From serving time to serving others
From serving time to serving others
My dad was a Navy man, so he was away a lot in my early years. Unfortunately, as a child, I didn’t feel connected to him and felt he rejected me. That’s not entirely true, but it was my interpretation at the time.
Mum and Dad split up when I was seven years old. I went to live with Mum and my sister, and Dad moved to Queensland. I didn’t see him much after that.
Around the age of 12, I started to spiral out of emotional control. I was hanging around this church youth group, and some older guys started coming along. I wanted them to accept me. I was easily led and, before I knew it, I was drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and stealing cars. I became a real handful, and so Mum kicked me out when I was 14. I started couch surfing and living on the streets. Eventually, at 16, I started injecting amphetamines.
I went back to live with Mum after I turned 18. I hadn’t dealt with the alcohol and drug issues, which led to more crime and three short stints in prison. I lost good relationships with people and blew all opportunities to break the dysfunctional cycle and move forward in life.
While I was waiting for sentencing, at the age of 27, I started talking to the Salvos chaplain in prison. I learned about The Salvation Army’s Bridge Program [alcohol and drug recovery], and while waiting in the cells to go to court, I prayed my first honest prayer. Four hours later, instead of going back to jail, I found myself part of this program. I believe now that God saved me from going back to jail. God was not seriously on my radar before then.
Desperate to change
The Salvo officers (pastors) had something that I was attracted to – a new kind of courage and spirituality. Initially, maybe, I was looking for acceptance from healthier people, but it was time. I was desperate and ready to change that old lifestyle of prison time, loneliness and pain.
I went back to live with Mum after I turned 18. I hadn’t dealt with the alcohol and drug issues, which led to more crime and three short stints in prison. I lost good relationships with people and blew all opportunities. I asked God if he was real.
One night, I heard a voice call my name. It was God’s way of saying he knew me and was there for me. I gave my heart to Jesus and asked him to be my Saviour and Lord of my life. There were no bells or whistles, but my motivation for recovery increased. I’ve never had another illicit drug or drink again, and that was 27 years ago.
The Bridge Program went for 11 months, and I did as much emotional and mental healing as I could – a process that went on for years. After further study, I started volunteering with the Salvos and got a job with them as a drug and alcohol case worker in the Bridge Program. I started forming relationships with healthy people. And I started going to church. I put healthy boundaries around myself to make sure I didn’t slip back into the old lifestyle.
The core was my relationship with God. Being accepted by God helped me accept myself and stop chasing unhealthy acceptance from others.
I asked God for direction in my life, and, after some amazing spiritual experiences and confirmation, I became a Salvation Army officer. That was 20 years ago. So far, the best 20 years of my life.
It hasn’t been an easy road. I lost Mum and Dad three years ago, nine weeks apart. We had much better relationships after I got clean and sober, so this was difficult for me. My 13-year-old son, a beautiful boy who lives with cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair and still unable to communicate using words. However, I’ve learned to grow from these experiences. I haven’t reverted to drugs and alcohol to cope. I continue to seek God and find happiness in healthy relationships. My wife Michelle has a caring role for our son and is a really good mum and beautiful wife.
My transformational journey has been about who I am and who I am becoming in relationship with God, with other people, and with myself. It’s about authentically connecting with people and encouraging them in their journey.