13 September, 2021

For as long as Debbie can remember, drugs dictated her life.

“I was a drug addict for 48 years,” Debbie says. “I was always rejected from society, being a heroin addict, bikie, gangsta, whatever you wanted to label me.”

During this time, Debbie and her family experienced periods of homelessness, and money was scarce.

“I’ve done jail,” Debbie says. “I’ve done rehabs. I’ve done refuges, (experienced) domestic violence. Lived on the streets. And it made me rough.”

Debbie tried many times to break her addiction. And finally, a few years ago, she was successful. But being newly clean didn’t fit with her previous social circles. She began looking for purpose, productive ways to spend her time, and the right support network.

Debbie was walking by the ADRA Community Care Centre in Gatton when the fresh fruit and vegetables caught her eye and reminded her of the soup kitchens she had visited in the past.

“I used to come here 10 years ago to the soup kitchen,” Debbie says. “And I always remembered how nice they were and how I felt in having communal dinner. And that stuck with me.”

She approached one of the volunteers and asked if they were looking for help.

“The guy who was on said, ‘Yes, you’re welcome! Come tomorrow eight o’clock’,” Debbie remembers. “Now that was my first responsibility to get out of bed and go somewhere.”

And Debbie did it. At eight the next day, she arrived at ADRA to begin volunteering.

“I really resonated with the hungry people coming in,” Debbie says. “I knew a lot of them because of the scene I was in, a lot of people who are homeless and hungry, I know them personally.”

Debbie volunteering with ADRA in Gatton

Volunteering with ADRA gave Debbie a sense of purpose and the community she craved.

“I go home, and I have a good conscience. I have a great day,” she says. “I’ve made a best friend called Patty. And just being accepted is really, really awesome. I’m growing every day and people around me can see the change. I’m enjoying my life. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been in a community. And I get respect from people.”

Debbie’s involvement with ADRA also helped to reconcile her broken relationship with her son Lincoln.

“So, from the beginning, drugs did ruin my life,” Lincoln says. “There was never, you know, a meal. There was never dinner at the table. You know, it was all struggle, struggle, struggle.”

Since Debbie started with ADRA, Lincoln has noticed the change in his mum.

“She is a lot more independent,” Lincoln says. “Now, she actually takes the time, does things right. She seems pretty happy and she’s very healthy.”

Pastor Darryl Groves is the manager of the ADRA Community Care Centre. The demand for the food services has skyrocketed since COVID-19. But he says that thanks to volunteers like Debbie and Lincoln, ADRA has been able to serve their community through these tough times.

“Lincoln and Debbie are amazing,” says Darryl. “They enjoy being here and we love having them here. They’re such an asset to our project and yeah, people like that…we wouldn’t be able to operate without them.”

Debbie with her son Lincoln

For Debbie and Lincoln, their encounter with ADRA has also introduced them to church and God.

“I came into church one day just to see what it was about,” Lincoln says. “I was like, ‘wow!’, it was like a giant family.”

Debbie says, “In 18 months since I’ve been here, I can feel my growth. I have a spiritual growth.”

With everything Debbie has experienced, she now believes she is in a position to help those who are going through the same thing.

“Maybe I can actually achieve something to help other addicts and alcoholics.”

You can watch Debbie’s full story by clicking on the link above.

The ADRA Appeal is the main source of funding for ADRA community projects in Australia. Let Love Shine this ADRA Appeal and help give someone the support they need to heal and rebuild their lives. Please donate at adra.org.au/shine