Growing up with an alcoholic parent seemed normal to me. I could tell from the way Dad drove into the driveway after an afternoon at the pub what kind of night it would be. With my parents screaming and fighting, I felt like a child in a war zone.
My mother was too caught up in her own pain to see the damage being done to me. I knew my father loved me, but he loved his bottle better.
When I was five, Mum and I began attending church, after reading an ad in the paper. I didn't know it, but that was when God stepped into our lives.
Our family was isolated from extended family and I grew up in the environment of someone else's addiction. At eight, I was stealing my father's alcohol, stealing cigarettes at 12, at 15 I bought my own alcohol and was sneaking into nightclubs. At 16, I was smoking marijuana.
I thought that if God really loved me, he wouldn't have allowed all the bad things to happen in my life.
In my teens I married a lovely guy who was in the army. We travelled around for a number of years, and then moved back to my home town and all the mess inside me came tumbling out.
I sabotaged my marriage and moved again. I lied to my parents and friends, became involved with a bikie club, went into a new relationship and spiralled into drug and alcohol addiction.
In this cycle of selling drugs, taking drugs, and drinking every day, I went into dangerous situations, where people were dying of overdoses and being murdered.
Having lived with domestic violence and alcoholism my whole life, I didn't know I deserved to be treated better. I felt worthless and full of self-loathing, with no self-esteem or belief system to help me. But once in a while there would be a spark of hope that one day my life would change.
One such spark was becoming pregnant. I left the relationship many times, moved around for a while, and a week before my son was born I was back in Townsville. With my beautiful son, I knew real love for the first time. I raised him on my own because I knew I couldn't return to that lifestyle.
A month before my son turned two, his father died of a massive heroin overdose. I hit the self-destruct button and old habits came back.
I started another relationship, and was soon in the same cycle of drugs, alcohol, abuse and violence. I fell pregnant again and, although I hoped the relationship would survive, the abuse between us meant it couldn't.
Looking at my two little boys I'd cry because I didn't know how to make things better. One night, during an argument, my partner tried to choke me. I thought, "If this was to be my life, then I would rather be dead."
I don't know what made my partner stop, and that night I cried out to God to take away the severe stress headaches I'd been having. Almost immediately I felt the headache lift, peace washed over me and I just knew God was real.
I went to the church I had walked away from all those years ago, and felt like I had come home. I responded to an opportunity to give my life over to God and asked forgiveness for all that I'd done wrong.
The power of God touched me and I was delivered from my addictions to drugs and alcohol. I've not had a drink or touched drugs since.
I went through four years of counselling, completed a Diploma in Ministries and then heard God tell me to quit my job. A friend mentioned going to university and I was accepted into a Bachelor of Social Work at James Cook University.
Almost 16 years into my journey with God, I am privileged to work for The Salvation Army.
I support every woman who walks through the doors of Grace Cottage—the Women's Out-Client Service of Townsville Recovery Services—who says she needs help and is willing to put in the hard work to work towards her recovery.
God loves us and cares for us. God's plans are always for our good and to restore dignity back into our lives.•
Used with permission. This article first appeared in the Salvation Army's magazine.