I picked up my first drink at the age of 14. Although I didnt know it at the time, alcoholism would plague me for the next 28 years.

I grew up in a broken home and my family unit was dysfunctional at best. Abuse, substance issues and mental illness were rampant and everyone was just trying to survive. Ive been a survivor ever since. However, there is a vast difference between surviving and living, and I dont think I was ever taught how to live.

Growing up I was a fearful, shy, rebellious and emotionally distant child. I was unable or unwilling to fit in so I chose to spend my time doing things by myself, withdrawing from most social contact. At school I did the bare minimum to pass, performing way below my God given potential, and I first learnt that bad attention was better than no attention at all. In my teenage years I really struggled with my identity. I became easily swayed by peer pressure, desperately trying to fit in because I felt different to everyone else at least thats what I thought anyway.

I started reading the Bible in my early teens, but I cant remember why as no one in our home was a Christian or even religious. What I can remember is that reading it made me feel hopeful and alive inside. I started to attend youth group and church, but I found it difficult to fit in there and drifted away after a few years. I found alcohol to be the solution to all my problems. Emotionally and mentally it helped me to socialise and I felt like I finally fitted in. It gave me the confidence and self-assurance that life was worth living. Alcohol was my new best friend, but it didnt take long before it became a nightmare incarceration, legal problems, anxiety, depression and isolation tortured me.

I was a very lost soul in my 20s and began taking any mood-altering substance to make me feel better. In my late 20s God intervened and I started turning my life around. I went to church and started working. I also got married, settled down and had 2 lovely daughters. However, even then my problem with alcohol was only well-controlled, as every 12-18 months I would go off on a bender.

Looking back on this period of my life I would say that I tried to solve my problems externally. I thought that if I dotted all the is and crossed all the ts it would fix me and solve my drinking problem. But how wrong I was.

My pride continually got in the way of me humbly submitting to Gods way of life and addressing the real issues behind my substance abuse. Eventually my marriage paid the price and I left the family home. Once again alcohol became the complete centre of my life and for the next 3 years I drank heavily.

I simply could not function without alcohol and I would enter into withdrawal if I stopped, which is horrendous and can be fatal. I was hospitalised many times and it was an embarrassing, degrading and a physically and mentally torturous place to be. I was a very sick person in denial about how sick I was.

But God intervened again in my life, and one thing led to another and I found myself living at Norton Summit as a student in the Teen Challenge Living Free Program. It is here through this program and the volunteers and leaders that God is bringing the most significant inner healing I have ever experienced. Through Gods guidance and counselling I am learning to address the fundamental issues that caused my alcoholism in the first place, issues that I had long before the drinking began.

The cornerstone of that healing for me is a personal relationship with God by His grace and mercy through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. Ive only really just begun this journey, but this is what God has done for me in 4 months. I am free of my drinking problem, and I no longer smoke cigarettes or take medication for depression and anxiety. I am free of the guilt and shame of my past and I am happier than Ive ever been in years.

Im not saying all my problems are solved and that I dont still have issues to work through, but there is a great inner work God is doing inside of me and Im excited because I know that its permanent and very real. Faith is the opposite of fear and I know God loves me and has a plan for my life so I have a hope and a future. I look forward to what God has in store for the rest of my life. Praise God and thank you Teen Challenge for giving me the room to grow. I pray I continue to move forward boldly and purposefully. Who dares wins!