I sometimes have to wonder
Where I might have been today
If grace, my life, had not set out to win
And looking back, I realize
It must be some great love
That saw me as I was and took me in
From “He lifted me” by Paul Evans
Around November 1998 I made my first visit back to Scotland from Teen Challenge. It was a long journey. Train from Swansea to Birmingham, change for Crewe and then onto Glasgow Central.
Arriving at Glasgow Central, and it felt good to be back in Scotland, and yet it didn’t. There was an apprehension that had gripped me all the way up through England, that only intensified as I crossed the border.
Fear! Fear that I would give in to temptation.
Fear that I would immediately do what I had always done in Scotland, go and get a fix.
It was paralysing. I know that doesn’t make sense. I had been away for eighteen months. Had seen incredible sights and my life was firmly and intensely fixed on Christ.
But fear is an incredible thing. At times the cause of the fear bears no rhyme or reason, and at others, it is rooted in mistakes or events of the past. This time it was very obviously rooted in my past.
I made my way home, and in through our verandah. My parents lived in Ervie Street, a bottom and middle flat had been converted into one house due to the size of our family and the lack of available properties.
As I walked into the kitchen my dad, (as I recounted in Paddy), was standing over the cooker. “Hiya I’m making the dinner, you ok.”
It was the most normal thing he had been able to say to me in years. No high drama, no emotion. You would think I had only pooped out to the shops, rather than living in another country for eighteen months.
It was also light relief from the fear.
Everything was pretty normal that day. As you can imagine, the family came round to visit and the fear was pushed to the back of my mind, but it was still there, waiting to pounce.
In Genesis, just before he kills his brother Abel, Cain is warned by God that sin was crouching at the door waiting to pounce. (Genesis 4:7 (NKJV) 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” ) It was verses I had thought about many times. Now though, in the midst of my fear, they reverberated around inside my head as if God Himself had visited me the way He had visited Cain to warn me that this was trying to pull me down. Although unlike in Cain’s case it wasn’t my brothers in danger of death, but for me. The temptation to use was strong. My sister Yvonne watched me like a hawk anytime I moved. Quite rightly too.
As I just relaxed with my family, it began to dissipate. I even began to enjoy the company of my family, something I had never really done as an adult.
I went to bed that night and slept a beautiful sleep.
Next morning I got up full of hope and expectation. Now I wanted to find old friends and tell them what Jesus had done in my life. I wanted to show them a way out. The seed of that poem, Role, that I had written was about to be given an opportunity to bear fruit.
Off I went, heading straight over to the Buywell. Full of hope and anticipation about who I would meet.
Immediately I bumped into old friends, they were asking where I had been and commented on how well I looked. I had no problem sharing with them how God had changed my life.
Then I saw P. She was one of our gang. Had hung out with us. Had given me my first messed up injection, (That First Time). And I knew where she was going. Immediately my conversation stopped and I made my way over to P.
“Where you aff tae?” I asked, knowing full well the answer.
“O’er tae J & A’s tae get some tems.Whit ye up tae Paddy? No seen ye in ages”
“Livin doon in Wales.” The fear was back. There was no chance nor intention of sharing with P any hope or way out of addiction. That would mess with me going with her. I could actually taste the rush in my mouth.
“Wait an I’ll walk er wi ye.”
“Naw, its awright” she replied. But I was having none of it. I had already given into the temptation. The thing I feared the most had come upon me . I had dreaded giving into temptation for a fix, whilst at the same time almost savoured it. It is the great danger of substance abuse and habit. I never got high to escape, I got high to get stoned. I loved the feeling. I craved it. I had been free from it for 18 months, had hardly given it a second thought until that train had made its way through England, slowly building momentum until it crossed the border.
The “Welcome to Scotland” sign which should have greeted me with warmth at the promise of new memories in my country, actually introduced a heavy cloud. The cloud of fear had hidden well that morning, but as I walked up with P towards the centre of the centre – only the promise of the rush seemed strong enough to chase it.
As we approached the staircase in the centre of the centre, it became, in an instant, the epicentre of God’s battle with the demon of addiction in my life.
“Stuart what on earth are you doing?”
I stopped dead in my tracks at what seemed like an audible voice, looking over at P to see if she heard it. Obviously, she had not.
“If you can’t say no for yourself, think of all those who have seen a way out because of you”. God Himself, it seemed had spoken to me the way
It was clear, it was audible and it chased the fear. I mean it is so hard to get across how all of a sudden I saw clearly.
In Teen Challenge, one of the studies we do to help us in our new lives is called “Temptations” It helps us to understand and deal with temptations God’s way.
“What am I doing?” I thought to myself. “God I am so sorry.” It was amazing how quickly peace and composure were restored. Instantly things were back in perspective as my mind worked through the plan for overcoming temptation.
That stair is now as holy to me as it was for Jacob’ staircase when he saw angels ascending and descending from heaven.
I knew in that instant that Jesus Christ was more than able to, not just keep me from addiction, but to restore me to a real hope and purpose. I did not have to spend my life living in fear of the next fix. And I haven’t.
“P, you know God just reminded me how much He loved me and He wants you to know the same.” I said.
“So yer no comin wi me then?” she replied, a bit bemused probably by what I had just said. “That’s fine I’ll see ye later.”
“You don’t need to go either” I said, “He can help you beat yir habit as well.”
“Nah Im awright Paddy, I’ll see ye later.”
I have actually never seen her since that moment. I was a wee bit dejected that she gave up so easily. But I had literally just seen Jesus work in a very real way in my life that I could never have seen in the darkest days of the Teen Challenge programme.
I knew at that moment that I was following Jesus, whenever and wherever He led. He truly did have the words of eternal life.
As I made my way back home to Ervie Street, I began to sing one of our Evidence songs. “Lifted”. We sung it that often that we got fed up with it, but as I made my way across the pitches, by the spot of my airplane gaze and on up Aberdalgie Road – I sung it out loud. I really did want the world to know.
And I could never dream, could never know
How much He had to pay, His love to show
When He lifted me, I had no strength to walk through another day
And He lifted me, I was so weak when all I could do was pray
Right at my darkest moment, when I was drifting away
He lifted me
“He Lifted Me” from the album “Who the Son sets free” by Paul Evans, Challenge Music
A couple of days later, as I made my way into Glasgow Central for my early evening train, I had my eyes opened to something else.
It was Glasgow post daytime and pre-night time.
I am going to write about it in my next blog, (Open the eyes of my heart) as it has had a profound effect on me ever since.
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.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church