After I Lost My Health, Job, Wife, Kids, House, and Freedom

A man shares the story of his turnaround with the support of an ADRA Australia project.

Lauren Bongard Schwarz, Adventist Record
After I Lost My Health, Job, Wife, Kids, House, and Freedom
Jim found a new life with the support of an ADRA Australia community project. [Photo: ADRA Australia]

“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 had worked in the liquor industry for more than 20 years, but after choosing to give up his drinking and recreational drug habits, cracks in his marriage started to appear. The pair started free counseling sessions at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Community Center in Blacktown, New South Wales, Australia, to try to save their marriage. Through individual and group counseling, food parcels, crisis relief, emergency housing, and other tailored programs, the center 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. Eddy Johnson, the pastor and qualified counselor he’d seen at the ADRA Community Center in Blacktown, kept in touch with Jim and encouraged him throughout his time behind bars.

“Pastor Eddy wrote me letters constantly while I was in jail, and the letters he wrote changed my life,” Jim says. “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 counseling himself. Now, he’s two years away from becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.

“I’ve been involved in the AA and Narcotics Anonymous fellowship for more than ten 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 counseling, so Jim returned to the ADRA Community Center to continue his counseling with Johnson. 

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

Jim also attends the Sabbath afternoon Bible study group that meets at the ADRA Blacktown offices. Johnson hosts the gathering, which begins with a Bible study and ends with a potluck supper and socializing. 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 counseling to food pantries and emergency relief, these services help people who are facing hardship. 

The original version of this story was posted on Adventist Record.

Lauren Bongard Schwarz, Adventist Record