Having almost lost it all, Brooke found recovery from alcoholism and hope at The Retreat NZ and is now living a full and happy life sober. This is her story…

I was sipping champagne on Auckland’s Viaduct when the phone rang, interrupting the pretend lone celebration I was gushing to a restaurant manager about, at 9am. It was The Retreat NZ, one of the country’s only residential alcohol rehabilitation centres. They’d caught me three glasses in. Or, rather, three sheets gone. “I’ll taxi there now,” I said, as if it was a hangover cure and not a solution for my progressive and fatal disease of alcoholism.


I knew innately that I was seriously sick, and this phone call remains the most pivotal one I’ve ever taken. If I hadn’t, and if The Retreat hadn’t been so genuinely caring, understanding and accommodating, I don’t doubt that I’d be dead.


By the time I arrived, I couldn’t walk. My alcoholism was so severe that I had nerve damage and muscle deterioration. Over the next four days my 24/7 drinking turned into a 24/7 detox, with around the clock staff treating my withdrawal symptoms, along with a lot of tender loving care. I cried, couldn’t eat and adult diapers were a definitive life low point. I was, literally, a big baby.

A Solution grounded in the 12 Step programme

The Retreat NZ is grounded in the twelve step principles of recovery. I’m not a religious person and the words ‘God’ and ‘ginger beer’ weren’t ones I could relate to, but when the treatment programme was described to me as a spiritual one, I easily grasped the concept of a power greater than myself. I lost my Mum – my best friend and my only real family – to alcoholism. I had full faith in her, but no belief whatsoever in complete powerlessness over alcohol. I was quietly sure I could regain control.

I nevertheless completed The Retreat’s comprehensive 30 day programme of therapies, group classes and recovery meetings. All the staff have overcome addiction themselves, so they have a unique empathic and non-judgmental approach. I liked them. Despite having dear friends, I didn’t have the families, partners or spouses of other guests, so the staff also became my main support network. On the surface life looked good, but I never really felt good enough. Behind my permanently painted on mask was deep depression, anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, a total loss of confidence, unhealthy relationships and a high pressured career. Alcohol had been my solution and, rather than work the life-saving one I’d been taught, it soon became my biggest problem when I suffered a series of life threatening relapses.

I had been dishonest with myself and everyone around me – and, this time, losing my ability to walk was just the start. There were multiple ambulances. Black outs. Dangerous situations. Accidents. Hospitalilsation eleven times in a year – and alcohol withdrawal seizures that almost ended everything. I was overwhelmed with remorse, regret, guilt, shame and total hopelessness. I had battered and bruised both my body and my brain. I’d broken my own heart and those of my loved ones.

Through all of this, The Retreat’s CEO, Janet Thompson, had done everything she could to help me, but I hadn’t helped myself. I remembered something she once told me. It was, “You can have one thing and lose everything. Or give up one thing and have everything.”


I pulled out the toolbox The Retreat NZ had given me and started using it to rebuild the life I’m truly lucky to have, with a programme that has a 100% success rate if I 100% work it. It is a programme, not just for my sobriety but for my best life. I’m blessed with a very special mentor who guides me through it each day – it is a “we” and not a “me” programme, because I know I can’t do it alone.


These days, I’m also studying mental health and addiction recovery. I go into The Retreat NZ once a week as part of that but, most importantly, to lend a hand to the one that was there for me the most. I am so thankful for the level of trust and respect I receive there, and the chance to fulfill my passion to help other recovering alcoholics. The Retreat NZ remains my second home and those therein a family. I know firsthand that the team truly care, and go above and beyond to help people like me. I cannot think of a better way to say thank you and I now treat my recovery as though my life depends on it, because it does.