We ask students from Devon's rehabilitation centre Gilead Foundations to tell us their stories. This time it's the turn of GAVIN HUNTER.

Saved by Grace: Gavin Hunter

I am 27 years old and I grew up in West Yorkshire. Mum is a strong Jehovah's Witness and Dad is a strong atheist, and I had a fairly stable upbringing. I struggled till I was 12 or 13 with their conflicting beliefs. Then I gave up and rebelled. I had never felt like I belonged or fit in - I didn't feel like I should be here in the world full stop. I started smoking cannabis and taking LSD and I went from being a fairly good student to just getting off my head all the time. But I had a group of "cool" friends and I belonged and was accepted. My aim in life was to be a party animal - Jim Morrisson and others were my idols, and a self-destructive life was cool.

When I left school I got into clubbing and the drugs that go with it. I developed psychosis and began to be unable to cope, but I did not want to give up the lifestyle. Then someone gave me some heroin to smoke when I was coming down one night, and it did the trick for me. I used heroin regularly for coming down, but it grew to be a habit on its own and then I started injecting, till in the end all I was doing was going to work and taking heroin. I spent the next three years doing detox's, failing, doing them again. In the end I went to Gilead and stayed for eight months, and got clean. But I rejected all the God stuff. When I left Gilead I stayed clean, got a good job and settled down but still felt I had no purpose and life was futile. So I relapsed again and became quite suicidal.

I returned to Gilead in 2003 and realised I had tried every thing except God and, as a last straw, I prayed and gave God a go. It was a last ditch attempt, everything else had failed to cure the purposeless, futile, suicidal feelings I had. Nothing really dramatic happened, but gradually as I read the Bible I began to find I had a purpose and a reason to live - and that's to serve God. The hardest thing I found was to have faith that it is all true, because of the depression I suffered with. I started with a tiny morsel of faith, which has gradually grown. Now I have a purpose and a life ahead. I've worked on the farm, and now I'm in the office helping new applicants to come into Gilead. I want to get involved in social work, helping people, whether that's at Gilead or elsewhere. I may still be prone to occasional depression - it's more how I handle it now that's different. And some of the root issues that caused that are being healed, too. Mum and Dad are really pleased, even if they do not fully agree with my faith.

If I met someone in the same place I was in, I would say they need to look to God and ask him for help first - if they do, he will put that help in their lives, and the people to help them. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.