James’ story

Stepping up

I was born a river boy to the Ngarrindjeri Nation in the late 1970s. My mother is of the Hunter Clan, and my father is of the Kropinyeri Clan.

Growing up, I was introduced to various substances, both ingestible and visual. These proved very detrimental to the shaping of a 12-year-old boy.

I was lucky enough to have met an awesome lady during my school years, and upon completing school, we found out she was pregnant with the first of our two beautiful children.

Nakia was born in 1997 when I was a teen. I did my best as a young man to provide for my young family while still finding out who I was as a person.

During the next few years, I continued working, and in doing so, I unknowingly neglected to give my partner the support she needed, for which I am very sorry.

I lost my biological father at this point, and I inherited a small amount of money, which I am forever shamed about having squandered. Being selfish, I failed to provide for my children’s future.

Even though I was not the man I should or could have been, my partner and I still had a second baby girl named Rebekah.

Rebekah brought along with her a period of sobriety, unity and stability. My nan and pa were vital at this point in our lives.

My partner and I went through a breakup, which left me without direction. I changed jobs, from butchering to civil construction. During this period, I became what is known as a functioning addict. I was drinking and using drugs but still managing to somehow keep my life afloat.

Pa had a heart attack, my dear mother passed away, and I was in pain. Pain can only be covered up by the use of alcohol and drugs so much. I was ready to hit rock bottom when I got life-changing news: my daughter got engaged.

This made me realise I had to step up and become a man. But how? I tried several government institutions but was never given a workable solution.

That is when my pa suggested the Teen Challenge Living Free program. Deep down, my heart knew this was the place to get myself healed, even if my head did not.

By chance (God working in my life?), I met Jean and Rob from the Southern Flinders region. Jean was monumental in getting me into the Living Free program.

Fast forward to five months of the program and much hand-wringing by volunteer Trevor, and it was time for my baby’s big day. I was clean and sober, and God’s light was shining through me. The day was as beautiful as any wedding could be, and my baby was the most beautiful woman alive.

Now I had to make a decision. I had achieved my objective of attending my daughter’s wedding day as a clean and sober man. What now?

Well, I had come this far, and I knew I never wanted to go back to who I was before. I stayed with the program and gave my all to the Lord.

Now, as I am about to graduate from the program, I know without a doubt the only reason I made it to this point is through the grace of God and the work he is doing through me and my brothers.

The future is not certain, but I know whatever it is, the Lord will be my guide. He has restored my relationships, my hope, my life and healing for Nations and all God’s people no matter the race, creed or socio-economic standing.

Thank you, Graham, Darren, Sarah, and the Teen Challenge ministry, for allowing me to find my place as God’s unique child.