17 April, 2023

“I’d lost my health, job, wife, kids, house, and freedom.” 

In the space of a year, Jim’s life was turned upside down. He worked in the liquor industry for more than 20 years, but after choosing to give up his drinking and recreational drugs habits, cracks in his marriage started to appear. The pair started free counselling sessions at the ADRA Community Centre in Blacktown to try to save their marriage. Through individual and group counselling, food parcels, crisis relief, emergency housing and other tailored programs, the centre not only provides a safety net, but helps build stronger individuals and families for more resilient communities. These services are provided free of charge thanks to the numerous volunteers who give their time and energy. 

“We were looking for someone to help us recommunicate and reconnect,” Jim says. “I was very much in love with my wife and loved my two little girls. I wanted my family to succeed.” 

Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t survive. Jim found himself on a downward spiral, struggling for the right to spend time with his children and restart his life. After an altercation with his former father-in-law about seeing his young daughters, Jim spent seven months in jail.  

But rather than spiralling further, his time in jail gave him a new perspective. “I’d never been in trouble with the law before,” he shares. Pastor Eddy Johnson, the qualified counsellor he’d seen at the ADRA Community Centre in Blacktown, kept in touch with Jim and encouraged him throughout his time behind bars. 

Jim (left) with Pastor Eddy Johnson

“Pastor Eddy wrote me letters constantly while I was in jail, and the letters he wrote changed my life,” says Jim. “He gave me verses in the Bible to read, especially Job. I felt I was unjustly in there, but it was good for me. It straightened me out completely and humbled me.”

While in jail, Jim started attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and decided to study counselling himself. Now, he’s two years away from becoming a drug and alcohol counsellor. 

“I’ve been involved in the AA and Narcotics Anonymous fellowship for more than 10 years now because of my recovery,” Jim shares. “I always had an interest in helping others, but my life used to be about getting excited when a big deal came across. Now I get excited when I get a call from a mother saying that I’ve helped her son overcome addiction. That high is better than any drug I’ve ever had. I want my life to be more about service than getting served.” 

Although his path was tough, Jim is thankful for the experiences. “I found myself through the process,” he says.  

When he was released, the judge strongly recommended that Jim continue counselling, so Jim returned to the ADRA Community Centre to continue his counselling with Eddy.  

“[This is] ongoing sponsoring in the sense of having someone reliable to turn to,” Eddy shares. “The benefit of being a sponsor is the joy of seeing concrete, positive change occurring over time.” 

Jim with his two daughters

Jim also attends the Saturday afternoon bible study group that meets at ADRA Blacktown offices. Eddy hosts the gathering, which begins with a bible study and ends with a potluck supper and socialising. The group has become a second family to Jim and other participants. 

“Before, I was an angry man,” Jim recalls. “I would hit challenges head on with an angry attitude. But now, I hit them with the understanding that God gives you certain challenges so you can grow as a human being. If you embrace that and work through it, you can become a better person.” 

ADRA operates over 100 community projects around Australia. From counselling to food pantries and emergency relief, these services help people who are facing hardship. If you need assistance, please call 1800 242 372 or visit adra.org.au/get-help to find the nearest project.

Words: Lauren Bongard Schwarz