Rikki Doolan spent years travelling the world, chasing meaning and fulfilment. Drugs and alcohol couldn't fill the void, and he found himself homeless on the streets of Manchester. That's when he stepped into a cathedral and everything began to change
I spent my university years indulging in a lifestyle of boozing, drugging, and partying while earning my business management degree at Teeside University.
After my degree, in search of adventure and escape, I left England with nothing but a backpack of clothes, my guitar, and a one-way ticket to Thailand. I had no clear plan, no direction, and no idea of what lay ahead.
Thailand offered an alluring nightlife, and I succumbed to the allure of SangSom whiskey and Red Bull-filled buckets. The indulgence of harder substances like yaba, ganja, ice, and opium soon followed. Settling in Pai, a mountain town, I found myself perpetually lost in intoxication. The wickedness I saw in the world and everyday life fuelled my anger, and I stubbornly refused to consider the idea of a higher power.
My travels continued over the next few years, taking me through Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, and back again. Throughout my journey, I honed my musical skills, expressing my experiences through songs. Live performances at open mic nights became a regular part of my lifestyle. I had become convinced that a rock and roll existence, fuelled by whiskey and drugs, was the life I desired. I even sang about selling my soul to the devil for the sake of music.
Back in Manchester, I stayed afloat as a full time busker, but it quickly led me to homelessness.
The streets of Manchester, have a cold and unforgiving nature. My community were Big Issue sellers, pub dwellers, and street sleepers. In the midst of navigating life’s harsh realities, my only solace came from my 6-string guitar, bag of harmonicas, and packets of cigarettes. However, even these small comforts couldn’t shield me from the constant chaos and mayhem that seemed to follow my every step.
I found myself spiralling downwards, trapped in a rut with no sense of purpose. I was lost, drowning in a sea of hopelessness.
Jesus answered the prayer of an unbelieving, unworthy, down and out young man
I began to question my worth, wondering if my life had any value at all. In the depths of my despair, I asked myself, “Where can I go? Who can help me? Where can I turn?”
I hit rock bottom, feeling utterly helpless.
On a rainy day, after a particularly disheartening busking session, I sought solace in Manchester Cathedral. As I sat in a quiet room at the back of the building, I looked up to the corner and, despite my disbelief, silently asked a God I didn’t truly believe in for help.
Despite returning to my life on the streets, my experience at the cathedral sparked a shift within me. I began studying the history of American music, delving into the roots of blues, country, and gospel. The music of artists such as Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Shirley Caesar resonated with me deeply, striking a chord in my soul. While under the influence of drugs, I would find myself watching Mahalia Jackson’s performances on YouTube, and tears would flow uncontrollably. Something powerful was happening inside me.
I eventually returned to my hometown of Middlesbrough, reconnecting with my family. I transitioned into promoting live music events in pubs and nightclubs. My heavy partying and drug use continued, with substances like Cocaine, MDMA, MKAT, and ketamine wreaking havoc on my life.
One morning, after a night of drug-fuelled partying, I stumbled upon the vibrations of gospel music emanating from a church. Scared and broken, I hesitated to enter, feeling unworthy and filthy. But when I finally stepped inside, I was met with love and acceptance. That day, Jesus began to touch my life in ways I never expected.
Within weeks, I had embraced Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, and my life began to transform dramatically. My addiction was replaced with a fervent passion for Jesus and spreading the word of God through music. I joined the worship team, playing my guitar, and I have not missed a Sunday service since.
Jesus healed me from the inside out, turning my life around completely. I became a pastor and a gospel rock and roll artist, married a wonderful woman, and became a father to two beautiful daughters. The life I lead now is a stark contrast to the one I once lived on the streets of Manchester.
I owe everything to God’s unyielding love and grace. He answered the prayers of an unbelieving, lost, and desperate young man. Even when I turned my back on him, he never gave up on me. My life now is dedicated to sharing his love and message with every soul I can reach through my music and my testimony.
Jesus answered the prayer of an unbelieving, unworthy, down and out young man. He loved me, even when I hated him, he never gave up on me, even when I gave up on him. This is our Jesus, and this is why since then my life has been dedicated to sharing his love and word with every possible soul that I can through my music and my testimony. God is so good!
Rikki Doolan’s new single 'Turned it Around' is out now