Regional | Business

How former Northlander Marissa Lewis survived drugs and abuse

Former Northlander Marissa Lewis has survived drug and alcohol addictions, self-harm, a massive overdose, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and bullying.

Now the 42-year-old high-performance lifestyle coach and businesswoman wants to inspire other Māori wāhine to overcome the odds and “get out there and live a beautiful life”.

The former Whangārei resident, who whakapapas to Ngāti Whātua and Ngātiwai, has been through more than many will go through in a lifetime.

From the breakdown of her family at 10 years old, to falling pregnant at 13 years old and being severely bullied and beaten at school – that was just the start of a lengthy battle that saw her life spiral out of control.

After quitting school before the fourth form and a few years later moving to Auckland, she turned to alcohol to numb the pain, then later, on weekends, methamphetamine.

But it was after becoming tangled in a violent relationship for two years that she started smoking P every day.

Looking back, she realises she was a “white collar functioning addict”.

“For a long time I was really drifting, not knowing who I was, looking for outside substances to numb my emotions and no one would have known.

“On the inside I was completely broken.”

Then she overdosed after “acquaintances” gave her an overdose of gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) known as the “date rape” drug.

“I ended up nearly dying. It was a brutal moment.

“Instead of calling the hospital, they dropped me in my car outside the police station.

“I woke up in an ambulance, then in hospital.

“That was the moment when everything changed. The shame was the biggest thing.

“I didn’t realise how thick in the addiction was. I was 26.”

“I would smoke P in the morning, go to work and be fully functional, come home and have dinner, have a sleeping pill and go to sleep.

After her close call, Lewis moved to Australia to start again. She found yoga, got a job, stopped doing drugs, and later met a man and had her son, now 14.

Lewis moved back to New Zealand in 2013 with the goal of becoming her own boss.

She returned to school, joined a network marketing company, and became a qualified yoga instructor. She became known as a motivational personal trainer, ran women’s bootcamps, and gradually grew her business.

Now living in Auckland, she is the author of two self-help books – From Strength to Strength and Just Do It – and is a podcast host, inspirational speaker and one of New Zealand’s most popular business and empowerment coaches.

She works with thousands of women and has more than 50,000 followers across three social media platforms.

Lewis said she wants to inspire others to “be more confident and live a life that’s wildly successful”.

“We all deserve that.

“It’s our birthright to live a life full of joy and abundance. No matter what your past is, it does not define you.”

After almost 13 years of raising her son as a solo mum, Lewis got engaged three weeks ago and couldn’t be happier.

Her advice to other women is to reach out.

“It doesn’t matter how alone you feel, you never are. You’re unique as you are.

“I should have died that day in hospital.

“The doctor said ‘you should be dead, your will to live is stronger than your will to die. Never let me see you in here again’.

“I didn’t take that for granted ... I did whatever I could to heal myself.”

Jenny Ling is a news reporter and features writer for the Northern Advocate. She has a special interest in covering health, food, lifestyle, business and animal welfare issues.