11 – An ‘L’ of a place part 3 – the phone call (1997)

Psalm 37:23-24 (NKJV) 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.

In the previous two blogs, I recalled the events leading up to me sitting in a car and getting a gun stuck in my back, and how I ended up on a Monday morning in May 1997 with an AoG pastor, Ken Persaud, turning up at my door.

I want to talk a little bit about the next couple of days and how one phone call, in particular, changed the course of my life.

Ken came out to see me. We were sitting in the living room, Ken, my mum and I, and Ken asked if I wanted to speak to him on my own. I said no as I was still trying to complete the tenner and thought that if my mum hung around I would have more chance of making that happen. My mum, on the other hand, decided to leave me too it.

I was frustrated.

Ken began to talk about Teen Challenge and how he was going to get me in, but I was not really taking it in. At every step, it seemed I was being outmanoeuvred in my quest to get another £5. I do remember him promising to get me into rehab within a week and he would keep me informed as to how that was going.

We said our goodbyes and Ken promised to keep in touch.

That was that. When my mum came back in I recounted as best I could what had been said. There was no chance I was getting my £5.

Remember I had not had a fix of heroin since Saturday by this point, prior to that I had not gone a day without in about four or five years.

That evening, even though I never felt physically strung out, my mind was screaming for a fix. I had tried everything and nothing had worked. It was like every single thought was screaming with loads of voices all crying out “I need a fix!” I had begged and pleaded with my mum, even saying that Ken had said I would be gone in a week, but she was not for breaking. She then asked if I wanted her to call that guy that was out to see me. Yes, I thought, I will go on the phone and talk to Ken, I will convince him to tell my mum to give me the cash as I was going away.

I remember going on the phone and giving a sob story about how I was not able for this. It was too hard. I needed a fix. Couldn’t he just tell my mum to give me the cash? Man, I was working hard on trying to get my desired outcome.

Addicts can be the most manipulative people on the face of the earth. We can convince you to give us what we want, whilst all the time letting you think that it was your idea. I was normally pretty good at it. Hence the long period I had gone without missing a day.

Today was different. Ken listened patiently, then, instead of what I expected to hear he said, “Stuart, can I pray with you?”

Eh! What did he say? That is not how this was supposed to go. However, like a good sat nav, it was as if my mind began “recalculating” to bring this to my outcome. “I’ll let him pray and then he will tell my mum that it was ok to give me the cash.”

Ken prayed. I honestly could not tell you what he prayed, and in a way, I am glad as I would probably pray that prayer verbatim with every person I knew who was struggling with addiction. I have often wondered how I can have perfect recall of everything over those few days, but not the prayer.

TC BusAfter he finished praying, Ken promised he would get Roy Lees to come out and visit me the following evening when the Teen Challenge bus was in Easterhouse. I knew of the bus. It sat outside the Easterhouse Health Centre needle exchange every Tuesday evening. People who believed in and trusted Jesus would offer a cup of tea and a listening ear to anyone who needed it. By anyone, I mean people like me who, it seemed, everyone else crossed the street to avoid. I used to avoid the bus. I would openly mock any of my friends who would go on it. Even more, those that applied for a place in the Teen Challenge programme. I, unwashed in days, hair down around my shoulders and a long straggly beard because shaving interfered with getting money for a fix, I used to look down my nose at them and think I was better than them. I mean, imagine believing in Jesus and saying He could save me from addiction.

As we finished on the phone, I said “thanks” hung up the phone and went back into the living room, where my mum and dad were sitting.

I looked at them both and said “sorry”.

My dad grunted, “heard it all before.” And indeed he had, through 13 years of addiction, 11 of them injecting he had heard every trick and ploy and excuse and apology in the book. My mum just looked at me, and I am honestly sitting weeping as I type this. She said, “Look at him, he is different!”

I never felt any different. I had no awareness of anything other than I wanted my mum and dad know that I was sorry.

We sat and watched telly, how normal is that?

#TC20 For those who were part of that night, thank you so much. We celebrate the goodness of God in transformed lives, and I will thank Him daily for ministries like Teen Challenge, and People like Ken Persaud, who believe in the power of God more than their own words. Ken spoke last night of when I called him when I was desperate for a fix and he prayed for me.

Ken reminded me that I had called him an hour later on that Monday night. I had totally forgotten about it. But as we were talking I remember my mum insisting I call him and tell him that I was ok. She said he would be worried. She wouldn’t let me away with not calling. But the very fact that an hour after I had called all agitated and craving, that I got to call him back and say I was ok is a testimony to the power of Christ and prayer to make an immediate difference to a long-term problem. And to my mum making sure that no one was needlessly worried.
An hour later…

I went to bed, and I slept.

As a footnote to this part, I have never looked to stick a needle in my arm since that phone call and Ken’s prayer. The next couple of blogs will describe the next couple of days. Ken never preached the Gospel to me. He never overwhelmed me with knowledge or anything. He merely offered to pray for me, rather than try and counsel me. That was Monday 19th May 1997. It is Ken’s 65th birthday this weekend. I was the last addict he worked with in Glasgow as he finished up with Teen Challenge. Ken is now the senior pastor of Notting Hill Community Church, and I am grateful that he is still in my life. Ken travelled up to Glasgow last May to celebrate 20 years of freedom in my life. It was incredible hearing him standing at the front of Easterhouse Community Church recounting this story and how that church was birthed in that prayer 20 years previously.

In the here and now, as well as being husband, dad, pastor and other roles I am also a student at Glasgow Kelvin College. As I shared this story with one of my tutors, he said he would have to look at all 15 Stuarts (it was a sociology class, he was referring to all the different ways I carried myself in different settings) and investigate. My answer to him was, “Colm, every single one of them will tell you the same thing, I once was lost, now I am found, I was blind but now I see.”

This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.

If you would like to know more about the Christian response to addiction, or just need hope please click on one of the links below.

The Haven
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Street Connect
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church
Stuart Patterson