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  • Writer's pictureAustin Smith

Rene

Updated: May 3, 2023

“I had a good upbringing with a mum and a dad that loved me and loved each other. I was quite good at school, and I could have had a promising future in boxing but I felt like something was missing. I mistakenly thought that something was drink and drugs.


“My first experience with drugs was with cannabis at the age of 16, but quickly moved on to harder drugs like heroin, crack cocaine, LSD - the list goes on. To pay for this, I sold drugs, got into fights, and was in and out of police cells. The police knew me by name! It just kept getting worse, I was in and out of trouble, bringing shame on my family, constantly being stopped and searched as a known drug dealer.



“One night I was drinking with a friend in his flat when the door was barged in with a grinder and about ten people burst in: there was a massive fight. That night a lot of people got hurt for no good reason. I finally got home, bruised and battered, but these people came to my flat the next day wanting more blood, and this kept happening - like a war, with no one winning – bit like a modern day Peaky Blinders. My family became really scared for my safety. Around this time I picked up the Bible I owned and started to read it, though I didn’t understand it, and I even started going to church – what kind of gangster was I? I just felt there had to be something better. And in all this madness I moved out for my own safety and found a bed-sit in Chatham.


"I moved in to my new place - brilliant, you think. A fresh start! But I quickly got back into my old habits of taking drugs again and mixing with the wrong crowd which went on in a blur for about a year and half. Three times I got so low I thought about ending my life – once I tried to hang myself, but despite testing it, the rope snapped when I stepped off the chair. Then one day I heard about a centre that helps people out with food, called Caring Hands in the Community. So l went round there, not knowing what to expect, and as I walked through the door I saw people like myself who needed help with food, but also advice. The Manager was sitting at a table talking to people. And as I kept going there, more and more I started noticing that confirmed addicts like myself were being freed of addiction. How is this, I wondered?


"As I listened a bit more I heard the name of Jesus Christ being mentioned. And I saw that Jesus had changed people’s lives. Then I became aware that it was a Christian Day Centre and the feelings I felt before returned. I was thinking - what is this? Then John, a volunteer and former guest, told me it was the Holy Spirit. He explained what this was, and it all started to make sense. I was invited to church and began to go again and got to know God and Jesus. I have been clean now for 10 years (after years of going in and out of rehab, the combination of the people around me and the experts at Turning Point helped me get clean), and Jesus restored everything I’d lost back to me.


“I went to live in a Christian community, and volunteered at Caring Hands for three years, which helped me to learn work skills. In 2015, Marty drove me to an interview with COOK, the frozen foods manufacturer who donate a lot of overstocks to Caring Hands. By that time, I was off all the medications and had got my confidence back, so I got the job and worked for them until Autumn 2022, when I was offered my dream job at Caring Hands. I said, back when I volunteered for them, that I’d love to work for Caring Hands one day, and now here I am! I’m also happily married to a lovely woman who loves Jesus as much as I do and life couldn't be better."


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