Massimo* shares his drugs, alcohol and gambling addiction and recovery experience and how his faith helped him accept himself and rebuild his life. He is now a B.A. Hons in Social Policy graduate from the University of Malta.
As a young boy, at the age of 6-7, being the youngest in the family I used to get a lot of attention and protection, I felt very secure. This was a big restriction, due to this I became very angry and from a very young age I started swearing and stealing from my brothers. Time passed and at age of 9 I started drinking alcohol and smoking when alone. When my cousins were around I used to drink and smoke even more in order to impress them.
From one addiction to another – “I saw all my life failing”
By time, I got into gambling and from spending 10 cents on a video game I ended up betting between €100 to €2000 either on a football game or at the casino. At the age of 14, I started smoking marijuana and soon after I started taking LSD, then ecstasy and cocaine, and at the age of 19 I started heroin. That was the time when I experienced a new feeling. This was the first time I felt that I can overcome my weaknesses and my fears and all my insecurities had withdrawn. This made me more comfortable and confident with myself. The addiction took over my life and to cope with the habit I had to steal. I used to wake up in the morning sick so I either had to take heroin or go to the hospital for my methadone dose.
Time passed and at the age of 27 I faced the worst time of my life. I had problems with the police, the relationship with my family deteriorated and was facing financial problems too. This was the end of life for me, but at the same time, I kept thinking about those people who constantly were challenging me to take stock of my life.
Eventually, I went into a rehabilitation programme. As soon as I arrived at the gate, I saw all my life failing. At the age of 27, I had to start from scratch.
The recovery experience – “It was the first time I said sorry”
I went to confession and attended mass and I received Holy Communion. I felt that there was someone who accepted me as I was with all my past. I’ve passed through a lot of bad things. I’ve hurt a lot of people by stealing from them amongst other things. After a while, I got a Bible and I started praying from the gospel of Matthew.
Many scriptures were helping me to heal from my past experiences and these made me more curious to know more about Jesus. I had a problem with a colleague and I was battling between forgiveness and revenge. My background traits were contradicting the Word of God. On one hand, there was the old voice shouting to take revenge and on the other hand the new voice whispering forgiveness. So, I decided to forgive, that was also the first time I said sorry to someone. As soon as I said it I felt something leaving from my inner being. This was followed by great inner peace and this peace was even greater and more powerful than that nice feeling of heroin.
“I felt the urge to give something back”
On my 1st weekend out of the rehab, I went to a weekend retreat. This retreat called Come and See is organised by a religious organisation called Youth Fellowship. During this weekend Jesus continued showing me his love through the people I met.
I felt the urge to give something back from what I had received. So, I went for a 6 months of missionary work to Ethiopia. There, Jesus continued speaking to me through the poverty and sickness that I came in touch with.
Following that, I started working in catering. At one point I resigned from my job to work as a full-time voluntary worker with Youth Fellowship.
“My challenge today is realise who is forming my opinion”
Since then more than 14 years have passed. I can safely say that I had achievements and disappointments, pain and joy, acceptance and rejection as well. With the support of the community and with Jesus in my life I’ve always managed to find solutions because he is “the way, the truth and (my) life. Jn14:6.
My challenge nowadays is to be aware of who is forming my opinion on how to be a Christian and a real disciple of Jesus. As I said previously, I know that by the word of God I cannot go wrong. What I feel and think are not important but what’s important to me is what Jesus thinks and feels about me! I know that He knows me better than I know myself. Trusting Him is for my own good as I want the best for myself. The more I come closer to Jesus, the better I come to know myself. The better I know myself; the more I feel the urgency to be with Him.
*Name has been changed.