Practical advice and inspirational testimony for all those suffering addictions.
Justyn Rees Larcombe

This is a story of hope.

I’d always wanted to be in the army. On my first day at Sandhurst Military College my mum dropped me off and handed me a copy of Living Lights devotional. I was putting God first at that time of my life, living for Him.

All the new recruits wanted to be on the rugby team because it meant an afternoon off during the week. I got selected but they were to train on a Sunday, when I spoke up about not wanting to play on a Sunday, this was accepted and wasn’t considered an issue. It wasn’t long before I was made Captain, which was a big deal for me. Things were going well.

My career in the army was mapped out but I had a reality check after I finished at Sandhurst and went on to start my flight training. I discovered a slight problem; I couldn’t actually land, so I joined the Royal Artillery instead.

I was placed in south Armagh and then in Bosnia, but I was restless and not content, so I left and went to the City of London to work in insurance, where I started life at the bottom as a Junior boy. I was ambitious so soon completed my associate exams. All through this time I was putting God first, but not for long.

My Bible was by my bed collecting dust. I said to God, thanks very much, I can mange myself from now on. I thought I’d made it in life, and I pushed God away.

My wife Emma and I began to notice a few things about our eldest son Matthew. He wasn’t using his right hand or meeting his milestones. We took him to the Doctor who almost immediately diagnosed Right side hemiplegia that meant limited movement caused by a bleed on the brain. A week later, it was a hot day and Matthew started to have a fit. I, as a parent, did everything wrong. He turned purple and I couldn’t find any breathing. I did something for the first time in months – I prayed. My neighbour came along and took over the situation until the ambulance arrived. He didn’t die and I can’t even remember thanking God for getting us through that. In the next weeks and months I really struggled to some to terms with the fact that our son was severely disabled.

One evening I was watching rugby on the TV and saw an ad for a sports bet. I got my laptop and placed a bet from the comfort of my own home, and I won. I’m competitive and I’m an optimist, which are not good traits for a gambler. It wasn’t long before I was losing more than I was winning but I continued and even convinced my work to set me up from home. Each morning I’d do a few hours work then spend much of the day gambling. I hid everything from my wife, which involved secrets and lies. She trusted me and I told myself that it was best because I didn’t want to worry her. Emma began to notice changes in me, I was moody and she started to wonder what it could be. I was withdrawing as a husband and a father. As more money was lost, I took out loans, spent our house deposit and got further into debt.

At the same time I was pushing my God away as well as the people I loved the most, my wife and our children. I had lost control but still thought that the way out was to have a big win. I lived in a horrible world full of self-loathing, pretending to be a person I had once been and not who I was now. My company realised after I had spent £27,000 of their money. Emma found out, soon afterwards and she tried to stand me. Things were ok for a few weeks but I was getting emails from gambling companies offering me free bets, which I took them up on it. One morning I woke up and the house was quiet. Emma had taken the boys and left. I was self-imploding but still continued in my habit. I took my Sword of Honour, which I was awarded by the Queen when I was in the army and sold it for £200. It represented everything that was good in my life, I cried when I left the shop knowing what I’d just done. These were dark times.

My mum, dad and brother came to visit me and told me that I needed to move out and get myself sorted. Walking around my house putting a couple of things into a black bin bag. I was humiliated, I was broken and it was only then I got on my knees and prayed. Christ healed me, pretty much immediately.

My advice to any one trying to support someone going through an addiction is to do as my mum did; she showed me love and care, she didn’t convict me.

I had a new start that my Creator had given me but I was struggling to forgive myself. Getting back into God’s Word was so helpful because there was no room for gambling or self-habits there. Each day I was putting my priorities in order and I could breathe again. It’s very isolating being involved in an addiction but I realised I wasn’t the only one suffering. I found a Christian recovery system, and now I help to run one through my church. Anyone with a secret habit has something they are escaping from and our addiction becomes our shield. The wonderful thing about Christ is that He fixes us from the inside out. I was carrying some pain but once I started to share my story things got easier.

To help with my recovery I undertook to swim the channel because I was a fairly decent swimmer and found the training very therapeutic plus it filled time for me. My pilot chose the day so we set off and things were going well. He was navigating me past the busy shipping channels and avoiding boats but when we were closer to France I saw a light on the horizon and aimed for it. My pilot was shouting at me to reroute because he had the information to guide and stay out of the winds. I ignored him, I was going my own way, I thought I could see land and was heading straight for it. Eventually I was taking in seawater, my throat was beginning to swell so the pilot shone a light by the boat and I swam over to it. Things were easier there, I was protected by the wind, I took on some carbohydrates, the team encouraged me, and I knew that this was just like my life with Jesus. When I live in the darkness, directing my own path, things go drastically wrong, but when I live in the light, I live with the Lord who protect and guides.