My name is Abe, and I’m here to tell you what addiction can do to you, and also what recovery can do for you. I was born in Russia, to a German Family, who went to church. As a result we faced persecution. When I was 17, our family moved to Germany. I left all my friends, everything I knew behind. This was a big culture shock to me. Moving from a conservative country to a place where sex was not taboo, I was overwhelmed. I was going to Church, but I was also starting to experiment with some of those things the world had to offer me.
I started living a double life. When I was 18 years old, I lost my virginity in the red light district to a prostitute. I never told anybody about it. I kept trying to get my life in order. I never wanted to ever be the person I was becoming. I was dishonest. When I tried to control my urge to look at porn and have sex, I got into gambling and quickly became addicted to it.
When I was 25 I met this beautiful girl from Canada who was visiting Germany. We fell in love, and started writing each other. A year later I moved to Canada and we got married. I loved her very much and I wanted to be a good husband. I managed to quit gambling, but I could not tell her all the secrets about my past life. On the outside life was good, we had three beautiful daughters, a successful business, nice house, nice cars, vacations.
I was involved in church, but my secrets kept me sick, they kept haunting me. It was just a matter of time before I started cheating on my wife. I was good with keeping secrets and living a double life, but my wife suspected there was something going on. My lifestyle cost me my marriage. This left me feeling empty, hurt, lonely and disgusted with myself.
To escape the pain and the hurt, I got back into gambling. When I would walk into the casino, the pain would go away, the world’s problems were no more, but when I would leave the casino, the problems were still there, and now I had more problems, because I would lose all my money. My daughters did not want to see me and the pain I was in, because my lifestyle was disgusting. I had no money for food, I was neglecting my health, and I was definitely not there for my girls when they needed me.
I hit my bottom, Christmas 2009, when I had to cancel Christmas with my girls because I had no food, and I was getting evicted from my apartment. My best efforts did not get me to stop gambling and get my life in order. One night when I saw what a mess my life had become I kneeled beside my bed and cried out to God, ”If you are there, take control of my life.”
After that my life did turn around. It was not an easy ride, but I was heading in a different direction. I was heading towards God, towards hope, towards recovery. God used people to show me a way to recovery. I was invited to a recovery house where most people there had struggles with alcohol & drugs. When I asked if this place would be a good fit for me, they told me if I gave 100% it would work. This was my last chance.
Through recovery I found my way to Addiction Recovery Ministry meetings at Sevenoaks Alliance Church. I learned that Jesus came for addicts and that everything else didn’t matter. Inner peace came. I learned through the steps of recovery, the tools needed to stop my compulsion to gambling. I learned to surrender my will to Christ. I learned to be transparent and honest, which was a complete turn-around from before when I would live in secret. I realised I needed others, that I couldn’t do this alone.
I got my job back, as well as a relationship with my daughters. People I used to associate with are no longer a part of my life. Today I have a support network that does just that, they support me. I realised that God is not interested in my performance, but rather the attitude of my heart, and that he is always there for me. Addiction Recovery Ministry is a place where I can be myself, and be understood for who I really am. I have made many lasting relationships.
Not everything in recovery happens right away. It’s different for everyone, some get it right away, others take awhile. This is important because this way we don’t compare ourselves to others progress, that’s what makes us unique. Today I realise, I don’t have to wait till I’m perfect, but like a beggar sharing bread with another beggar, I am passionate about helping other people who have struggles, just like me. Thanks for listening to my story.