My name is Fiona and I am from Sheffield in South Yorkshire. From an early age I was brought up by only my mother as my parents were divorced. My father was an alcoholic and this eventually destroyed the family unit. I never remember having a lot of contact with my father until I was about 8 years old. Around this time I began visiting him and “his” family at weekends and during most school holidays. I found that I had gained 4 step brothers and a step sister, and as being the only child by my mum, I thought having older brothers and a sister was great. I shared a room with one of my brothers when I went to visit and this is when the sexual abuse began. I was sexually abused on a regular basis by my brother when visiting my dad and this lasted for a period of five years in total.
I never told anyone of what was happening to me, and at the beginning I was confused as to what was happening as I was so young. I did however know that what was happening was wrong. As I got older, I continued to keep it to myself as I didn’t think anyone would believe me and I didn’t want the visits to my dad getting stopped which I feared would happen if I did say anything. So I just kept it to myself, and tried my best to bury it deep within me.
When I reached the age of 13, I became a teenager. But as well as that, my mum became a Christian. I began to notice a change in my mum. She stopped swearing, smoking and became a lot happier in herself. She began talking about God and to Him too. She told me of the “sinner’s prayer” and although I said it, a change never took place in me. I only said it because I knew it would please my mum, but in my heart I wanted to do my own thing.
While my mum was changing for the better, I began changing for the worse. I was a teenager and thought that I was a grown woman. I thought I knew what I to do with my life and wanted to live my own life. Even though my mum dragged me to church as “I was living in under her roof, so I had to abide by her rules”, I knew that church would soon be over then I could do what I wanted to do.
In my own time I began experimenting with soft drugs and drink. I began hanging about with a crowd of people where reputation meant everything, and it seemed the worse your reputation was the more you were liked and the more respect you gained. I had a pretty bad reputation before I knew it and lots of friends and respect came as a result of this. Also came a responsibility to live up to this reputation, so I was regularly in fights, getting involved in crime, causing trouble and not caring about who I hurt in the process. I began hanging about with people a lot older than myself and thought I had found the answer to life.
It was only a matter of time before my mum found out what I was up to and to say she was not happy would be an understatement. She tried to discipline me, grounding me and stopping my spending money. She also tried banning me from seeing my friends, but nothing worked. The stress that my behaviour caused my mum made her ill and as a final resort, she rang my father to come and try to sort me out.
My father came to Sheffield to see me and tried to discipline me, but I had very little respect for anything my dad had to say to me as I had only known disappointment from him and in the 15 years of my life he had never tried to have any input in my life. So it was only a matter of time before me and my father had a massive argument. My dad ended up restraining me as I tried to leave the house. Eventually I managed to get out of the house. Later that night I found out that my dad had had a heart attack and as a result of that he died. And my Step mother blamed me for his death. This totally sent me off the rails. I went to my friends for consolation, but the only thing they could offer me that would be of any benefit was drugs and drink.
On the day of my father’s funeral the whole of my father’s family ignored me, apart from one of my step brothers. And instead of going home after the funeral, still dressed in black, I went to the park and got completely drunk. This was the first time of many that I would drink to try and isolate myself from reality instead of trying to feel part of a crowd. I was offered counselling through the NHS, but after going to one session I knew I would not be going back again as I didn’t feel it helped, in fact I felt worse. I thought I could solve my own problems, so I just decided to stick to what I knew worked, and for me it was the drink and drugs.
This carried on for a while until I managed to get a little job and settle down a bit. I had stopped going to church by this time. I began exploring the night club scene. I was not drinking as much as I had done at the time following my father’s death, but I was still drinking and abusing drugs. I was introduced to a different lifestyle which is where my whole week revolved around the weekend and I was always busy getting money together to I could enjoy it as much as possible. I began using speed and ecstasy tablets as well as other drugs and became well known in a lot of the nightclubs in Sheffield.
Around the age of 18 I got into a relationship with a guy. This guy told me that he loved me and cared for me. We became very close and I knew that I would do anything for him to make him happy. He told me he was in debt and I almost put myself in debt, paying his off. Still after my wages were gone, he told me he needed more money, so I started stealing for work and then eventually I would go shoplifting with him once I had finished work. Even when he asked me to do more sinister crimes with him to get money together, I would. I never really minded, because he told me that he loved me and I felt the same way. However, in the end I found out he was on heroin. I thought that heroin must have been some excellent drug and that is why he needed to get money for it all the time. So when he was sent to jail and the relationship fell apart, I tried it.
I began using the drug with his old friends and once I took it I thought it was the best thing I had ever experienced in my life. I definitely thought I had found the answer to life and there was no turning back. I had been taking heroin every day for about 3 months when I was unable to get it one day. I became really ill and at first I thought I was coming down with pneumonia. I had never felt so ill in my whole life so when a friend told me to take some of his heroin to feel better, I almost laughed at him. I took the heroin and immediately felt better. He told me I was experiencing rattling and what that meant was that I was withdrawing from having heroin in my system. When he told me this, my whole world crashed at the realisation of what I had become. A heroin addict.
I didn’t know that during the next 5 years to come I would end up losing my job, my relationship with my mum. I would get the reputation as a smack head, not someone to look up to with respect. I didn’t know that I would lose a majority of my friends, that I would no longer have any respect for myself, that my self esteem would be gone. I wasn’t aware that this drug that I thought was the answer to my problems, would become a problem. I didn’t know that heroin was going to steal me of everything, and that I would have to steal from anywhere and everyone to get money for it. I never thought for one minute that my heart would beat faster at the thought of the local co op closing in the evening so I could go into their skips to find food to eat because all the money I had got had been spent on heroin so I could go through the day without feeling poorly. Neither did I ever think that I would ever think that the only company I would have would be the head lice that had made their home in my hair. This is what heroin did for me, it stole my life and now all I had was existence.
My mum had got cancer of the breast and I did not want to put her through anymore stress and end up killing her too. I tried to do a detox and when I relapsed on the heroin after 3 weeks, I chose to move out as I had been determined to get clean for my mum and I had failed because the pull to the drug was so strong. I thought I had less chance of doing any harm to my mum of I moved out, so I did. It was when I did this, I went down hill fast.
I got a one bedroom flat and my furniture consisted of a fold up camp bed. I lived out of a suitcase which contained my clothes. I had no washing machine so my clothes very rarely got washed. I tried to keep myself clean and always shoplifted toiletries and cleaning materials. I did what ever I could to survive and the skip at the back of the co-op was a life saver, as was the milk float the used to come round at half 5 in the morning. My life was a mess, but I didn’t care as long as I got my heroin.
I began injecting and often ended up at the doctor’s surgery to get antibiotics for the abscesses. I would deny the accusations of people when I would hear they were saying I was on heroin, but the only person I was kidding was myself. I knew that I had tried my best to get off the heroin and could see no other way of doing it in my own strength.
During my time of drug addiction I met a man who helped me. He was almost twice my age, but he furnished my flat, he would make my meals and he gave me drugs for nothing. He offered me some form of security and had respect in Yorkshire. I thought I had landed on my feet, but how little did I know.
I saw him as a father figure in a strange way, but he saw me as a girlfriend. He said he cared for me and I thought that he actually did. This man had been giving me drugs for about a year and my habit had shot up with me needing to inject at least 15 bags of heroin a day, just to feel normal and to keep the withdrawals at bay. Then a day came when he told me that he could not afford to give me drugs any more and that I would have to start to make money to buy them myself.
I knew that the only way that I had a chance of making that kind of money was to steal and sell things on, so I started to shoplift. It wasn’t long before I got caught doing this and was arrested. When I was in the police station I told the officers that I was a heroin addict and that I needed money each day to fund my habit. I also told them that I only had to other options to do to get money, 1 of them to mug on old person in the street and the second option to be to sell my body on the streets. They said they would keep a cell warm for me. When I left the police station that day I had no idea that within 2 weeks, I would end up working the streets as a prostitute.
It was here that I felt that there was definitely no way out of my addiction. Whilst working the streets I had a lot of time to think and I spent time think of how my life had gone so wrong. I often wondered where God was in all of it. My mum always told me that God loved me and had plans for my life and I began to wonder that had this all been God’s plan for my life.
Whilst working the streets one night I was beaten with a rounders bat and raped. I thought I was going to die that night and had never experienced such fear in my life. I called out to God with everything within my heart in the midst of everything that night. I asked that if God was real to show himself to me and to get me out of the situation. I said that I would go anywhere He wanted and do anything He wanted if He would get me out alive. I do believe God answered my hearts cry as this experience was a massive turning point in my life. God heard my cry.
I reported the rape to the police and within a week he had been arrested and I had been put as a priority to receive methadone. Although I was on the methadone, I knew now the need for me to get away and get my life sorted out.
I was going to go to a rehabilitation programme in Sheffield, but when I attended one of my mum’s friend’s funeral, my mum’s pastor told me about Hope House, Teen Challenge in Wales. I decided that this may be a way of doing something to build bridges with my mum, so I decided to go there instead. I had to detox off the methadone before going into the programme and this is when I saw God at work in His power. A lot of people had told me that withdrawing off methadone is harder than detoxing off heroin, so I was bracing myself for going through a lot of pain and discomfort. However I never had any withdrawal symptoms at all. When I told my mum about it I couldn’t argue back with her when she told me it had happened because people were praying for me and God was answering.
A week after I had first started the detox off methadone, I was on my way to Hope House. I was very apprehensive about going there, but my mum was having none of it when I told her that I could now go home and get a job as I was clean.
The first few weeks were difficult and I found it pretty hard to settle in to the structure of the programme. I found it hard living with so many females as I had never really had female friends, so to be placed in a house with over 20 of them was foreign to me. I also thought that because I had a bit of a church background that I would find the programme easy, but it is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I had to get in to the routine of getting out of bed at a time that I would have preciously just been getting ready to go to bed. Cleaning duties were a bit of a shock to my system too, because I had to do them at 8.30 am. Most of the other girls seemed really happy and they all supported me and told me that if I gave my life to Jesus, He could change me.
After about 2 weeks of being in Hope House, I gave my life to Christ. I was very open to what Jesus could do for me as I had seen how He had changed other girl’s lives in Hope House. I began to learn about the love of God and how He did have a plan for my life. I also learnt a lot about myself and began to see who I really was and that I had many issues to deal with. I started to do studies that brought up many issues, a lot of the time unravelling the mess within my head. And also through the studies I started learning about the way in which Christ wanted me to live. Although much of it went against the grain, I knew that I had tried everything else to live a normal life and this was my only hope now.
I was challenged every day by everything and during the first 5 or 6 months I was challenged constantly in the counselling room. There were times during counselling that I would feel full of hate, finding it almost impossible to forgive those that had hurt me. I would feel angry that I had ended up in the position that I had got myself into. I would look for others to blame for the way I had turned out. I felt physically sick because I felt so dirty and ashamed of things that I had done and things that I had happened to me growing up. I felt vulnerable at times because I was opening up and sharing things with God and my counsellor that I had never mentioned to anyone in the past. I was hurting and broken and for once in my life I never had drugs to help me block things out. I struggled, but God was faithful.
I learnt in these counselling sessions that if I trusted God a tiny bit, He wouldn’t let me down. So each time he took a little bit of my pain, I gave Him a bit more. I began to feel different, a lot lighter in my heart. I began to pray for God to give me the strength to forgive those that had hurt me and to seek forgiveness of those that I felt I had wronged. Some people I could not forgive in my own strength, but God gave me the strength and desire to forgive them. It made things a lot easier knowing that Christ had forgiven me for everything that I had ever done, so who was I not to forgive. Things didn’t happen over night but gradually I began to regain my self worth and self esteem. The guilt began to go and I didn’t beat myself up about things in the past, the reason being is because they were in the past. I began to believe the things that the Bible told me about myself. I found out who I was and why I was created. I started taking responsibility for my actions, and began to pay my debts. I no longer was angry at the things that had happened to me growing up because I knew that God would turn everything around for His good. And I knew that all the bad things that had ever happened that the Devil had meant for bad, that God would use them for good. As I read the Bible, it began to make sense to me and in there I have found many answers. God really showed me that He was real and He gave me a new life.
As I progressed through the programme I was able to encourage other girls on the programme the way people had encouraged me. I was able to share with them what God had done and what He was still doing for me and when I had finished the programme I was given a job at Hope House. I had a massive burden for the ladies that were seeking to escape addiction and counted it a massive privilege to have this opportunity. Even as I staff member I was challenged and at times broken as God continued to work in areas of my life.
Eventually after time I was offered a job in London working in a new ladies centre, Audrey House, which I also enjoyed as well as it being a challenge. I started working there before the centre opened so it was a massive privilege to have an input in helping getting the centre ready before girls actually came in. I was only working there a short while when I met Danny who was to become my husband. So after working a few months at the centre, I finished and soon after got married.
Married life was very difficult at first for the simple reason that had started to do things and live life in our strength, but after many mistakes we started to recognise that God has to be central in EVERY area of our lives. We now live our lives fully for Christ and He has never seized to blow our minds.
We are now living in Scotland and have been married for 4 years. God has blessed us with 2 beautiful children that we are able to bring up in a loving Christian home; they are total miracles as I thought I would never be able to conceive because of the many years my body was abused. We have a mortgage, which is another total miracle as I am black listed. We pay for all our bills, which would have never happened in the past. We even have a TV license, which is something huge considering the fact that I never paid for my rent never mind any other bills in the past. I don’t eat from skips and neither do I lay awake at night listening out for the milk float. God had clearly given me a new life. My heart is full of gratitude for what God has done for me, and my family.
God has blessed us with Christian support and has also blessed us with friends that are closer to me than some of my actual family. The support and accountability it detrimental to our Christian walk also, so we thank God for each and every person He has placed into our lives.
We are now involved in the Teen Challenge bus ministry which is a huge blessing. Offering hope to those who are in the living hell I was once in. But by the grace of God. I have also had opportunity to go into a ladies jail in Wakefield to tell people that life does not have to be the way it is for them and that Christ has so much more for them.
God is my source now and He is my life. My life is not a life without Him in it. I absolutely love Him with all of my heart and my heart is full to burst when I think of all that He has done for me. His grace is amazing and I thank Him for that. I also thank Almighty God that He answered my cry that night when I was getting raped and that He has shown himself to be real to me. I am humbled that God would do such a thing, God who is so pure, took a dirty filthy sinner like me, forgave me, lifted my head and gave me a new life. Any although I have new life I am not perfect and neither have I made it. God is still changing me and He challenges me all the time. I know however that He is the only one who can make lasting changes and He loves me unconditionally. He is the father I never had, my father in heaven. The perfect parent and perfect role model.
My relationship with God is my world. He is everything to me and without Him I am nothing. I am honoured to serve Him and to be called his child. I finally know what life is about and even better than that I know the One who gives life. How amazing.
God has no favourites so as he met me and changed my life, He can easily do the same for you if you are willing.