John’s Story

My story begins when I was 11 years old and it was then that I first drank alcohol, at least a serious amount anyway. At the age of 11 I remember my father sitting on the end of my bed asking me possibly the hardest question I had ever faced in my life to that time: “Who do you want to live with, me or your mother?” They had decided to separate because of my father’s alcoholism. This question was hard because I wanted to live with my mother but I didn’t really want to tell my dad. However I did and then life started to get hard.

After my father left my mother’s already poor health deteriorated further as she suffered, apart from her physical ailments, from mental problems as well. She was, as she put it, ‘bad with her nerves’. Because of this she moved us out of our home to another house which took some getting used to. After this move her health got so poor that she was unable to make it up the stairs unaided. My mother went into hospital and I was sent to live with my grandmother so that I could continue school. With no parental influence whatsoever I began to slip. I started to smoke and drink occasionally and my schooling, previously something at which I excelled at, began to steadily decline. After my mother’s release from hospital my parents got back together and I lived with them for a short time. It didn’t last. This meant attending a different school because my father had moved closer to his work. I didn’t settle in the school at all and I went back to live with my grandmother.

I settled back into my old school quite easily but by this time had become very disruptive from being in the top sets of my classes. I was an intelligent boy but began to rebel. I would play the fool in class in order to get attention. My grades began to slip as I thought it was good to be bad so I would not do homework and would turn up late if at all. Sometimes I even turned up drunk. This continued throughout school until I finally ended up kicked out of some classes and ended up in the lower sets of others. It was also during this time that I used cannabis and amphetamines for the first time. This was something that would become a big part of my life as I got older. I eventually left school with no grade C passes at GCSE and a ‘don’t care’ attitude toward life. I had been without parental input for so long I despised being told what to do. It wasn’t long before I had my own flat where I could do what I wanted when I wanted and how I wanted. I thought it was great and partied for months.

I began to use cannabis and amphetamines more regularly often staying awake for days on end. It was during this time I began to get involved with crime. I would shoplift to pay for my drinking and drugs. I also burgled a house or two in that time as well as other properties such as shops. I still didn’t realise that I was developing a problem with drink and drugs. When I was 18 I began to experiment with hallucinogens and was smoking dope regularly and from this time throughout the next few years. If I wasn’t drunk I was stoned or high on something else. People began to tell me I had a problem but I wouldn’t listen and just continued on my self-destruct mode as my intake of everything increased.

I remember when I was 19 in November of 1996. I spoke to my mother on the telephone and she was screaming down the telephone for me to stop using drugs and to be more careful. She was scared that I was going to die due to my drug use. This upset me as my mother was the only person that I actually cared about. I decided that I would go to my parent’s house to see her the next day. I arrived at my parents the next day to speak to my mother who was still asleep in the chair. I rolled myself a cigarette and waited for her to wake up. It wasn’t long before I knew that there was something seriously wrong as her breathing became ‘strange’. I had learned first aid earlier that year so I began to help her and called an ambulance. I continued first aid until the paramedics arrived but all to no avail. Unfortunately my mother died that day of a heart attack, something I blamed myself for a long time after.

Needless to say I was upset and my drug and alcohol consumption rocketed. I spent the next four years suffering from depression and varying levels of psychosis. I attempted to take my life a number of times but lacked the courage to really see it through. I was living a life I didn’t want and couldn’t do anything about it. I began to hate myself and become very introverted and developed a fascination for the macabre and began to get loosely involved with Satanism. The music that I listened to seemed to reflect how I felt. I was hurting inside and didn’t know how to get free from the pain which I felt so I would hide behind alcohol and drugs. However when I sobered up the problems were still there so I tried my utmost not to sober up.

I spent a number of months in psychiatric hospital but that didn’t help. I had found myself unable to cope with life. By May 2000 I found myself in a hostel where I began using heroin. Something, thankfully that I never became addicted to. It was during this time in the hostel that a friend told me about a bus run by Teen Challenge that was offering free food and coffee on the high street. This was very appealing to me because I had missed dinner that day so I went along only to find that they were a bunch of Christians. They told me how much Jesus loved me and how He died for me. Although I thought they were a bit mad something inside of me compelled me to listen. I left that day but vowed to myself to come back the next week.

The next week I arrived early and the bus hadn’t arrived yet. All of a sudden something strange happened to me, I began to sob. I crouched down against the wall and really began to cry. I say it was strange because I didn’t cry. That wasn’t me, but I couldn’t help myself. When one of the bus workers arrived and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know, I just knew something was happening to me. I stayed with the people on the bus most of that evening and listened as they told me about Jesus and His love for me and gave my life to Him that night.

I began to attend church but I was still drinking and using heroin. Over the next few months I had a hard time and the church tried to help me sort out my life but every time I would throw it back in their face and get drunk. Every time I said sorry they forgave me. I couldn’t figure it out, I had never really known love and this was my first encounter with it and it took some getting used to. Over the winter period I fell away from God severely and began to get involved with the occult and started to using amphetamines again. The church had helped me so much but this time I felt I could never go back. I had upset the person that meant so much to me, a man called Garry who treated me as his own son. I was deeply ashamed.

I found myself homeless but a Christian friend took me in. I didn’t realise it at the time but God had His hand on me and wouldn’t let me go that easily. It was during this time that my friend Leigh talked me in to going to church (helped along by his 3 year old daughter who for some reason took a shine to me). I soon became aware of my need to get clean and once again my church helped me enormously and everyone forgave me. I entered Teen Challenge London on the 27th of February 2001 and since that day have not smoked a cigarette, drank any alcohol or touched any illicit drugs and for that I truly thank God. It has been a hard time and I have had to face the real problem in my life which is me. There have been times when I have been reduced to tears as I have been forced to deal with the issues in my life that caused me to hide in addiction. I have now completed the programme and am moving on with God.