Hawke’s Bay man inspired by mother’s memory to kick drug addiction demons and pursue dream

Cameron McKie spent more than half his life addicted to drugs – whatever he could get his hands on.

“Mushrooms, MDMA, meth, alcohol, occasionally cocaine. Started on LSD when I was 16.”

Now he’s 33, and using the same drive and determination he used to score drugs to pursue his dream career as a chef.

He has also been drug and alcohol-free for two years.

But McKie, from Haumoana, said it was memories of cooking with his mother which served as his inspiration.

McKie said he had a good upbringing, a “really good” family home, but his troubles began at school.

“I had learning disabilities, and I left at 15. While I was in school I went through some trauma.”

He decided to undertake G&H training, which specialises in training for trades, and also worked at his parents’ business possum trapping for eight to nine years.

“I also did fencing, orchard work, agricultural work. And I worked on my own, so I was using all the time.”

Then a good friend of his died in a car accident when he was 21 and “things spiralled” out of control, he said.

“I didn’t know how to grieve, using became an escape for me.”

He had a daughter when he was 25, and her mother died in 2017. Once again everything spiralled out of control.

“My parents looked after my daughter while I was using. I went into a bad depression, and had suicidal tendencies.”

In 2019, his father put his foot down, and told McKie to “sort your shit out. We don’t want you around until you do.”

McKie started sleeping in his car at the river, on mates’ couches for about a month.

He than rang a scaffolding friend of his who helped him get into Springhill Addiction Treatment Centre in Napier.

“I had two slip-ups, but I graduated Springhill two days after lockdown which kept me away from people, places, things that I would normally go to, to get drugs.”

It was after he left Springhill that he decided he wanted to be a chef because of all the “happy memories” associated with cooking with his mother when he was young.

He was also supported by Kia Tipu Te Ora Trust founder Chris Jenkins, who took him to his first 12 step meeting and has been supporting him since.

“I started cooking and putting up posts about the food I made on Facebook. Literally in a day I had about 200 followers.”

Now with 2500 followers, ‘Cam’s food adventure’ has proven to be quite a hit with people who love the art of cooking and eating.

Around the same time he also started training at EIT to be a chef, and he’s been there for 18 months.

“I intend to do my diploma in patisserie next year, and advanced cookery the year after.

“My ideal dream would be to work for myself in Hawke’s Bay. My 8-year-old daughter loves it.”

He said he owed his life to all the people who had supported him, and continued to support him.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.

“Getting clean was the best thing that ever happened to me, and now I try and support those people who are going through what I did.”

McKie helps out with support groups at the trust.

“Kia Tipu need the recognition for the work they do. You forget how to live when you have an addiction, and they helped me.

“Reach out if you want to get clean, and we can take small steps to get there.”

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