The Salvation Army URL has changed to salvationarmy.org.auFind out more
13 June 2022
David Oliver with his parents, Noel and Margaret.
Words Dean Simpson
David Oliver, a former ice addict, is 58 years old, but he’ll proudly tell you that he’s just celebrated his 20th birthday.
“I didn’t actually turn 20 ... it was my 20th birthday in recovery ... 20 years of being clean. So, I had a party with 20 people at my mum and dad’s place,” he says. “I was severely depressed and addicted to drugs for 22 years, but I finally sought help from The Salvation Army, found God, and I’m still going strong. I reckon that’s worth celebrating.”
David says he invited family and friends who had been pivotal in his recovery from a drug and alcohol-fuelled existence earlier in his life. “I gave a little speech and told them that I wouldn’t be here without them.”
In 2001, David’s parents, Noel and Margaret, were at their wit’s end with their son’s addictions and desperately reached out to Salvo Jayne Wilson, who ran The Salvation Army First Floor family support program at Wollongong Salvos on the NSW South Coast.
They told Jayne their son had fallen into a drug and alcohol culture almost from the day he started work at 15 as an apprentice at the Port Kembla steelworks. A few years later, he married a woman who shared his destructive lifestyle. They had two children.
Through his addictive lifestyle, David eventually lost his marriage, family, home, a job with a company car, and respect – both that of himself and others.
“Mum and Dad had had enough,” he recalls. “They were attending the Salvos, and Dad said my only hope was to go and see Jayne. And that’s when my life started to change.”
After initial counselling, David agreed to participate in the Salvos William Booth drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at William Booth House in Sydney. It was here that he took his first significant step to recovery. “There was a sign on the wall that said: ‘Let Go and Let God’. So, I did ... I let him take charge from that point on,” David remembers.
After a few weeks at William Booth House, David continued rehabilitation at Miracle Haven, the Salvos farm on the NSW Central Coast. He graduated 10 months later.
When he left Miracle Haven in 2003, he attended Berkeley Salvos (in Wollongong’s south) until that closed, and he started attending a nearby Church of Christ. Twenty years later, David still attends that church, playing guitar in the band and being a member of the men’s group.
He says the past 20 years “hasn’t been a bed of roses ... I’ve gone through quite a few ups and downs. I had another relationship breakdown, been in crisis accommodation for a time and been out of work.” But he says he prays every day, reads his Bible, and has a strong relationship with his two adult children.
“My faith in God, the help I got from the Salvos, and the adversity I’ve faced in life have strengthened my resolve to stay clean. Praise God."
Dean Simpson is a member of the Communications team, The Salvation Army Australia.