Head above water

January 20, 2017

A random swim in the dark turned into a genuine God encounter for Rod Martin.


I grew up in Sydney. I didn’t feel like I fitted in with my family so, by age 13, I was living by myself at the horse racing stables where I found work. That’s where my use of alcohol began. I got into nightclubs and started using marijuana at 16, and was also stealing alcohol from my parents’ cellar when I visited. I went to jail for two months when I was 18, for drug trafficking.

Soon afterwards, I met the girl who became my first wife. She smoked pot and dabbled in other drugs as well. I started taking speed and was drinking at least six schooners of beer per day. I split up with my wife after 18 months because of my alcohol abuse and aggression. I ended up depressed and moved to the Gold Coast. I was smoking pot and drinking spirits every day, and got into stealing and lots of fights. I was in and out of work. 

I was with another girl for seven years, but we split up, again because of drugs and alcohol. I was sad most of the time. I just didn’t realise what I was doing to my life. My next relationship lasted six years, but my drinking and drugs continued. 
Sophie was the next girl and after two-and-a-half years together we had a son, Lockie. I was still drinking heavily and pushing my feelings down, trying to escape reality. I tried to settle down, but was always drunk and losing jobs. Sophie left when Lockie was seven months old.

I tried to commit suicide, but they revived me and put me in the psych ward. I tried to kill myself a few more times after that. Lockie was just over a year old when I did detox at The Salvation Army’s Fairhaven (Recovery Services Centre on the Gold Coast) in 2004. I gave up everything for four months but then met a girl and got back on the drink. The relationship broke up and my drinking got worse. 
One day Lockie saw me drunk and it broke his heart. He told his mum that I was going to die. I knew that I had to do something. 

A few days later, God came into my life. I was swimming in the dark, but then a light came on and I heard God’s voice. I knew God was around, and that nobody could hurt me. I could only hurt myself. I went to see Brian Surch at the Salvos. He pointed me to The Salvation Army’s Turning Point for detox. I then did the full program at Fairhaven and dealt with a lot of feelings and personal issues. The staff were supportive and inspiring.

There were times when I wanted to leave, but the Lord wasn’t letting me go. The day I went into detox, I picked up the Bible and didn’t stop reading it for eight weeks. I just wanted to know more about this higher power I knew I needed in my life.

I have a huge relationship with God. I wake up thinking about God and he’s showing me stuff every day. I still get counselling from AA and NA meetings, go to Turning Point for the aftercare program, and church every week. Lockie came to my graduation from Fairhaven. He is proud of me and we have a strong relationship. I’m a Salvation Army soldier (member) now and the church is very supportive. 

God is leading me into the church to help other people—addicts and seniors. This is where God wants me and I now live a life of peace and grace which I’ve never had before. I always worried about money but I don’t now. I am rich—I have Jesus.


Republished, with kind permission, from Pipeline.


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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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