For much of my life, I have struggled with a great deal of fear, devoid of joy and all relationships were badly affected. I could not be honest, and found it impossible to trust. My earliest memories are filled with the pain of rejection. Relationships just didn’t work. I had a low opinion of myself, and paranoia would see every conversation as a personal attack. I once made the choice that I would reject others, before they rejected me. However, I still needed to work, bring up a family and deal with people on a day to day basis. I coped, or failed to cope, by becoming addicted to alcohol, prescription medication, cigarettes, marijuana and gambling. I became hard and bitter.
I am the youngest of six children. Although my father loved us, he worked long hours. When Dad was home, he spent all day listening to races. Treatment depended on the results. When he lost, slaps across the face would come out of nowhere. We were poor because of Dad’s gambling habits. It meant that we went to school with torn, dirty uniforms and holes in our shoes, which invited bullying.
There were fights involving treatment in hospital. My eldest sister and two brothers were often in juvenile institutions. When DOCS arranged a holiday at Stewart House, a respite care centre run by the Department of Education, it was there that I received my first Bible. Though I was still empty of joy, Jesus was beginning to break into my life.
I started truanting throughout fourth class and ran away from home in fifth. I started smoking and drinking when I was eleven years old.
During the next five years, I lived between the streets, my house, remand centres and girls’ homes. Between the age of ten and fourteen, I learned that there were worse predators than children. I was hurt in many ways, and responded by hurting others. I was caught, and sent to Ormond, and later, Parramatta.
I married early and had a son: Robert. He was everything that I wasn’t. He was handsome, popular, talented and good at sports. He won numerous trophies for cricket and football, and played the lead in the school play. He was chosen to represent the district, and both teachers and students invited him to parties and camps. I lived through his victories and thrived on his acceptance. His popularity opened doors that were otherwise closed to me.
When he started drinking and ran away from home at the age of fourteen, I took it as a betrayal of relationship. The thought never occurred to me that my drinking may have influenced him to start on a lifestyle similar to mine. I thought he would come home when he realised how hard the world could be, but he didn’t. Instead, he went from alcohol, to marijuana. He and his partner had two children by his seventeenth birthday and I was a grandmother at thirty three. They split up, and he met another woman and graduated to heroin. She had three children when they met, and they now have two more. DOCS have removed all of them because of neglect.
Fourteen years ago I was addicted to alcohol, marijuana, nerve tablets, gambling and cigarettes. Until that time, I had never admitted this to anyone, including myself. I thought that because I got drunk one night, stoned the next, and pilled myself out on the third night, I didn’t have a problem. I also thought that I had life under control- although I was constantly depressed. I had started to take everything on the one night, and I needed more and more to get to sleep. When I did close my eyes, I would see an evil face leering at me. I was scared to keep on living and scared to kill myself. My addictions were out of control and my family were getting further away day by day.
One night, I was watching T.V., drunk, stoned and possibly on my pills. During the program, I had an irresistible urge to ask God to forgive me. About six months prior to that night, a friend had given her life to Jesus. She was usually an angry, complaining person. When I saw her now, she was totally different-happy and full of joy. Perhaps that meeting affected me more than I knew. I knelt beside my bed, and prayed: “Jesus, I don’t know if you’re real, but if you are, please take my life. I’ve made a mess of it. I don’t want it any more. You take it and do what you want with it”. God heard that prayer and answered it. I have been off drugs, alcohol, pills, gambling and even cigarettes for fourteen years now. Even better, I have a growing relationship with Jesus. This is a relationship that will never be broken.
Since that night, I have started seeing everything in a different light. I have a more compassionate view of Robert, my parents, my siblings, and even myself. With Jesus and the support of the church, I can go on. Somehow, my relationship with Jesus has affected all other relationships. I am no longer frightened to make myself known. I believe there is hope for anyone- including Robert. Although he is still on drugs, I know there is hope. I believe that Robert knows what God has done for me, and one day, he too might seek a relationship with Jesus.
For me, making friends is still not easy. I am somewhat shy and reserved but I do have a number of healthy relationships. Somehow, the relationship I have with Jesus is teaching me how to rightly relate to others. Furthermore, I am no longer desperate for the approval of everyone. Relationships can now grow at a slower pace. No longer do I pretend that I am someone that I’m not. It takes away the pressure to perform. I’m beginning to accept who I am, and I have learnt how to question my emotions. I know they can often be deceptive. I don’t need to look for joy anymore, because Jesus IS the Joy that eluded me.
As a guest and then team member on Kairos Outside I also now have a new family and friends who love and support me.
This joy is available for you too!