Depression and alcohol threatened to derail former VFL footballer Ashley Humphrey but today he thanks a club chaplain and some new friends for helping him rebuild his life.
"I played football for a number of years in the Victorian Football League with Essendon's Reserves side," Ash begins.
"I had very little direction in my life and drank very heavily, when football training and my playing schedule allowed me to.
"After my dad moved away I carried a lot of anger and really struggled with depression."
After high school the effect of Ash's poor decisions inspired a strong desire for an inward transformation.
"I was now really wanting more," Ash recalls. "I thought about the person I wanted to be and didn't know how to make changes in my life."
The development coach at Essendon asked chaplain Bruce Claridge to help Ash, so Bruce introduced Ash to some guys from the church he pastored.
"Honestly, before then no one had ever been so nice to me," Ash says.
"I was impacted by their kindness towards me and curious about the way they lived. They were normal guys and were so devoted to their faith."
About that time, Ash recalls getting very drunk at a party before driving himself and a girl he had just met home.
"I drove all over the place and was pulled over by the cops. After an hour at the police station they miraculously let me go.
"This was a strong catalyst for me that something needed to change in my life."
He occasionally attended church out of curiosity where Ash says his new Christian friends "encouraged me and inspired me by the way they lived their lives".
"They always seemed so upbeat, so passionate about life; I was the opposite, so I guess I wanted a piece of what they had.
"As I explored more I began to experience God's presence myself ... I found it very hard to ignore the fact that He is real."
Ash shares that He gave control of his life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 2008 and adds, "This was the best decision I have ever made."
"Behaviours in my life changed very quickly with little effort on my part. God also opened some amazing doors and exposed talent that had been dormant for a long time.
"I'm still far from perfect. I do stupid things at times, but every day I ask God to make me into a better man."
Five years ago Ash was bedridden with a serious illness for nine months and yet he is grateful for what God did in that time.
"Ironically, in the midst of that illness, God brought healing into a range of areas in my life.
"As cliché as it may sound, in every difficulty God has enabled me to bounce back stronger and has made my life better for it."
The once reckless footballer is today a disciplined sportsman as he runs 800m track events at the Australian national level.
Ash strongly encourages people to thoroughly explore the truth about God.
"God knows us, loves us and wants the best for our lives. If you are willing to open your eyes to the reality of a loving Father God reveals to us through Jesus, and explore His existence beyond the confines of mere theories, He will reveal Himself to you.
"If you choose to let Him in, you will have the most amazing life available to you!"•