Heroin playboy finds the good stuff

David and Beth Twivey
David Twivey and his wife Beth.

David Twivey grew up a typical 'poor rich kid' who had it all financially and yet felt a spiritual and emotional emptiness that drove him to alcohol and heroin.

It was only when he had tried all money could buy and blown it all that he was finally ready to find true riches.

David's parents and grandparents were very wealthy, owning hotels and real estate investments in western Sydney. He remembers a privileged early childhood: gambling on his grandad's lap, surfing at their holiday house, catching lobsters, and being a junior life saver.

However, he also remembers that his parents were very focused on making money and climbing the social ladder, so at 11 David was sent to The King's School, an elite military boarding school in Western Sydney that specialised in punitive discipline.

"It was a hellish culture of hard discipline and I did not respond well to it," David confesses. "I even tried to overdose on aspirin at 11 because I could see no future."

After high school, while he was studying economics at New South Wales University, David's grandmother died and left him a lot of money.

He bought a fancy Alpha Romeo sports car, invested in some real estate, and found an escape from the depression and rejection of his childhood by drinking champagne and smoking drugs with an elite group of rich friends from school.

"They were happy, they enjoyed life," David says. "Money was never an issue. Fast cars, girls – it was all there. But I knew I was heading for disaster."

David had always believed there was a God.

"I went forward at the Billy Graham Crusade in the late '60s but didn't understand surrendering to the Lordship of Christ," he admits. "I wanted a magic pill to come from God to lift me out of my problems."

By 1974 David's partying lifestyle had used up all his liquidity. For his 21st birthday that year his parents gave him a one-way train ticket to Perth, plus a guarantee of a job in Dampier 1500 km to the north.

You’re going to be a changed manAlthough "it felt like I was being sent off to boarding school again", the job as a ship ping officer at a mining company turned out to be a role David enjoyed and excelled in.

Yet every night he would drink himself into oblivion.

"It was pretty horrendous," David admits. "It was sort of an accepted thing in a mining town that you drank heavily – as long as you could work during the day."

After a few years, David tried to escape his alcoholism by returning to Sydney, and from there he followed a school friend to Sri Lanka.

But his problems followed him.

"Sri Lanka is where I got into heroin. I started up a restaurant on the beach, met [actress] Dita Cobb and went surfing with [pop star] Simon Le Bon. It was an extreme lifestyle," David remembers.

David Twivey
David Twivey in his office in Townsville

"I found myself one night on this idyllic beach in tears, crying out 'Where is my life heading?' I had lost about 30 kilograms in weight and I wasn't coping very well."

David returned to Australia where his downward spiral and heroin habit continued and was much more expensive, costing him $2000 a day by 1982.

"To get that money I started selling off my properties. I was living for today and in a fantasy that everything would be alright."

It wasn't long before David had lost everything and was so desperate for cash that he hocked his mother's jewellery when his parents were away on holiday.

On their return, his parents charged him with theft and, after three nights in lock up, the judge asked David if he wanted to go to rehab, to the Salvation Army, and he agreed.

On 23 September 1983 David entered a 34-week rehab programme that turned his life around.

A Salvation Army matron befriended him, telling him about Jesus and saying, "David, we're going to work together and you're going to know Jesus as your Saviour and you're going to be a changed man."

"I surrendered myself to God," David recalls. "I started to pray and read the Bible and I changed. It was a great experience."

David's father also came to Christ about six months later, but was still shocked when, on completing the programme, David wouldn't re-join the family business but announced: "No, Dad, I think I'm called to be a Salvation Army officer."

He has been in the Salvos for 33 years and is now in charge of their drug and alcohol recovery services in Townsville, Queensland.

"It is an exciting place that God puts us," David declares, and for a man who has known as much excitement as he has, that is saying something!?

Used with kind permission from Warcry magazine.

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