Despite a difficult life, Nathan Bennison now knows what it means to be loved.
I was born in Rocky Gully, a small country town in the south-west of Western Australia. I remember my mother being kind, loving and free-spirited.
My life deteriorated rapidly when, at the age of five, I was forced to watch my biological father shoot my mother. After her death, I was left in the care of my step-father, an overbearing and violent alcoholic.
We moved around a lot and I went to 10 different primary schools. I spent the seven years after my mother’s death feeling like I made everyone sad. I was taught that emotion should be buried and that aggression solves problems.
My childhood was spent fighting, to get attention, and whatever violence I suffered at home I would take out on someone at school the next day.
I left home at 13, and discovered what I thought was the confidence, security and safety of drugs and alcohol. However, it wasn’t long before I was committing serious assaults and petty crime. I then discovered methamphetamine and, only days after my 19th birthday, I was sentenced to five years imprisonment for armed robbery.
After serving two years, I was released on parole, but wasted it fighting and honing my criminal skills. I tried to fit into society—I met a good woman, Danielle, and had a great job and was working hard to buy my own house.
Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol were still a big problem for me, and it wasn’t long before I’d lost everything and was standing before a judge again. This time it was for 12 counts of armed robbery and, at the age of 24, I was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.
After serving six years, I was released in 2003. I didn’t return to my criminal life, but this was really only by the work of God. In 2006, my daughter Lynley was born—I named her after my mother—and my son Gaige was born in 2008. As much as I loved them, my downward spiral continued until I hit rock bottom in 2015.
I was high or drunk from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning to the moment I closed them at night—or days later, depending on which addiction I was feeding. I had run out of couches to jump to, or from, as friends could no longer watch silently while I slowly committed suicide.
God led me to The Salvation Army Harry Hunter Rehabilitation Centre. I began surrendering to the notion that if I did the right thing the right thing would happen to me in return. I started to recognise God’s work in everyday situations and the more I noticed these things, the more I came to love him.
I realised that I always believed, but had blamed God for the things that had happened to me as a child. I was so angry with God—for what I now realise were the actions of bad men—that I failed to see what he had given me as an adult.
I have strength of character, two beautiful children and a very good friend (Danielle, the mother of my children) who refused to give up on me, even when I had given up on myself.
God had given me the things I needed to survive my past and motivate me to change my future. Above all that, he gave me life and it was time to stop wasting such a precious gift.
Coming to Harry Hunter was the best thing that ever happened to me, because here I found God, I found myself, I found a future and I found redemption. Most of all, I found love.
Knowing that God loves me makes me feel lovable. Feeling lovable makes me love myself and want to show love for others.
As part of showing love for others, I volunteer for The Salvation Army Doorways
program and I’m also exploring other options for volunteer work with those who are going through the same thing I have.
Every day I go to bed one day cleaner, one day wiser and one day closer to God. Today I am a kind, compassionate and articulate man with a heart full of joy.