Like many Aussies, Alan Perkins was addicted to gambling and alcohol for much of his life. However, his story is one of escape from those traps to a life of freedom with Jesus.
He tells his own story:
I was aged 17 when I went to my first Trot meeting. Gloucester Park was all the rage and the father of my friend was a bookmaker there. I remember it was a great night. I had a lot of fun and the atmosphere was electric. What a shame!
I was extremely lucky to be born into a Christian home in Albany. I made a decision for Christ at age eight at a Billy Graham Beach Mission Crusade, and from that moment Jesus never left my side, although I took Him to some pretty horrible places.
In 1966 at aged 12, my Mum went to live in Midland. For the next few years I nearly drove my dad crazy by wagging school, drinking in the pine forest and establishing a whole new bunch of "friends".
I left school at 15 to join the bank, got some wheels in '71 and I was gone.
While working in Kununurra, this cute chick walked into the bank one day in 1973, and I instantly knew she was going to be my wife. I didn't even know her name yet!
Merril and I got married in 1974 and purchased our first home in Bassendean in 1975, which, as it happened, backed on to a church.
I was still drinking copious quantities of grog and spending any "spare" cash at the local Bassendean TAB. I copped my first DUI [driving under the influence] on my bike in 1975. I was close to being an alcoholic, gambling heavily, had a wife and a son and had just turned 21.
The pastor at Bassendean was a guy named Roy Aitken – an ex merchant seaman from Scotland, and he was the perfect guy to get me back into the church. After a few months of input from Roy and a few home truths, Merril and I were baptised [immersed in water as a symbol of death to our old lives, and new life in Christ] on Mother's Day 1975.
Again the bank transferred me, this time to Bunbury. We had to sell our house in Bassendean to clear the arrears on the mortgage and fix the bank account. The next two years were miserable for Merril, with the only blessing being the arrival of our daughter. In November 1978 I resigned from the bank – mainly again to clear debts.
I was declared bankrupt through card debt (I had five or six cards), and I spent the next four years paying it off to the Registrar's office. It was a shocking time. I joined Coles Variety Stores. I managed to cop another DUI and was thankful to again go bush as assistant manager at the Geraldton store.
I spent a lot of time at the Council Club playing snooker and drinking heaps."
Another daughter came along in 1983. The family left Geraldton in 1984, and after a brief stint at Nollamara, were transferred to Katanning. There Alan 'borrowed' $75 from the staff booze fund, which resulted in Coles charging him with theft. He was never convicted but left Coles and Katanning in 1985 in disgrace.
"This was a horrible low point in our journey. Everyone was devastated and we returned to Perth," he recalls.
Alan found other retail work and he and his family became actively involved in a church. He ran youth group and Sunday school and coached basketball, all the while still gambling compulsively.
"The inner struggle was astounding about now because I was so into God and the church, and yet I still continued to do the most destructive thing in my life," he confesses. "I attended Gamblers Anonymous for a while, but found the whole 'Hi I'm Alan Perkins and I am a compulsive gambler' too hard. It just seemed to confirm to me week after week that I was never changing."
At the end of 1997 the family changed churches and Alan changed jobs.
"God was hammering me in my private gambling life, and there were some seriously dark times due to the conflict of Christ and Satan in my life. Suicide became a real possible outlet for me. I think this was happening because Satan was beginning to realise he might lose!
"There was a time when I gave the whole issue to God - but also denied my own accountability – stating openly that God had changed me. Within a month of that, and with me thinking I was changed and God had it all under control, I blew $15,000 over a couple of months.
"I had never 'owned' what I was doing, and unless you own something you can never give it away. Merril gave me a text from James 1:14-15, which warns: 'But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.'"
A couple of friends got alongside Alan to help him work through a four-part programme that challenged him to take ownership of his problem.
As he found, we all need to get to the point of admitting our wrongdoing and confessing it as sin before a holy God before God is able to set us free from it. If we keep treating our sin as a disease or a genetic predisposition, instead of a choice, we deny our culpability and remain trapped.
"I was asked to Repent (acknowledging this was a 'me' thing), Renounce (declaring this was no longer a part of my life), Ask for forgiveness (placing it at the cross), and Accept forgiveness (a crucial part in moving forward).
"The hymn 'my chains fell off, my heart was free' was never truer than on that day for me," Alan declares. "A life of lies, deception, guilt and deep in-dwelling pain ended. Who says miracles don't happen anymore?
"I lost a house, two jobs and a fair whack of cash, but there are stories of others who have lost much more. I have not been into a TAB or Pubtab since 2002. I am still Alan Perkins. God is still working in my life, I am not finished yet and never will be until I go home [to heaven], but I am different.
"God is good. God is gracious. He wants everyone to know Him and trust in Him. He sent Jesus to save the lost and set the captives free.
"I can't give you a miracle wonder plan or programme that will help you in your own struggle, but I can offer you Jesus whom you will meet in His Word [the Bible]. For 30 years I strived to be better, made resolutions, wanted to be a stronger person, but it's only in our weakness that His redeeming life can be our strength," Alan concludes.•