Ben & Dom's Story
Ben's Story - Before I went to Teen Challenge, my life was a catastrophe. I had been using substances to cope for 20 years. My life was one of drugs, death and destruction. Every day was the same; I would wake in the morning without joy and without purpose. Growing up I felt like I had a good upbringing and everything I needed. However, when I was 10 my parents separated and my family broke down. My parents did their best, but for me this was a tough time in my life.
The absence of a strong family unit left a vacuum in my life that I filled with substances, alcohol, and joining a gang. I didn't know it at the time, but I was looking for a place where I could belong.
I was only 12 when I first tried marijuana and then I started drinking. As a young boy I committed petty crimes and often slept rough.. I went to so many funerals. In my early teenage years, I had two friends overdose on heroin in the same week, a girlfriend died, and another friend was hit by a train. Too many of my friends died by suicide. So much death & destruction.
I was only 17 when my girlfriend fell pregnant; we were both so young. Dom was born, and I loved him so much. It was fantastic to have a son. I wanted the best life for him, but I made many bad choices and was in and out of the family home. I was working in a factory, but I had a dream to be a scientist. I wanted a different life. I enrolled to finish Year 12 and moved in with a friend who was into heroin. Before long, I was taking heroin again. And that put a halt to my education.
I knew I needed help. I went on an opioid replacement program and whilst I got off heroin, before long, I was cooking meth in my garage and taking it myself and selling it. I developed drug-induced psychosis and other mental health issues. Over the next few years we had three more children, each one I cherished and adored. I loved my kids, but I couldn't be the dad I had hoped to be.
In one of the houses, we lived in, I had a neighbour Andrew. He was the first Christian I had met up close. Andrew was genuine and caring, he would lend me his ute, his mower and other things, and we would talk. I gave him and his ute a hard time, but he was always so good to me. He would take Dom and me fishing. He was like a breath of fresh air for me. All of my mates were addicted to substances, and many, including myself, had been in prison.
Andrew invited me to church, and people welcomed me and everyone seemed so happy to be alive. I got a glimpse of God for sure, but my life didn't change much. I met another couple here, Tarun and Mel. Tarun kept in contact with me over the years, and he and Mel are a big part of my story.
When things were bad, and they mostly were, I would wallow for days; I would sit on the couch depressed, windows closed and blinds drawn, watching mindless television. My children were right there, but my only motivation was drugs.
Dom was a bright and beautiful kid. He loved rugby and music. He would often read to the younger children and get them up and ready for school. The kids would say, 'hey dad, let's throw the footy, but I just couldn't.'
I longed to kill myself, but I didn't want to leave my children fatherless. One day I almost got my wish and overdosed on heroin. I was revived but I knew something had to change. I was 32 years old and had been on drugs for 20 years. I called Tarun, and he said, 'mate, how about Teen Challenge.'
The day Mel drove the four kids and me up to The New Life Centre in Toowoomba, I was a broken and empty man - I thought, “this is it. If I fail at this, I'm done” - I thought rehab would be like a prison and that I would get away a bit to sober up. I walked in and was met with a huge welcoming smile from Janne in reception. Colin, one of the staff, gave me a tour of the place, and most of the guys who were in the program were on work experience that day. There was just one young guy at the centre and he looked so vulnerable - I said, ‘mate, stick with me, and I'll look after you’. Imagine your favourite prison movie and you get the picture. The rest of the guys came back, and they were so happy to see me, shaking my hand and welcoming me to rehab.
I was blown away. I was like, “Alright, what's going on? They were like 'hey man come take a look at my room, here's a picture of my kids, here's the kitchen! Take this fresh linen”. I thought this was crazy. Everything was flipped on its head.
It was such a good culture there and so refreshing for my soul; it was a perfect place, you know. I remember Cuzzie doing a reading one morning about having value, and it stuck with me; I was like, no, you don't know what I have done, but he said 'you still have value, Ben'. This was a defining moment for me - I thought, I can do this, I can turn my life around and find purpose, I have to do this, for my family and for me.
Having structure helped a lot, and I lapped up the wisdom of the staff, men like Craig, Rob and Cuzzie taught me so much by the way they lived. I didn't know what God or Jesus was like; I didn't know that kind of love. And when I found it, things changed for me. I found healing and peace. My mind was renewed. And feeling things meant a lot because I had been numb for so many years because of addiction. The wind on my skin felt like a new sensation for me. I was in the program for a year. It was time for me to go home. My partner of 17 years had left the family, and I was going home to be a single dad. I was offered an internship at New Hope house, this is Teen Challenges, crisis accommodation for young men. I grasped this opportunity. I get to help young men going through stuff as I did. I can see myself in them. I can see the hope. I loved being back with my children, but it was hard, they missed their mum, and I was now parenting in a way they weren't used to. I was just 100 % involved in my kid's life; I was making up for lost time, and I wanted nothing more than just giving them the life they deserved. I didn't own a car. Well, I did have a car, but it was a broken down commodore parked in my driveway. Getting the kids to school involved a bus ride.
I sold the car for scrap and decided to pay the money forward, hoping that it might help someone, in the same way, I had been helpe. My life kept getting better.
I had decided not to date anyone as I wanted to be wholly available to my kids. But then I met Claire; she was the Global Children's pastor at the church I was going to. I was a single dad who needed a babysitter while I was doing night shifts at New Hope House and Claire was saving for a trip overseas. Claire looking after my children and saving money for her trip was a great set-up for both of us. Well, cups of tea led to long phone calls and running together. My kids adored Claire and I fell head over heels in love with her. I proposed to Claire and we celebrate four years of marriage this year. We have had a beautiful baby boy together, Joseph.
So now, when I wake up in the morning, I look over at Claire and am so grateful; I now have 5 children who are flourishing. I am thankful for the forgiveness they have given me. I am grateful that I have been able to forgive myself. I am thankful for the life that I have. I am really alive, and my life has purpose and meaning. I have opportunities that I would never have thought possible. I am now the Team Leader at New Hope House and I get to support homeless young men to find their feet and move forward in life.
I do have value, I am not worthless, and I can contribute to society and bring hope into other people's lives, I can be the father and husband I am meant to be.
I have not relapsed since the day I walked into the New Life Centre in Toowoomba in 2014. I am completely sober.
And now, when I wake up, I can feel everything. I'm ready for the day. I thank God that I now have a hope and a future.