For 20 years, Daniel* has been in and out of prison, struggling with addiction. He recently celebrated a full year clean and sober.
Today I don’t blame my past or anyone for my drug-taking and drinking, but for a long time I blamed everyone else for my behaviour.
I never fitted in as a kid so I used a lot of masks. I was class clown, but really I was full of fear and low self-worth. Coming into high school I was bullied. I hated being at school and I also hated being home.
My parents did the best they could. They had five kids and were flat out. I was a naughty kid, so most of the time I spent with my dad was when he came home from work and had to give me a ‘clipping’.
The people I gravitated towards drank and used drugs. By the time I was 13 I was taking pot and drinking on weekends and by 15 to 16, I was smoking pot every day. At around 18, I started injecting.
I really only picked up drugs to fit in. In the beginning, the drugs relieved anxiety, but of course they created more anxiety and even lower self-worth. I became an addict and I ended up going through the prison system.
I was born into a Catholic family, so I always had beliefs. I knew the 12 stages of the cross and I knew of Jesus on the cross, but I didn’t know you could have a relationship with him.
The Salvos (recovery service) taught me about connection and relationship with God, but because of fear or embarrassment, I couldn’t talk about the relationship I had with Jesus and God. So I left God at the gate and consequently I went back to my own thinking — and picked up drugs again.
I wasn’t ready to surrender. They were some of the darkest times I’ve known. More time in jail, in a toxic relationship, and our baby was removed from our care. Falling back into addiction after that first rehab took me into even deeper, putrid darkness, but I also reached the end of myself so God could start working.
One night I was sitting by the fire talking to God. I’d kept talking to him, even though I’d done what I felt was wrong, asking him to keep me safe. Sitting alone at the fire I literally heard a voice say: “Daniel, I know you can talk the talk, it’s time you walked the walk. Slide over, put your feet up and let me steer from here.”
From that day I reconnected to God and I started to do the ‘right’ thing, then the next right thing. I reconnected with the Salvos and eventually connected with Chad, my Salvos Doorways caseworker. Through Doorways, I was accepted to a ‘clean and sober’ boarding house. On my first night I went to a 12-steps meeting. I also met Salvos chaplain Brian and did the Positive Lifestyle Program.
I started doing voluntary work at the Salvos, which turned into an opportunity to pay off my fines. I am still doing gardening once a week and Chad is still my case manager. Chad has helped so much. He and I come from similar backgrounds so it’s easy for me to talk to him. He is also a man of faith and the way he explains stuff is not judgmental, it comes from a place of love and care. I have also started visiting my baby and I’m working at building relationships with my older children.
I’ve had a Bible app on my phone for just over 12 months, which I read every day. I lean a lot on God, wanting to know more about him and understand his word.
I understand now that I can’t rely on my own strength at all. I need to trust God, clean up the wreckage of my past and serve others. I also have had to be honest with what I’ve done. It’s been a massive journey and it still is today.
I go to church, to men’s church weekends and in the future I want to do a ministry course and a fitness training course. I want to help others.
There have been so many ‘God-moments’ since I’ve stopped running on my own strength. I now live in a great apartment near the water. Every time I walk in, to me it is yet another physical example of God’s amazing provision.