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A way out

Austin Vaiago-Jones
Posted April 28, 2019

Austin Vaiago-Jones says he ‘lived’ for meth. Now, he lives for Jesus and helping others find recovery.

I was born and raised in central Auckland. I was a successful rugby league coach and helped run a business for 14 years. For 13 of those years I was engaged. But I gave all this up—I lost it all—to become a meth cook.

My whole world revolved around manufacturing and selling methanphetimine. I lived for it. I came very close—too close—to being killed on a number of occasions. I remember having a gun pulled on me, and saying to my mates afterwards, ‘We shouldn’t be alive—how did we escape that?’

I was aware that someone was looking out for me, but I wasn’t prepared to acknowledge that presence.

I had a few mates who’d gone to rehab to get their drug addiction under control, so I self-referred and entered the Bridge programme at Mt Eden. That’s where my journey with God began. That was two years and one month ago. I’m 781 days clean.

At the Bridge, I attended ‘spirituality’ class with Lieutenants Fiona and Rance Stuart. I wasn’t ready to accept God as my higher power at that stage, but as they shared about the beginning of The Salvation Army, William Booth’s story and passion inspired me. I began to come alive spiritually, learning about the history and DNA of the Army. Being part of a movement that changed lives, just like mine was being changed, was really attractive!

I started attending Recovery Church as part of the Bridge programme. God showed me that I was alive to help other addicts see there is a way out.

I went into rehab to fix my drug habit, but what really needed fixing was me. I describe my relationship with God like this: I’m a passenger in my own car and God’s the driver. For the first time in my life I’m content with myself and my situation. I’ve had some tough times lately, but I’m just so much more relaxed and at peace.

Captain Eric Turner was running classes about membership in The Salvation Army. Through those classes, I learnt about the full commitment required to become a soldier, and I knew this was part of God’s plan for me.

When I was struggling with full blown addiction, I used to have a recurring  dream. I was one of four people standing on a hill with God. We all had flaming swords. Below us, in the valley, were lots of demons. God would say, ‘Austin, are you ready?’ And we’d all start running down the hill into the battle. I believe I’m alive and clean and a Salvation Army soldier because God wants me to help fight the demons of addiction and homelessness.

So, now I’m working at Epsom Lodge as a Support Worker, where I get to share what God has done in my life with those coming out of jail or going into recovery. Having ‘lived experience’ is a powerful witness because I know what it’s like to be an addict. I’ve gained so much by going into rehab, and part of that was the realisation that I deserved a better life. I had lost everything, so I had nothing to lose by trying to change. A lot of addicts fear change, so I try to get them to see that not changing is the real enemy.

It’s fair to say that I treat my recovery like I did my addiction—it’s all or nothing.

So now, when it comes to life, I’m all in!

By Austin Vaiago-Jones (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 20 April 2019, p11  - You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.