Jesse’s story

Prison or rehab

I grew up in a poor household with my four other siblings, my father and my mother. My childhood was full of child abuse and hatred for each other. At the age of four, I was spending my days on the doorsteps of the pokies. There was never any food in the house because all the money went straight to the pokies.

We ended up homeless, living in a van going from car park to car park because of my mother’s mistake of cheating on my father. Fast-forward to age 11, and it had been 8 years since I had seen my mum. Out of nowhere, she made contact. Within a week, I moved in, and this is where life got messy. Still addicted to pokies, my mother would go out every night, leaving my sister and me at home with her boyfriend, who would physically and sexually abuse us.

I started missing school every day and hanging out with the other homeless kids as I was always too scared to go home. I started smoking cigarettes and weed daily, which soon rolled over to meeting gang members in the park, where we would do odd favours for them, and in return, they would feed us amphetamines.

Life crumbled out of control quickly. Mum had enough and sent me back to my father. I started school, but before you knew it, I was expelled. I was a reckless mess. By age 15, I was on all party drugs and trips, but one night, I met the love of my life: methamphetamine.

Now homeless again, I thought moving into my dealer’s house was a brilliant idea. As the years went on, I withered away to 52 kilograms. At the age of 21, I was introduced to needles and, wow, did I not know how much deeper I could fall with my addiction.

Within the year, I faced some serious criminal charges, but for some reason, the judge must have seen how broken I was and offered me two choices: prison or rehab. My ears pricked up, thinking I could use this rehab opportunity as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The year was 2017. I went into rehab, hating everyone and everything in this world. I mocked my way through the stay for six months until I met a man named Simon. He prayed with me for reconnection with my father. And that very night, my father called the rehab wanting to visit me on the weekend.

After that night, I started to attend Bible studies and eventually asked the question of how to ask Jesus into my life. That night, I got on my hands and knees and prayed for Jesus to touch my heart and forgive me for all the wrongs I had done in my life.

At that moment, all those heavy burdens I was carrying lifted off me and love touched my heart for the very first time as I fell and cried for hours.

After I left rehab, I completed my Certificate IV in Youth Work, but I wasn’t clean because I drank every night. Before I knew it, I was back on the needle. Five years passed, and I was stuck in this endless cycle of rehab and relapse – until I found out about Teen Challenge SA.

During my 12 months in the program, I’ve learnt to love myself and forgive not just myself but everyone – including my mum’s boyfriend. I am currently 18 months clean and getting stronger every day. To have all of the trauma that has kept me in addiction for 15 years washed clean by the blood of Jesus brings me to tears. Thank you, Jesus Christ, Father, and Holy Spirit – you have saved my life.

Image: Jesse (right) at his graduation service with Teen Challenge SA staff member Will (left).