Emily now offers the same support and love to others.
For Emily, drinking seemed to take all her burdens and pain away—for a time.
A loved but often overlooked child, in a family struggling with the disease of alcoholism, Emily explains: ‘I had a loving family, but my dad was an alcoholic, which made things very difficult. I was also quite overweight as a kid, and bullied.
‘It was hard watching Dad destroy his life and seeing what my mum went through to keep the family together,’ she says.
One day at a party in a local park, Emily began drinking. She was 12. It gave her a false sense of joy at first, but eventually led her into years of what she describes as ‘a living hell’.
‘I never felt like I was worth much, but from the minute I started drinking I felt this sense of relief and that all my troubles had gone,’ she says.
‘It was the one time I didn’t feel self-conscious or burdened by the world, so I chased more and more of that.’
By the age of 16, Emily was drinking daily and drinking to get drunk.
‘I lost all inhibitions when I was drinking, so I was more open to trying different things. I tried pot first off and then I would go tripping (taking the drug ecstasy) on the weekends. I think I tried speed when I was about 16, then heroin when I was 19,’ she says.
When she was 19, Emily went into rehab for a year, but not long after graduating from the program, her father died.
She was shattered, but managed to stay sober for another year while she threw herself into her work. She says she now realises she never addressed her underlying grief.
‘My thinking—and I remember this really clearly—was “If I’m going to be miserable, I’d rather be miserable and drinking”,’ Emily says.
Then one of her friends suggested she try ‘this drug ice’.
‘So, we injected ice and it was amazing.It made me feel incredible,’ Emily recalls.
Feeling totally in control, Emily says she had no awareness that her life was actually spiralling out of control, leading to the worst years of her life.
‘I lost the ability to care about anything and anyone other than the drugs. I was at the point that I couldn’t go on and I thought, “You know what? I really want to die.”’
Although God had only been a concept to Emily until then, she prayed for her life to end because she believed her addiction was incurable.
Eventually imprisoned for drug-related crimes, then paroled, Emily lost three of her friends to drugs in quick succession. It was a serious wake-up call. A friend who had stayed in touch with her since her first rehabilitation, and who was working for The Salvation Army, suggested she contact The Salvos’ Dooralong Transformation Centre.
‘My friend said to me, “You have to know, though, that you’ll need to go to chapel once a week”. And I thought, “Oh that’s easy; I can wing it if that’s all it’s going to take”.’
While the program and caring staff made an impact on her, Emily says it was opening her life to God that gave her the love and peace she craved.
‘By being that little bit open, the Holy Spirit was able to flood my spirit with grace, forgiveness and love,’ she says, adding that her relationship with God is continuing to grow.
‘When I align my will with God’s will, I get the assurance that I’m on the right track.’
With plans to become a social worker or alcohol and other drugs worker, Emily is reaching out to others as a mentor at Dooralong.
‘To be able to offer support and compassion to people who are struggling is just incredible,’ she says.
‘It helps me to help them and shows me how far I’ve come from when I first walked through the gates.’
As told to Naomi Singlehurst
Story taken from an interview from Rhema FM Central Coast, NSW.