David Tierney talks about the night he planned to end his life, and what happened to change his mind.
On Christmas Eve 1995 I chose my weapon. I had been heavily involved in organised crime in Liverpool for many years, living at 100 miles an hour but reaching the end of myself. I decided on the date, January 28th. My life was held together by violence, drink and drugs. I drank every day and had a £250 a week cocaine habit. I was losing control; I’d reached the end of myself.
I knelt on my living room floor, cold metal against my skin with drink at one side and drugs on the other. At 11.25 I was ready to do it, but in the last moment I cried out to God.
“Jesus, can I put my trust in you?”
I felt tingling in my hands, electricity crackled the air. I felt the most incredible sense of forgiveness and of love.
God had turned up in person.
Love pouring into all the pain, hate and hurt held within me. I felt forgiveness and then God spoke my name.
“All I ever wanted you to do David, is to trust in me.”
As I stood, I felt the drugs drain out. I stood totally free and in my right mind. No more thoughts of death, just peace. I set fire to my drugs, £150! My drink was hurled down the sink.
I staggered next door, to pour out my soul after this spectacular encounter with God, my wife’s face creased into a frown and she said, “Can’t it wait ten minutes till the adverts are on?”
The next day I spoke to my mates and criminal associates and boldly, confidently told them, “I met Jesus.”
Their response, “Dave’s had a bad acid!”
Being thought bonkers separated me from them, which gave time to understand what God had done. I knew I would serve God full time. I knew I was set apart. I knew I had a purpose. I just needed to find out what it was...
My purpose turned up as two bags of baps and burgers. I had set off in a burger van serving hot food round Widnes town centre. I found drug addiction and homelessness rife in my area. I became determined to do something to help young men trapped into addiction like I was.
In 1997 the Lighthouse Foundation was born. By 1999 we had a coffee shop; through it we helped hundreds of young adults with their addictions. Seeing addicts consistently fail in traditional rehab broke my heart. There had to be something better.
My own experience taught that, for rehab to work, the addict needs to be separated from their peers and provided with alternative community. For me that community was a local church. What they needed was a touch from God like I’d had.
In 2001 the Lighthouse-supported living project began in a bungalow on the same site as my church, church@thefoundry. We have five beds, soon to be ten, in our unit and are the only Christian rehab to receive state funding in the UK.
The “apprenticeship for life” programme is personal and specific to the individuals and their families. They trust in me to walk with them for the five years or so it takes to be totally free of addiction. Drugs dominate the life of the addict so everything else is lost. We take them as God accepts them and hold their hand as the Holy Spirit restores. Surprisingly, this might be as mundane as teaching someone to shave or shower every day.
The challenge for me now is to equip local churches for the issues that substance misuse brings. They often feel that they can’t rise to that challenge because they have no experience of substance misuse. Substance misuse is just a symptom. The problem is separation from God. Deal with the problem and the substance misuse disappears. Drugs attack a very deep spiritual root in our lives. I find virtually every addict in the unit here has had contact with the occult.
My conversion was extreme, my life before was extreme, today my passion and purpose in meeting and reaching those whose lives are devastated by drugs is extreme. I was an addict who was healed by a touch from God. I dedicate my life to bringing that touch to the darkest places in our society. I’m driven by the night when it might have been my blood, not beer, that was spilt on the carpet. David Tierney is director of the Lighthouse Foundation in Widnes, Cheshire. www.lighthousefoundation.org.uk