wrbc_life_swMy first encounter with drink was almost a full bottle of gin. I was twelve. It was the school holidays and I was attending a three day cricket coaching clinic.

On the last morning some older friends arrived and asked if we had any alcohol at home. I succumbed to the peer pressure and ended up missing the clinic. I remember the remorse I felt the next day as I experienced my first hangover. A door had been opened. After that I would drink on weekends before going to parties with my friends. Drinking continued throughout my school years. It gave me confidence with others, especially with girls. I remember my first bout of depression when I was around 14. I felt so down I would cut myself off from others and hang out in my room, especially when we had visitors.

The drinking accelerated as I got older and so did the depression. I didn’t really understand what was happening to me. I started failing at school and even moved to a new school hoping things would improve, but of course, I only took myself with me! I was dropping further behind at school as whenever I could, I would sleep or daydream. After school I did two years compulsory training in the South African army. I was fortunate enough to go to leadership school and become an officer. One day when I was on the border on the Caprivi Strip near Botswana, I was shot and this trauma accelerated my drinking and bouts of depression. After the army, I drifted from job to job, between which I would return home and hang out in my room for days, feeling depressed. Suicidal thoughts began to grip me; torn by my regrets of the past and my fantasies of the future. It was a very dark, lonely world. Late one night this reached a climax in a hotel room. I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t recognise myself. The hotel window beckoned. It was my rock bottom moment but also the last day I had a drink. Because rather than going out the window, I went down to the beachfront. It was a very hot day in Durban. The sun shone down on me and I felt the warmth of it on my flesh. I also felt God was looking down on me. I reached out to Him and started talking to Him. This was not really something I’d done before. I broke down and cried for over an hour as I ventured home all the time speaking to God. That was 27 years ago. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous and not only did I get sober but I also developed my relationship with God – or as they said in AA, ‘my Higher Power.’ This became a lifeline and I sobered up.

But depression still clung to me. Anti-depressants helped but when I took myself off them I would make irrational decisions. I eventually stabilised sufficiently to get married to an amazing woman and had four wonderful children. Although I was sober and although I’d developed a relationship with God, I was still struggling with my mood swings. One day I got in my car and drove towards the golf range as I had got really irritated and wanted to be on my own. There, while driving my car, I acknowledged to God, that while I had a relationship with Him for years, I had never given my life to Jesus as Lord, or thanked Him for dying on the cross so my sins could be forgiven. So there in my car while driving up to Fields Hill in Pinetown I asked Jesus into my life. There were no bells or whistles, just a quiet yielding of my life to Jesus.

In 2002 we moved to England. After a few years the depression got so bad I would struggle to work on occasions. This baffled me. Here I was: a sober alcoholic, a committed Christian, but suffering bouts of depression. Was something radically wrong with me? I was becoming a nightmare to live with – moody, negative, lacking energy and impatient. To escape I would sleep and watch movies. Eventually I went back onto medication. Was I going to have to rely on these pills for ever? They seemed to help at first but then after a while the depression returned. In desperation I went to a psychotherapist. But that didn’t help. A sense of panic grew: was this to be the pattern for the rest of my life? Eventually I sought the help of my pastor. One day during a bad bout of depression I sat in his office. We talked about how I felt for a while. Then we prayed. He asked me to use my imagination in a word-picture he painted. It was a moment when Jesus came to my deepest self. I felt myself unwinding. The fresh, life-giving energy of God’s Holy Spirit entered my body. My soul was being renewed – panic retreated! That day I floated out of his office. Since that day, which is now some months ago, I have not had another bout of depression. I can only thank God for his healing. God became so real to me reaching into my depressive state. And while I still may battle with my feelings, I am so grateful to the Lord for the tools he is giving me to help with my depression and for keeping me sober for the past 27 years.