My life has not been straightforward! It has definitely had moments of being out of control, and plenty of times when I walked away from God. However, God’s graciousness to me is beyond anything I could have possibly deserved and I long for others to find the freedom in Christ that I have found.
I gave my life to Christ in jail, or more accurately He got my attention and invaded my heart during my time there.
The first time I smoked marijuana, hashish was late 1969. It didn’t happen again until the summer before college, 1971. It quickly became a daily habit. Soon after, the use of amphetamines and then LSD became part of my drug usage, along with alcohol. Then entered cigarettes, with idea of covering up the smell of the marijuana. By 1975 I was using and selling cocaine, peyote, magic mushrooms, marijuana/hashish, speed, LSD, basically anything that I liked to use, I also sold. This was really to provide for my habits, and those of friends; to keep the party going. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had some good times. But as I look back on the past I can not help but remember the hemorrhaging of money, the loss of relationships, and jail.
In 1977 I was arrested by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department narcotics officers for sales of cocaine. I plea bargained to a lesser charge than what I was arrested for; I pleaded guilty to sales of hashish, from a previous sale. Quite frankly, I was surprised, to receive a sentence of 1 year in the Los Angeles County minimum security prison at Wayside Honor Rancho; with time off for good behaviour, that came to 9 months and 25 days. I really thought I would be released with probation and a fine.
While at Wayside, I realised I had some choices to make, hang out with other inmates, spend my time with officers, with whom I worked in the Kitchen Office, be a loner, or maybe check out God. There was a chapel at Wayside, and I decided to attend a service there one evening. I liked it. In fact I liked it so much that I started going every night there was a service; except the Catholic services. I felt let down by the Catholic Church, having gone to their schools for a few years as a child, and then catechism classes until I was 17, I had made the choice to abandon that faith, especially after my mom died in a horrible car wreck, driving my car. I was totally unprepared for the grief, the utter sadness the all encompassing sense of loss. I felt that they had not prepared me at all… I probably was not listening if they did, but that was enough for me to choose an alternative.
On Christmas Eve 1977, I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour, my Lord, my God. I would love to be able to say that my life steadily improved from that time on and I became an exemplary Christian; that is simply not the case. Things went very well for few years, but slowly and surely I allowed drugs to come back into my life. I was living in a Christian Community, and it was a struggle for all of us. Then I met my first wife, and our relationship seemed to be focused around drugs and alcohol more than anything else. When we finally got married in late 1986, after a rocky courtship, things really went downhill. Three years and 2 abortions later she walked out.
I was devastated. Instead of dedicating my life to the God I had loved, and had cared for me so much, and through so much, I turned back to drugs. MY usage seem to spiral out of control; marijuana, speed, LSD, cocaine, and then finally meth and ice (crystal meth). And my addiction to pornography really began to grow. Porn had always been my first addiction, since the age of 13, and its use while doing drugs was almost always a foregone conclusion. When I started using meth, my life revolved around meth and porn. I planned my days off and my vacations around it.
It was obsessive, overwhelming, all encompassing and degrading. And in the end, it dumped me into the vortex of sin, guilt, and shame that all of us in the world of addictions know so well. I was obsessing on drugs and porn, I hated what I was doing, who and what I was becoming, and back in the far reaches of my mind, wondered just how long the Lord would put up with me…
So in 1995 I did what they call in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) a ‘geographical’, I moved away from the location where I was using to a new location, and continued to use there. I slowed down for a short while, but my central California connection was all too glad to make the drive south to meet with me and sell me drugs. Most of the $40,000 in my retirement account was used on drugs and porn, plus about $15,000 more on credit cards.
During this time I was required by the court, due to 2 Drunk driving convictions, to attend 100 AA meetings. I went 3 times per week, at first, to get it over. For several years I could not smoke marijuana due to drug testing, but I could smoke meth/ice, I just had to make sure I was unavailable to be contacted to test for 3 days afterwards, which did not prove difficult, no cell phones at that time.
I worked the system. The day my probation ended, I drove out of the probation department parking lot and smoke the biggest joint I could roll. I was rebellious, I always have been.
Eventually my sister, with whom I was living confronted me about my drinking and screamed at me: “ do you think you might be an alcoholic?” Which really made me mad, so I said to myself, I’ll show her, and I quit drinking… for 10 years.
Of course, near the same time, the money was running out, and I had to get a job. I got a job working for minimum wage at a vitamin packaging plant. The hours were long, I was on my feet all day, and at the end of each day I was in pain from my waist to my feet.
During this time, I had fulfilled my 100 AA meetings requirement, but continued to go. I shared at meetings, led meetings, and I served at meetings.
Finally, one night while sitting in an AA meeting listening to a speaker share, this question occurred to me: What am I doing here? I needed to be back at church. AA was providing me support for not drinking, but in reality... nothing else. I had realized a while before this, that even though AA was good, it let me choose anything I wanted to be my ‘higher power’, and I knew if I believed in a power that does not exist, I got no help, and thus would be doing what AA calls ‘white knuckling it’, holding on for dear life…
I needed Jesus Christ. I needed fellowship. I needed church... When I moved in with my sister and family, they tuned their radio to Calvary Chapel radio and it was on 8 hours a day. I got convicted, and very scarred.
So, although I did not stop going to AA meetings, I looked for a church to attend. I decided to look for a Calvary Chapel, what I found and started attending was a Calvary Baptist, an independent baptist church.
I remembered something that Bob Dylan said in one of his many songs; “if you want to learn, you have to get close to the teacher.” So I sat in one of the front rows. I got involved in Men’s Bible Study, prayer night, the worship team, everything I could. Slowly it began to take over my time and I no longer had time for AA, and I let it go. I was also involved in a music outreach through Calvary Chapel Lakewood, California.
The Lord worked all of the drugs out of my life except marijuana. I still smoked, sometimes everyday, sometimes not, but more and more when I did smoke, I would argue with the Lord about it. Knowing that the Lord wanted me to stop. I finally gave in to the Lord, and stopped; I surrendered to the Lord.
Every time significant changes in my life have occurred, it has been because I have surrendered something to the Lord. Totally just let it go to Him. Took a step of faith. Each time it has been hard, relying on God’s promises. God has always been there, always supported me beyond what I could ask and imagine.
Not looking for victory, but seeking to obey God’s command out of the love he had given to me for Him. Not deliverance, not victory, but obedience. This is why my wife and I have devoted our lives to coming alongside others, who struggle with addiction/habitual life controlling issues. We long for others to experience and know the Christ of freedom, who has been so gracious to us
My freedom journey began in 2003 when Christ Jesus became very real and alive to me. He broke through into a life of depression and various life-controlling mechanisms that I had lived with since early teenager and I began the journey of handing my life over to Him. First, I had to recognise that there really was a problem and this often comes through painful breaking moments. In my mid-twenties I chose to walk into a very unwise relationship and in my pride set a chain of events into progress that led to getting married and separated in the course of less than a year. I discovered that this journey was far more lonely, painful and isolated than any years that I had lived as a single. God never let me go! I the middle of all of this I had an opportunity to go to California to visit my sister and I began working with two very special missionaries in the gang-ridden area of Los Angeles.
Up to this point I had lived here in the UK. So my missionary life began. I wish I could say that life journeyed in a steady upward curve towards Christ, making perfect choices and living a blameless life. However, it was a little more bumpy than that. Christ has broken the power of sin in my life, I just had to learn to walk there in every area, even my thought life. Easier said than done as now begins a deeper walk of surrender, and letting go of more of the dark stubborn areas of my heart. Even eating, and sexual fantasy, Lord? Surely these don’t hurt anyone?
In 1998 I went to Germany to work on a church plant in Hamburg, I taught English and began to get interested in a little known counselling movement known as biblical counsel. I was on the receiving end of some very biblical counsel and it worked. In my late 30’s I was set free from my intense journey with depression. I began to train in this area and this led to a MA and finally a PhD in the subject. This was really the start of an interest in life-controlling issues. I met girls struggling with masturbation, eating disorders and many other issues.
In 2004 I returned to Anaheim in California and soon after met John, and married in 2005. God put us together for a reason. We are now dedicated to sharing the Gospel and the freedom journey, only Christ offers, with many who struggle with life-controlling addiction issues.
Sally: Jackie, you have become a very special person to us over the last few years at Free! And I know you are loved in your church community at Grace. You came to us as a Christian, but still struggling with a drug addiction. Would you be willing to share your story with us. Tell us a bit about your early life.
Jackie: I was born with my twin David and had an older brother Stephen. As soon as we were all born we were put straight into Nazareth House orphanage and at 4, we were fostered by a family with 3 brothers who abused us both, forcing us to fight each other until one of us drew blood. We were always told we didn’t belong here and often locked out in the backyard for hours with the dog.
Sally: It is clear that this is not a happy childhood but it is the only childhood that you have known. I know that you are sharing your story to help others know that freedom is possible. Even though it is a difficult story to tell and hear. Please tell us a little more of the abuse you and your twin suffered.
Jackie: While David was being physically and mentally abused by the younger brothers, I was being sexually abused by the older brother. Around this time we both planned to try and find our real parents, often running to our grandparents who were the only ones that would show us any love and respect. We started asking people on the streets if they were our parents and this got back to our foster mother who was angry and kept us in without food.
Sally: It is clear that this is not a happy childhood, but it’s the only childhood you’ve known. I know that you want to share your story to help others. Even though it’s a difficult story to tell, could you please tell us a little more about the abuse you and your twin suffered.
Jackie: When I was 10 I started to steal, first food, then money. One day I stole £5 from my foster mother’s purse and spent it on sweets because I wanted to be liked. When my foster mother found out, she came to the school and dragged me out by my hair and sent me and David away to a children’s home. One year later when she picked us up, I was so excited to be going back home, I tried to jump into her arms, knocking her by accident. She got angry and hit me across the face splitting my lip. Kept off school to hide my lip.
Sally: I know this is just a little of your story, but it does paint a picture for us. I know that home never felt safe for you, arguments and abuse were a constant fear for you.
Jackie: One day when I was 12 I came home drunk, to be told that our foster Nan had died. Instead of being shown any compassion, I was hit for being drunk. I was separated from my twin David which destroyed me and I started experimenting with glue sniffing. I developed Alopecia and because of this I got bullied in school and in the home. By this time we had now found our parents and it was a street celebration.
Sally: So you began by drinking and sniffing glue. What happened when you got older?
Jackie: My pot smoking started when I was 14 and at 16 was smoking smack. At 18 I left Liverpool and moved to Scotland, working in bars and drinking heavily. My health suffered and I lost a lot of weight. That same year I received a letter from my brother Stephen telling me that our birth mother had fallen into the fire head first when she was drunk and died as a result. 5 years later my father died. I loved my parents dearly. To learn that my twin David had been sexually abused when in Wales, drove my crack smoking out of control.
Sally: You went to America, can you tell us a bit about that?
Jackie: Over the next several years I travelled America with a friend, partying to the full, ended up being raped, moved around, various jobs, burying the pain with more drink and drugs and never knowing where I was going to be living or working. I was introduced to prostitution to feed my drug habit. I couldn’t believe this was now my life and had lost all my self worth and dignity. I just didn’t want to live.
Sally: This is a difficult story Jackie, but if it stopped here there would be no hope. Tell us what happened next?
Jackie: 7 years ago, my neighbour invited me to church where I found an amazing church family and came to faith in God, who means everything to me. Shortly after that I came to Free! which has helped me to love life not drugs and stand firm and walk free. It is a daily journey and I am so thankful to God and the people he brought into my life. After David enduring years of sexual abuse, thankfully he is now well cared for in a new residential care home. My purpose in life now is to be true to God, love others and carry the message.