When I look back on my life I still find it amazing how much my has changed. My name is Jason, and for many years my life was that of a miserable drunk. When I was 22 I thought that I had everything. I had just finished college and had started work as a graphic designer. I was also married to a woman I had met in college and we had just purchased a new apartment. Little did I know this would become my prison for the next six years.
I was born in Toronto, Canada in 1970. My parents met in art college and through my uncle had met some interesting folk who were known as the ‘Children of God’. My parents went along to the coffee houses to hear their songs and testimonies and soon both, quite happily, became Christians. After this they joined the group and the following years were spent travelling from city to city, country to country. Growing up in this environment was exciting but quite unstable. My mother schooled us but apart from my brother I had no friends. As the years progressed the teaching of the ‘Children of God’ became more and more perverted and my parents, by the grace of God, realised that this was not of God and that they were involved in a cult. We returned back to Canada but took many years to finally settle down as my parents were very wary of churches and schools after their experience in the ‘Children of God’.
We finally settled back in Toronto in 1980. By this time there were six children, two girls and four boys. It was not the best of neighbourhoods as we were surrounded by drug dealers. My parents took us to church and shared daily God’s word with us. However, over the years the influence of my friends, both in the neighbourhood and at school, began to win me over. By the time I entered college I had tried every drug with the exception of heroin. Every weekend and holiday was just another wild party. I thought that this was the normal way to live and that a Christian life was too extreme and too rigid. I followed what those around me did, not wanting to look out of place. I would say one thing and do another. For the best part, my life carried on in a way that I believed was normal until my marriage.
Two months into my marriage my wife went to work one day and informed me that she would not be returning. I was devastated. I could not figure out what was wrong as we had just been married. She denied that there was anyone else involved and that it was just to ‘sort things out in her life’. However, I later found out through a mutual friend that she had started an affair three months before the wedding with a man at her work who was already living with a lady. I turned to drink immediately. I was destroyed. All I had built my life upon had crumbled in a day. I managed to carry on working but every free moment was spent in front of a bottle. It became my only friend. As the years past my friends slowly left me as they could not take my depressing attitude and drunkenness. I suffered severe depression and was suicidal but my belief in God and that it was wrong to give up helped me to carry on. My parents moved out east to the province of Nova Scotia not knowing about my alcoholism as I had hid it from them. Before they left they introduced me to a man who would have a profound effect on my life. This man’s name was Mike Landgraff. He ran a small design firm but more importantly he was a Christian. I started doing part-time work for him and he would gently speak to me about matters of faith. I had by this time been drinking for about three years and it had become the centre of my life. All my money went to supporting my habit. Slowly over the next few years I started attending a church. I began to read and study the Bible afresh. I started to realise that it wasn’t just the drink that was ruining my life but a host of other problems I hadn’t even considered. I tried AA and a drug programme but always gave up. Everything seemed to be too much and I could see no way out of my lifestyle.
Then a small miracle happened. The firm that I had been working for went bankrupt and Mike offered to take me on full-time. The people who worked at the firm were all Christians and proved to be a great source of encouragement but I kept everything hidden from them as I thought I was too sinful. It was a struggle to make it through each day. I suffered panic attacks and many times would simply fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. But as soon as I had a drink I felt normal, and those few moments of bliss seemed worth all the misery it caused my life. During this time I finally made a commitment to God and was baptised. However, my resolve quickly crumbled as I had, as always, tried to do it on my own strength. Finally as the debts mounted and everything fell apart I told Mike about my problem. He kindly but firmly gave me two options: get help or get out. This is tough love. Strangely enough I also received another job offer at the same time but realised that I had no skill left and that even if I took the job I would not be able to keep it. I grudgingly allowed my church to get me help. They were wonderful. They all pulled together in helping fix up my place and put it on the market. They offered no condemnation, only love.
The place they had arranged for me to go was Teen Challenge. I had never heard of it before and was quite sceptical of the programme. I thought that I was already a Christian so what more was there? The answer, as I would later learn, was discipleship. When I arrived I was accosted with hugs and constant greetings of, ‘He loves you brother.’ I thought they were all nuts, or worse, that I was back in another cult. However, deep down I knew that this was where the Lord wanted me to be. It was a totally different environment than I’d ever been. The centre was located on a farm outside of London, Ontario and waking up each morning to the smell of fresh manure was something that took getting used to! The regime was very strict and I made it my resolve to finish the programme, especially as my home had now been sold and I had nowhere to go. I felt like I was starting life all over again. I put my heart into everything and really have to say now that it was one of the best years of my life. Nearing the end of my year I did not know what I would do. One day the director came up to me and told me they were going to send me to London, England. I was overjoyed! I had never told anyone but it had always been my desire to go to England. In yet another small miracle (which I feel God uses more times than not) the amount of money I had made on the sale of my property exactly equalled my debt which left me free to continue on to London, England.
I have now been serving in the ministry of Teen Challenge London for over 20 years and truly enjoy it. I also met a wonderful woman named Liz who has been a great source of joy and companionship. We have been married since 2003 and have been blessed with five children. Liz has been able to accept me for who I am now and does not judge me for my past. This is one truth I have learned: no matter what is in our past if we accept Christ as our Saviour we are new creations. When God looks on us he doesn’t see our sins but sees his Son who died to set us free! I look forward to each new day with a joy and a hope that is only found in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.