Tony Corley was once a slave to alcohol and gambling but now he has been set free
My siblings—two older sisters and an older brother—and I lived in Wandering, east of Perth. When I was eight my father committed suicide, and because my mother found it difficult to cope with all us kids, my brother and I were placed in a Christian Brothers home that took in orphans and children from welfare situations.
In the less than six months I was there I suffered a lot of abuse that would be the cause of many issues as I grew older. I then returned to Mum and her, my brother, and one of my sisters moved to Medina and then to Leederville, both in Perth.
Mum encouraged me to go to Sunday school but, apart from that, religion wasn't a part of my life.
By 10, I was in a lot of strife and welfare classed me an "uncontrollable child". Looking back, I see that I was looking for attention—I just wanted a hug.
I was sent to the Mt Lawley Receiving home and up until 16 I was in and out of institutions. I ended up in Fremantle Jail, as a juvenile, where I was raped, and was in and out of jail till I was 24. Mum died when I was still in jail.
For the next 20 years alcohol, drugs and gambling ruled my life—I used alcohol to numb all the pain I was feeling. I was in an abusive marriage where my wife's son stabbed me during one argument.
I left my wife and moved to Adelaide to be near my sister, but my family found it hard to trust me because of how alcohol was ruling my life.
I ended up homeless, living in night shelters—sometimes with The Salvation Army—and in my late 40s, I was introduced to the Salvos Bridge Program and it was here that I had my first encounter with God.
Because of stress, I was sent out to a farm for a while. I went to the small on-site church and one Sunday, in the middle of singing 'The Power of Your Love' I started crying and couldn't stop.
I felt different inside and had a smile on my face from ear to ear. No high that I ever got from drugs was anything like this—I believe it was the Holy Spirit coming into my life.
I discovered that God does not punish. He loves me. I look at Jesus, who didn't have a church like we do but walked around doing good things, and I want to be like that. In Adelaide, I became an adherent [member] of The Salvation Army and when I went back to Perth, I joined Katherine Street Corps [church] and then Balga Salvation Army.
I've learnt that when God gives something, he gives abundantly. I now have my own unit with so much furniture donated to me that I've had to give some of it away.
My heart has been softened; when I went through mediation with the Christian Brothers I was able to forgive them, which they found amazing. I left mediation empowered—I felt God standing on one side holding my hand and on the other was the damaged little Tony.
I have been free of drug, alcohol and gambling for two years. I have my dignity back and the respect of others. I now mentor others, and when I share my story people tell me how it has touched them.
I don't regret my past—it's now my greatest asset, because I have a story of hope for those who have suffered. The journey isn't about me anymore.?
Article courtesy of WarCry magazine