“I expected drugs to eventually kill me” Ariel admits
With both parents suffering consequences from their addiction to drugs, 25-year-old Ariel Dawson grew up feeling unloved and soon found herself mixed up in drugs, sexual promiscuity and self-harm.
"There were aspects of my childhood that as an adult I know are wrong, however, as a child it was all I knew so it just seemed normal," Ariel explains.
Ariel and her brother lived with their grandmother for a while and then with her mother when she had come off drugs.
"During the ensuing years my mother continued to be verbally, emotionally and physically abusive, while my dad was absent for the majority of my younger years," she says.
"Heading into my teen years I was scared, angry and very much searching for love and some way to 'feel better'."
Around the age of 14 her home life started to deteriorate, as her mother's behaviors became even more erratic, and Ariel started stealing, smoking cigarettes and harming herself.
"By 16 I had moved from a youth center, where I had started smoking pot, into my boyfriend's house. I became sexually active and started viewing pornography, which soon became an addiction," she confesses.
Throughout the next few years Ariel says these things were the main focus of her life and she spiraled into a state of depression, even attempting suicide at one point.
"My life wasn't worth anything to me and this showed in my choices, as I didn't love anyone and I certainly didn't believe anyone loved me," she admits.
Meanwhile, Ariel says she believed in God, thanks to her grandmother's teachings, but only viewed him as a "distant man in the sky".
"I knew that Jesus was God but I don't think I understood what this meant," she says looking back.
In late 2008 her life hit rock bottom and she lost all hope that things would get better.
"I wanted to feel loved but began to love my sin more than anything else," she explains.
"On New Year's Eve, 2009, I decided to try some new drugs with my friends and I made very unwise and grossly sinful choices. That night left me feeling degraded and unclean more than ever before."
Despite this, Ariel decided she would use these drugs until they killed her.
Grasping for one final piece of hope, she applied for a program and received a trainer who turned out to be a committed Christian.
“My life wasn’t worth anything to me and this showed in my choices”"She was lovely and I hadn't had a lot of people treat me that way so I asked her to be my mentor. I totally believe this was God's prompting because I hadn't even heard of having a 'mentor'," Ariel says.
"I was finally ready to submit to God because the fear that God wouldn't come through was outweighed by my need for life to be different."
As Ariel began to spend more time with her mentor she was introduced to a sermon by American pastor Mark Driscoll, which was entitled 'Jesus died to cleanse me from my filth'.
"The premise of the sermon was that Jesus didn't just die for my sins but also for the ones done to me," Ariel explains.
"Hearing I was clean from ALL sin was life altering."
It was then that Ariel knew that God loved her unconditionally and had the power to erase all the bad things from her past.
"That is the most wonderful thing anyone has done for me so my only possible response was to give my life to Jesus," she says.
Since then, Ariel says she has changed in a way that was not possible in her own strength.
"I believe people can change behaviors in their own strength but their motives, heart and eternity can't be changed without Jesus," she says.
"He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us, a new heart and the promise of eternity with Him."
Coming to understand that she was loved by the Creator of the Universe softened Ariel's heart toward love other people and helped her deal with many of her habitual sins.
"When I was still self-harming in the early days of being a Christian my mentor was bandaging me up and she look me in the eyes and said, 'God did this so you don't have to', meaning God took the punishment so don't keep punishing yourself," she explains.
That was the last time that habitual sin had any power over her.
"The temptation still comes to fall back into my old ways but the closer I am to Jesus the less desirable sin is to me," she says.
Today Ariel enjoys going to university, is grateful for her loving church family and continues to look for ways to encourage other young people, like her mentor did for her.
The message she desperately wants to share with others is: "no matter what you have done or what has happened to you – you are loved. I know that the scary part of this life is learning to trust God, because you don't trust anyone, but let Him prove Himself to you. He is a big enough God; a kind enough God; that He would want to do that."