My life has completely turned around
My life has completely turned around
I will say this to the day I’m not on this earth: The Salvation Army has literally saved my life. In just one year, I lost everything.
I had been struggling to make life work – to make ends meet, maintain my relationship and care for my children. But when it all began spiralling out of control, I found myself in the same cycle of addiction and violence I had grown up with – one I had sworn I would never subject my own children to.
Repeating the cycle
I come from a family of 11. I grew up around alcoholics and domestic violence, and as soon as my siblings and I could leave home, we did. Moving out at just 14, I got a job working in a restaurant. By 16, I became pregnant with my first child and was pressured into a marriage I was not emotionally prepared for.
We bought a house, and I fell pregnant again soon after that. I was isolated from family and pretty much stayed at home and raised the kids. Because my husband drank a lot, I was always the sober, responsible one.
We had three children together before I decided to leave. The divorce was hard, and after that, things got even worse. My new partner introduced me to ice (crystal methamphetamine) and was controlling and financially abusive. We had a child together, and I developed postnatal depression.
Although I ended the toxic relationship, my mental health suffered. The anxiety and depression I’d battled with my whole life gave way to addiction until my brother encouraged me to go to a Salvation Army residential recovery centre.
It took about three days before I realised that I really needed to be there. I’d hit rock bottom – I lost my job, car, kids, friends and family, and I didn’t have any money. Everybody cut me off except one of my brothers and a sister.
Road to recovery
To get clean and sober, I was told that I needed to change absolutely everything, and that’s exactly what I did. I went into rehab with an open mind, and I also began attending an optional Bible study at the recovery service. I downloaded the Bible app and kept going to the Bible study each week on Tuesday night. It was kind of like a church service – there was music and people getting awards, and it was fun.
When I went on to complete the ‘Alpha course’ [explaining Christianity], I had a powerful experience of God. It was like God was saying: “Ava, you’ve tried your way for so long, it doesn’t work. Try something new. You’re safe; this is real.” At the end of the Alpha course, I got baptised, and it was just out of this world. I just can’t explain it – it was amazing.
Being of Aboriginal heritage connects me strongly and deeply to the natural world and to my ancestors. If I start feeling like my mental health is deteriorating, I visit the bush or a rainforest or a creek. I sit on the earth, wherever it may be, talk to my ancestors – like we talk to God – and say, “I need some guidance.”
Two weeks before Christmas, I left the recovery centre and was welcomed into such a caring community. The people in The Salvation Army church made sure that I was safe. They gave me food hampers and presents that I could give to the kids, so I didn’t have to feel stressed about anything. They really were part of the foundation to start my new journey, and I’m so encouraged by the turnaround I’ve made.
As Easter approaches, it’s always a special time for me. The story of Easter is also the story of hope and new life – something I relate to deeply. It gives me comfort knowing that there is a God – a higher power. Deep down within my heart, I know that God walks with me every day. I can feel it.
*Name changed to protect privacy