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Rebecca's Story

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It was Queen’s Birthday Weekend four years ago when, feeling “bone-deep, emotionally and physically exhausted”, that Rebecca Dalgarno​ made the decision to finally walk away from her partner of 20-plus years.

Already an alcoholic, her partner had “spiralled into the methamphetamine scene” after the death of his mother.

She said that while she was “fortunate” that he was never violent towards her of their two children, he would “yell, scream, kick a hole in the door”.

The children were anxious too, never quite knowing what mood they would find their father in, and “walking on eggshells”.

She said she would return to their home each night with “a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach”.

It took four years of empty promises to change for her to make the decision to leave.

“If I loved him enough I could fix him. . . It wasn’t until I left I learnt what enabling was,” she said.

Now Dalgarno is hoping to provide the support she never had, taking up the role of Rotorua facilitator for the Brave Hearts NZ charity, a group that aims to support the whānau of loves ones with addiction issues.

She said that role can be a “very, very lonely place”.

“You tend to sugar-coat the truth from family and friends,” she said.

“Brave Hearts knew exactly that.”

She said she found the group by chance via social media, and jumped at the chance to take on the facilitator role.

“A chance to give back or help the next person.”

Dalgarno said loving someone addicted to drugs can be soul destroying.

“I didn’t find Brave Hearts until about a year after my life turned upside down,” she said.

“You connect with people who have walked the same roads and are always ready to be that shoulder to lean on, that voice of reason, that hope that things will get better.”

Brave Hearts founder Erin O’Neill said that while a lot of support exists for addicts, “the families get left behind”.

“Yet the impact on families and whānau caring for an addicted loved one can be catastrophic and the impacts are widespread into the community.”

She said their mission was to provide these families with support, education services and tools to help them find stability in their lives.

Asked what her message would be to anyone struggling with a partner or whānau member’s drug addictions, Dalgarno said “it gets better”.

“Four years of hell, but we’re happy, my kids are not anxious. You can be happy again.”

Brave Hearts is set to host a hui at the Te Runanga Tea House, Rotorua Government Gardens, on Thursday March 9, from 7pm – 8.30pm.

The group also holds monthly support meetings at Rotorua Library, 1127 Haupapa St, on the second Thursday of each month at 7pm.

Brave Hearts NZ can be contacted by freephone at 0508 272 834 or via email at