Coming ‘home’

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Stuart Swanson

I think a lot of people have a misconception that all addictions are the result of broken homes and dysfunctional or abusive childhoods, but this wasn’t the case for me.

I came from a great home; my Mother is a Christian and my father a hard-working man. My older brother, younger sister and I were very loved and, although we certainly weren’t spoiled, we didn’t want for anything.

During my teens though, I started smoking, drinking and taking ‘soft’ drugs at weekends.

By my 20s that weekend lifestyle had crept into my weekdays and I started to drift, with no real direction or purpose. Looking back, it was as though I was always running away – from what or to where I’m not sure, but I never felt settled.

I had countless jobs, lived in a lot of different cities, and by my 30s I was a full-blown alcoholic and cocaine addict.

From the outside it looked like I had some sort of functional, ‘successful’ life, however, it was all crumbling underneath.

I had tried A.A, been to shrinks, self-detoxed, taken anti-depression pills – everything.

My friends, who had all helped me in the past, washed their hands of me because my behaviour was getting so out of control. I was drunk-driving daily, becoming violent and paranoid.

My physical and mental health was deteriorating rapidly. My family didn’t know what to do with me. It got to the point that when I went to bed I honestly didn’t care if I woke up or not.

Every second of every day was consumed by drink and I had resigned myself to the ‘fact’ that alcoholism was my lot in life.

Then one morning in August 2014, when I was suffering fits and vomiting blood, I got an emergency appointment with my doctor. As I spoke with him, I completely broke down and he suggested Teen Challenge to me.

I knew I needed major change and so on October 22, 2014, I entered, or rather stumbled, through the doors of Sunnybrae….defeated. Utterly broken, beaten and lost. My addiction had taken everything from me.

I didn’t know what to expect but I knew this was my last chance at life.

My first week was really, really tough but there was just something about the place. I had strangers genuinely caring for me, addicts helping me and praying for me and for some reason things felt familiar.

I can’t explain it but I felt I’d stopped running and come home. Then on November 9 at King’s Community Church, after an altar call, I felt absolutely compelled to walk out to the front and give my life to God.

I just surrendered everything to God and asked Jesus to be leader of my life. There was no lightning bolt, no Damascus Road vision, no booming voice but I stepped out in faith and decided I would let God have his way.

Slowly, gently as the days went on, I could feel God working in me, moulding me. My confidence was coming back, my emotions were returning, my mind clearing; I was changing from the inside out.

It was small steps but I was growing. I felt God’s peace within me. I stopped feeling a misfit and the shame, guilt and hopelessness I’d felt became purpose, belief, joy and strength.

I know that God loves me and He has a plan for me.

He’s already restoring relationships with my family. I recently saw my Mother for the first time in over a year. She wept as she told me that it feels like she’s got her son back.

It’s all by the grace of God; my doctor, Teen Challenge, my health, the restoration with my family, the peace I feel – all are from God.

I now have a thirst and hunger for my future. I am looking into the possibility of doing my final Phase of the programme in a Teen Challenge centre abroad and then graduating.

God has put a passion in my heart for supporting others and I am driven to help hurting addicts avoid the decades of loss that I suffered.