MARIA Pau's struggle with drug and alcohol misuse has led her to establish her own coaching service that aims to eliminate the stigma associated with addictions.
Pau, a finalist in the Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, founded Coaching with Substance in 2010, providing training and education services to individuals who are looking to embrace sobriety and realise their full potential.
Pau, who began misusing alcohol and drugs at the age of 13 and who was diagnosed as bipolar, says it has been a difficult journey but one that she now uses to motivate and inspire others.
"Every week I am helping people and the great thing about it is when I see clients and their experiences, it reminds me of my personal experience and the challenges I have faced and overcome," says Pau.
"Whether it is domestic violence, addiction or depression, there is always something in my client's stories that reflect my own troubling times.
"So I can really walk them through how to get out of it, because I have managed to come out on top myself.
"And I think clients are really able to be inspired. They don't want to go into psychiatric hospitals or down into the darker realms that I have been to. My experience is a deterrent; it makes them want to turn their life around."
Pau moved to Australia from the Philippines at the age of 11 and almost immediately became reliant on alcohol and drugs.
In her early 20s she was modelling all around the world and continued to dabble in a range of narcotics.
"But during that time I was also into self-development, so I was developing myself but also taking away from myself it was a very big conundrum," she says.
When she returned to Australia after partying in an estimated 125 cities around the world, she had decided enough was enough and she put herself through a double degree in psychology and philosophy.
Last financial year, Pau coached more than 100 people to get on the straight and narrow.
Pau says her own personal struggles make her the best person for the job when it comes to ensuring that addicts are given a fighting chance of recovery.
"If you want to run a business, you go to a business coach who has success in that area," she says.
"If you want financial advice, you go to a financial expert who has a lot of assets and knows how to invest and is already doing it themselves.
"If someone really wants to turn away from addiction, then they really need to get help from someone that is not on any substances, is living a purposeful life and has been there and turned away from it."
Pau says recovery coaching helps to support clients in achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and she does this by providing access to resources and services that help them tackle their substance abuse.
Pau wants to raise awareness about the global impact of addictions and substance abuse.
"If a bomb blast killed hundreds of thousands of people in any city, the world would be in tears," she says.
"Yet, in any given year, we lose around 232,108 souls worldwide to addiction, and no one weeps except their family and friends.
"Death from addiction, bipolar and suicide is a shameful death, with only a small percentage recorded correctly on death certificates because of the disgrace associated with living this kind of lifestyle."
Pau is also the author of a self-help book titled Kill Your Addiction Before It Kills You.
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