable building for.
She would also like to see the development of dedicated medium-term housing for people as they transitioned from residential rehabilitation to the community.
Ranclaud said treatment varied for people depending on their circumstances.
"Not everyone with methamphetamine addiction needs residential rehabilitation nor is it always the best option for a person."
Regarding Corlett's case, she said it was "heartening" to hear she was settling into group attendance.
Lifewise Bay of Plenty regional manager Tepora Apirana said it was seeing a growing number of people seeking help for mental health and addiction issues.
Lifewise has a facility in Rotorua which provides supported accommodation while helping people prepare for entry to alcohol and other substance rehabilitation centres.
"We continue to urge the Government and agencies to provide people living with homelessness and addictions with immediate help and wrap-around support services," Apirana said.
"It's not good enough that people have to join a waiting list when it has taken them everything to ask us for help."
Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust board chairman Rawiri Bhana said Te Pokapū was the "front door" for anyone needing emergency housing support and its team triaged, assessed and referred anyone in this position.
Referrals were then passed on to emergency housing providers.
"Some cases have many complexities, and this can be compounded when whānau present who are not from Rotorua as they are registered as receiving support in another region and this can cause delays in connecting all the agencies," Bhana said.
"We are seeing a need for drug addiction services and support and unfortunately, the wait times are out of our control. It is reflective of an already overloaded system where there is high demand and not enough beds."
Health Minister Andrew Little said the Government was committed to a health-based approach to reduce drug-related harm.
"In June we delivered on our promise to roll out the free methamphetamine harm reduction programme Te Ara Oranga to the Eastern Bay of Plenty, with services now available in Murupara.
"Budget 2022 provided funding so Te Ara Oranga can further expand to cover a geographical area from Whakatāne to Rotorua, and include Ōpōtiki, and Kawerau.
Little said it provided $42 million over four years to support specialist Alcohol and Other Drug services, with a focus on residential care to support sustainability for non-governmental organisations, managed withdrawal (detox) and continuing care.
"This has seen additional services introduced around New Zealand, for example, peer support to support the Rotorua and Taupō areas during and post-residential care."
Little said there was a referral pathway to the Alcohol Drug Helpline and Te Pae Oranga was set up in 2019. It had also supported several harm reduction initiatives and law changes, including amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow police discretion for a health-based approach when making decisions about prosecution for possession or use of drugs.
He expected the Ministry of Health and Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand to consider all appropriate proposals around addiction services that prioritised a health-based approach towards drug use and addiction.
A Helen Clark Foundation and NZ Drug Foundation report released on September 4 recommended setting up a pilot programme that would give either a substitute stimulant or controlled doses of meth to those having major trouble escaping their addiction.
These would be given under supervision and only in limited circumstances, such as to people who've remained addicted after two rounds of traditional treatment.
About 1.2 per cent or 40,000 New Zealanders use methamphetamine each year, according to the New Zealand Health Survey.
The New Zealand Illicit Drug Harm Index estimated the social cost of drug-related harm to New Zealand was $813.09m in 2020.
'Fight like your f****** life depends on it'
Former meth addict Richshea Webster said to overcome addiction, you need to ''fight like your ******* life depends on it'' and take the journey ''moment by moment''.
The Ngāi Te Rangi kaimahi (worker) from Tauranga has been drug and alcohol-free for four years, eight months and five days.
The meth pipe ripped her life apart and took a toll most would find unbearable.
She has had the police at her door, been homeless and mixed up with gangs, and experienced "s*** that only happens in the movies".
Webster "licked meth bags and smoked meth stems" to muster the energy to get out of bed and go to rehab in Rotorua almost five years ago.
She said that was a pivotal point in her recovery and she supported any moves to increase the number of drug rehabilitation spaces in the Bay of Plenty.
''It [recovery] was one the hardest and one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.''
It would be easy to work it up and go on and on about all the things that had and hadn't worked but she preferred to keep it simple.
''Take it minute by minute and stay in the moment and kia kaha [stay strong]."
Where to get help
0800 METH HELP (0800 6384 4357)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (Phone 0800 787 797 or text 8681)
They also have a Māori line on 0800 787 798 and a Pasifika line on 0800 787 799
Visit thelevel.org.nz for information on how to stay safer and make changes for those using methamphetamine.