‘Without the church I never would have stayed clean’

Melissa’s story |The path after rock bottom

“I grew up in a loving home and I had a great childhood, full of friends and hobbies. I think it’s important to say that. When I was in Year 7, I started to get bullied pretty badly, which turned to self-harm. By the time I was 15, I was drinking and smoking pot. One night I was at a party and I was raped. I didn’t tell anyone as I blamed myself. I used substances to deal with it.

I dropped out of school at 17 and met a guy who introduced me to speed and ecstasy. We used it occasionally. When I was 18, my best friend died in a car accident. It was really hard. Not long after he passed, I fell pregnant. I stopped drinking for a while and I had a little boy. But after he was born, I fell in with a different crowd and they introduced me to ice. I started using it on weekends and then I got into a relationship that spiralled into domestic violence. My using of ice increased to deal with the pain.

We were often being raided by the police and arrested on drug charges. At that time, I gave my son to my parents because I couldn’t keep him safe. I continued on the path to self-destruction, as a means to take away the pain. It numbed my feelings of self-hate, blame and depression.

In my mid-20s, I ended up getting charged with drug trafficking. I had to go to prison for a short period. After I got out, I kept using ice and selling drugs … and I went back in. It happened a few times in 2016. The last time I got arrested, it was a few days before my son’s birthday. They wouldn’t let me see him. I’d never missed his birthday before. It was my rock bottom. I couldn’t see him on the one day that mattered most.

I tried to hang myself in the watch house. I thought that everyone would be better off without me. But I was found and taken to hospital where they referred me to Moonya, a drug rehab program run by the Salvation Army. I arrived there in December 2016, completely broken.

The Salvation Army loved me back to life. During my time there, I realised that something had to change. My child needed me. I started going to a Salvation Army church and I did the Alpha course. It really opened my heart to a loving, powerful God. I knew he was present in my life. He’d already done such wonderful things in keeping me alive.

Partway through my time in rehab, I had to go to the Supreme Court for my drug charges. I was seven months clean by then. But I was prepared to go to prison and I was looking at a four-year sentence. It was pretty intense, knowing it was my last day of freedom. But at the end of the hearing, my barrister unexpectedly asked for a shortened sentence and immediate parole. The judge agreed. He could see I was trying to live a better life and I was no threat to society.

I went back to Moonyah and it was the beginning of my whole new life. It was magical. The church people really cared for me and the more I went to church, the more I built relationships. Without their support, I never would have stayed clean. They saved my life. And I began to pray every day. My faith in God filled the void that had ruled my existence. I came to see that God really does save us, even those of us whom society deems unworthy.

Now I’m working in a drug rehab place myself. I’m a support worker, helping other addicts on their recovery journey. I want to say that it’s always possible to recover, when you have love and support!

My favourite verse is from Jeremiah 29:11. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Reading that truth always warms my heart. I know that I’m not walking this path alone. God is with me. And even if my plans don’t work out the way I want, God’s plans are always good.”

Melissa’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

Jeremiah 29:11

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