Grief and drugs destroyed her world. Now, social media and TV star Nicola “Nix” Adams has risen from the ashes stronger than ever before, writes Aroha Awarau.
Social media star and TV personality Nicola “Nix” Adams has fought a tough battle to earn the respect and trust of her young children after regaining full custody of them earlier this year. Seven years ago, Nicola’s world was torn apart after her 16-monthold son Alaska unexpectedly died in his sleep while the family were living in Australia. In a bid to numb her pain and grief, Nicola became addicted to methamphetamine and abandoned her husband and two young children to lead a destructive life, which included time in jail and stints as a sex worker to fund her habit. When Nicola, 34, finally got clean, her children had returned to New Zealand with their father after they’d had enough of her broken promises and her downward spiral into P addiction. The only way she could reconnect with her whānau and show them she had changed was by sharing her story of recovery on social media. The unique tactic worked. She not only earned the trust of her family but she also gained a loyal following from thousands of fans who were inspired by her frank and honest testimonies.
Today, her Facebook page, CWK – which stands for Courage, Wisdom and Knowledge and has a mixture of funny skits and discussions of serious topics – boasts more than half a million followers. Her popularity has led to a gig as a co-host on Māori Television talk show Pio Terei Tonight with Pio Terei. She’s also in hot demand to speak at conferences and events around Aotearoa. Despite her unexpected success, Nicola says her proudest moment is regaining full custody of her young children – she has an older son, too, who was raised by his grandparents – as this was the very reason why she started posting her stories on Facebook in the first place.
“I’ve been through hell and back and have been fighting for the last three years to get my children back. The war has finally been won,” Nicola says in celebration. She is grateful that her children have returned to her care, but she admits that it’s been hard to adjust to being a devoted and dedicated mother again. “I lived with so much guilt. At first, I was giving them what they wanted, trying to buy their forgiveness and love. I had to stop parenting out of guilt and learn to become a good parent because of my love for them,” she says. Spending time with Nicola, it’s easy to see why she’s earned such a huge fan base. She’s frank and honest and swears like a trooper. Her authenticity is refreshing. Despite her tough exterior, it’s obvious that she is a devoted mother and her experience as a former P addict and her recovery have made her stronger.
Before Nicola’s downward spiral, she had never tried P and only turned to the drug because she was desperate to escape the pain and grief of losing her young son. “Losing your baby is the most devastating experience a mother can go through. Every day, you are in the routine – you wake up, you change their nappies, you make them a bottle, you play with them, you watch them crawl around the house, you hold their hand while they learn to walk, you sit there waiting for them to say their first words – and within a blink of an eye, it’s all gone.” Nicola found it hard to say goodbye to young Alaska and often blamed herself for his death. The grief was so painful that after he was cremated, Nicola would carry around her son’s ashes in an urn.
“I used to carry his urn around and act like he was still a living, breathing, kicking baby. I would even strap the urn into the car seat and take him everywhere that I went. “I had all these negative thoughts going around in my head – of immense pain and grief – and it only took one puff on a P pipe and everything went away. It gave me peace and tranquillity. That’s how my addiction started.” Nicola spent four years in the grips of P and lost everything. She became homeless and destitute, and spent two terms in prison for meth-related offenses. She also lost her teeth because of her addiction. “My teeth gave up on me and took off,” she laughs, though she now has a plate to replace the missing teeth. It wasn’t until her second stint in prison that Nicola faced some home truths and decided to turn her life around. “The first time I went to jail, it was two years after my son’s death. I was in the midst of my addiction and I was not ready or strong enough to deal with my reality.
“Two years later, I went to jail again and this time I was internally and physically exhausted. It hit me how selfish I was, because not once did I think about how my addiction was impacting my other children. They lost their little brother and their mother at the same time. They weren’t going to see their brother again, but I was still alive and I could still be there for them.” Thinking of her children gave Nicola enough motivation to rid her life of drugs and show her children that she was ready to parent again. But she had burned her bridges and her family moved to New Zealand so they didn’t have to witness her destructive behaviour. That’s when she took to Facebook, posting videos from Australia to show them that she had changed and hoped they would give her a second chance. Others discovered her videos as well and they followed her in droves. “Lots of people were intrigued by my story. At that point, everything was all talk about my intentions of getting my family back. I think people wanted to have a front seat to see if I would succeed or fail. Also, there were lots of people who could relate to my story of addiction and grief.” The father of her children had watched her videos. He reached out and invited her to return to New Zealand, so she could see her children and start the process of earning their trust again.
“I’m grateful for their father for never putting me down. He just told the kids that their mum was sick and she will come back when she is better.” When Nicola returned to Aotearoa, she already had a vast social media reach and had proven to be a natural entertainer. So, there was no surprise when producers from Māori Television contacted her and offered her a role to co-host a talk show with Kiwi entertainer Pio. “I’ve never aspired to be on TV, but this opportunity knocked on my door and I answered it.”
Pio Terei Tonight recently finished screening its second season and Nicola and Pio are in discussions for other television projects. Nicola says she had to adopt a different persona for television, one that meant she had to refrain from swearing. “On social media I’m myself, through and through, I make up the rules. But in the TV realm, I have to wear a mask. I can’t talk how I normally talk. We all have to wear diff hats for certain situations.”
The show features special guests in the form of well -known New Zealanders, and in June, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an appearance. It was a thrill for Nicola to connect with Jacinda as the social media star had previously impersonated the prime minister on her popular TikTok account. “Jacinda was so laidback that I felt I didn’t have to put on this fancy attitude,” Nicola tells. “We had a good yarn and felt right at home.” Nicola has used her public profile and vast reach to raise awareness for other important issues through her Let Me Speak campaign, where she travels the country and conducts live online discussions with people who have experienced hardships. Her first campaign focused on sexual abuse and attracted more than 5 million online viewers. Her most recent campaign looked at domestic violence, and future topics include addiction, grief and suicide. “I want to explore all these dark topics that people find hard to talk about and pretend don’t exist. If we want the world to be a better place for our children, we need to focus on these issues now and not sweep them under the carpet,” she says.
Nicola funds her Let Me Speak campaigns by organising housie nights. In fact, with all of her speaking engagements and television appearances, she has had to be business savvy to keep everything organised. She’s done so, she admits, using skills she picked up during her former life as an addict. “All of my business training came from dealing drugs. You have to be savvy in that world otherwise you get left behind. I call it transferable skills. I’ve been able to transfer them into this legal life now and it’s working a treat.”
Today, life is good for Nicola. Her children have settled into their new family home in Huntly and she’s in a new relationship, with a youth worker. She’s also grateful to now have a platform to inspire others. “I receive messages every single day from people who have watched my videos and want to make changes in their own lives. I tell them that they need to do it for themselves and not for other people. “If you change for other people, then you are going to fall off the wagon. When I made the decision to change, it didn’t only benefit me, it changed my relationship with my parents, my whānau and my children.”