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My past choices don't define me

24 September 2022

My past choices don't define me

After a life of drink, drugs and criminal behaviour, when Paul met the Salvos, he received unconditional love.

Words Paul

When I was young, I adored being with my father, but one day he just packed up and left. I’m the eldest of four boys, and my three younger brothers kept asking, “Where’s Dad?” I had to try and fill in the gaps, and though I wanted to help them, I found it hard myself to understand what was going on. 

Feeling like a fish out of water as I struggled with my emotions and feelings, I turned to drinking and drug-taking. My anti-social behaviour escalated to the point where I’m ashamed to say I took part in a lot of criminal activities while hanging out with like-minded buddies. 

I struggled a lot with work because I didn’t like taking directions from others, and I’d often sneak away to have a quick drink or take drugs. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had a problem. I was hurting other people because I was hurt.

The guys I hung out with didn’t have a good influence on me. When I talked to them about how I felt, they didn’t think I had a problem and reckoned that a real man doesn’t need to seek help. I wanted to show them that I was a strong man capable of looking after myself and fixing my own problems. 

Everything I was doing just wasn’t enough – I was living on the streets, I was living in the bush, I was living overseas. It wasn’t in my brain or my mind to think that I needed to reach out for help. 


However, there came a time when I looked at myself in the mirror and realised that I really did have a problem. I realised that I was the one with the issues – it wasn’t society, it wasn’t the people I was surrounding myself with, it was me, and I had to change things if I wanted to have a happy life. Enough was enough. 

Paul, second from right, with some of the group from the local Salvos who showed an interest in and supported Paul, giving him a sense of belonging and friendship. 

Although it wasn’t easy, I chose to admit that I was at rock bottom and had to reach out for help. I went into detox and rehab and completed the recovery programs in order to change and enjoy the life I’m now living. 

When I was living in a boarding house down the road from the Rockdale Salvos church, I met a couple of fine, caring people there. They were kind and interested in me, and, despite all my flaws and craziness, they wanted to get to know me. They really lived out the mission of the Rockdale Salvos to help people find fullness of life through faith, love and community. 

I was willing to be honest with them, telling them what I was struggling with and what I needed help with. They took me out for a coffee and asked if I needed food and clean clothes, but most of all they gave me a sense of belonging. Not only did they give me their time, but they also gave me unconditional love and positive vibes, reassuring me that my earlier life choices were behind me and are not the ones I’m making today. 

It’s important for me to be a part of a caring community, and I find that being a member of the church family is great. I really enjoy meeting with those people – I learn a lot from them, and I have a sense of belonging, so it gives me a positive outlook on life. 

Being okay is about a choice, and I have value in myself today. In the evenings, I like to reflect on my day and know that I’ve done the best I can within myself to have a good outcome in my life. It’s all about me being positive and living life in the best way possible. 


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