My name is Chris Coughlan and I grew up in London the youngest of 5 children. My parents divorced when I was 8 and I did not see my father regularly for many years. As a teenager I became rebellious and did not do well at school. I got into drugs at 15 years old starting with cannabis. I graduated to ecstasy, speed and then on to cocaine. Drugs made me feel good about myself and gave me a sense of identity as I had very low self-esteem and low self-worth. I worked as a builder but would not hold down a job for more than a few months as my lifestyle was hectic. I had a problem forming relationships with anyone as I had a fear of rejection. In my mid-twenties I could see where my life was heading but felt powerless to stop it.
I started to use crack cocaine and my life spiralled out of control. I lost everything and ended up homeless living on the streets in London for 9 months. During this time I went into a homeless centre in East London to get some food. There was a lady serving tea and when I looked at her it was as if there was a light shining out of her. I knew I had to talk to this woman. I got a drink off her and we started talking. She told me she was a Christian and said that Jesus could get me out of the mess I was in.
I spoke to her for 3 months and every day she told more about Jesus and that she was praying for me but I should pray and God would hear me. Every day I left her and thought that God would not help someone like me. There were criminals after me and I felt like I had nowhere to turn. One night I was coming down off drugs and I prayed, ‘If you are real God get me out of this mess!’ The next day when I went into the homeless centre the Christian lady told me about Teen Challenge. I told her that I had prayed; she said this was God’s answer! I met Javier the director of Teen Challenge London on a Wednesday afternoon. He spoke to me with power and authority about Jesus. I knew everything he was saying he believed. I knew I had to find out if God was real and as I had people after me Teen Challenge seemed like a safe haven. I got a place on the programme within 2 days.
At first I thought they were all mad. On my third week we went to church and after listening to an evangelist I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour. I found the discipline side of the programme easy – I found looking into my heart and seeing the person I had become very challenging. I needed to change a lot. After 11 weeks in London I went to the main centre which was in Wales. When I finished the programme in Wales I had no idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do God’s will for my life. Two days before I was due to come back to London I prayed for God to open a door. The centre manager in London phoned the next day. He said they were short staffed and would I help them out for four weeks. I had never wanted to be a staff member as I did not think I had what it takes. But I was happy to help out as Teen Challenge had helped me so much. Four weeks grew into a full time job. After nine months I got married to the woman who I had met in the homeless centre. She had an 11 year old daughter so I became a husband and father straight away. My wife soon became pregnant and we had a son, Joel, followed by another two sons, Ethan & Seth. After I had worked for TC London for 12 months I became the deputy manager & a year after that I became the centre manager.
I have now worked for TC London for over 20 years. I sometimes sit in my office and think back to when I was homeless – I praise God for he has given me so much to be thankful for. I never thought I was capable of anything meaningful and yet here I am: a husband, father of four and managing a 27 bed rehab centre. I give God all glory but without Teen Challenge I would not be the man I am today.