David Benton has been named a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to addiction support and treatment

Yes, the award is an honour, and I am very grateful to those who sponsored me.

My regret is that my wife Michael Ann is not alive to share in it.  She was an inspiration and my companion in this work over 30 years.  She and I started Hanmer Clinic 20 years ago.

When I was a young boy my vision of an alcoholic was a drunk man (a once famous all Black) falling over his bike (“Poor so ’n so” my mother said; “He’s an alcoholic”) – and later in early adolescence it was of the winos with their paper bags hanging around the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

But my own personal experience of addiction and recovery, and then my subsequent experience over 30 years working in the addiction treatment field in the United States and New Zealand has shown me that alcoholism and addiction is no respecter of rank, title, or station in life.  It is in every strata of our society.

Addiction is a dreadful condition to live with.  Even in its milder forms it is toxic, and in its more advanced form it is destructive for those who have it, and for those who live with those who have it.

Obviously, addiction does not occur in isolation – mental health, physical health and social problems often coexist with addiction. 

And addiction is often a ‘chronic and relapsing’ condition, which means that people can require multiple treatment episodes. 

So our vision in setting up the Hanmer Clinic was to provide a place where people are treated with compassion and respect, and where there is ongoing support over the sometimes lengthy process of recovery. 

At times in the last days of alcohol or drug use, and especially when detoxing, anxiety, depression, and social phobia are acute.  As one Hanmer Clinic client said, “When I stop using, I have all these feelings and I don’t know how to deal with them”.  This is an important treatment focus – “there is more to stopping using than stopping using”.

I can’t speak highly enough of all the staff at Hanmer, past and present, who do such wonderful work.  I wish them all well in the days ahead, and I am content this great work is in good hands.

Working in the addiction treatment field has been endlessly fascinating, challenging, and rewarding. I have loved my work, and I’m proud and glad that the work of addiction treatment is being increasingly recognised.

I also would like to honour the large numbers of people who have attended the Hanmer Programmes and made it into recovery, often having to exert a significant amount of courage and persistence. That courage and persistence is humbling and inspiring, and is matched by those many in the wider community who embrace recovery and are happy to help others.

So to all our Hanmer clients – friends – I have a final word.

I wish each and every one of you well.  As they say in 12 Step groups – “Don’t give up before you experience the miracle”.  I hope you are all able to enjoy the fruits of recovery on an ever-increasing basis.

Recovery does not excuse us from life, and life is not always great.  But recovery gives us the tools, the means, the power, the energy, and the will to endure the valleys and enjoy the peaks.