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‘Meaningless’ becomes ‘meaningful’ for Jose


Jose shares his testimony at The Salvation Army’s 2023 Christmas Appeal event in Sydney. Photo: Greg Donovan

Jose Porcia, a soldier from Coffs Harbour Corps, has been accepted as a cadet to be part of the 2024 Keepers of the Covenant session. He shares his testimony with Salvos Online

 

I was born and raised in Cebu, Philippines, the eldest in a family of four kids. My dad died when I was 15, and two years later my entire family – my mother and my siblings – migrated to Australia.

 

Jose shares his testimony at The Salvation Army’s 2023 Christmas Appeal event in Sydney. Photo: Greg Donovan


After completing Year 12, I joined the workforce to help my mum support my younger siblings. I landed my first job with the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1990. I then went on to work for AMP Investments and Perpetual Investments until the early 2000s.

 

In retrospect, it was a relatively successful period of my life. I had a good job, my siblings completed their studies, my sister and my youngest brother both got married, I had a great relationship with my family, and I had a few good friends.

 

In 2003, I had a life-changing experience – an experience that changed the trajectory of my life in ways that I never dreamt of. One Sunday afternoon, a very good friend of mine invited me to his house in Bella Vista to watch Sunday football.

 

As naturally as pulling out a can of beer from the fridge, he pulled out a glass pipe and a clear plastic bag with a crystal substance. It was a substance I came to know and fall in love with – ICE, aka crystal methamphetamine. According to my friend, this drug was a source of wisdom. He reasoned to me that all professionals took this drug. 

 

The moment I tried ICE, I felt on top of the world, and I was hooked. Suddenly, I had confidence. When I was in front of clients, I could anticipate questions. But, more importantly, it numbed the pain of the grief I was feeling about the loss of someone close to me.

 

The downside is that ICE stops you from sleeping. Sometimes, I would drink a bottle of whiskey to go to sleep. But sleep was the enemy of high. Why get high and sleep? So, I didn’t sleep for days.

 

At first, there was a daily choice about whether to take ICE, but the addiction rapidly took hold of my life, and it became a matter of when, not if, I would get my hands on ICE that day. Within six months, I was spending $1000 a week on my habit. This was all fine until I ran out of savings. 

 

My addiction progressed so quickly that, fast forward another six months, I lost my job. I got evicted because I could not pay my rent. My car was repossessed. I had to move back to my mum’s house. I racked up credit card debt to fund the addiction. I started to break into my brother’s home to steal stuff to pay for the drugs. Eventually, my mum kicked me out, and I became alienated from my family.

 

“They say there are three places an ICE addict will end up: prison, hospital, death. In my 13 years of addiction, I experienced the first two.”

I became desperate to do anything to get the money to chase the high. I turned to crime to support my habit, from theft to fraud. I shoplifted, I stole mail, I stole credit cards.

 

They say there are three places an ICE addict will end up: prison, hospital, death. In my 13 years of addiction, I experienced the first two.

 

When you are in ICE addiction, you don’t see your life as it really is. I remember one of the loneliest feelings was after being released from Bathurst prison after 18 months, and no one was waiting for me behind the gates. Nevertheless, an addict’s instinct is to score. The moment I got off the train in Parramatta, I went straight to a dealer's house. 

 

After being arrested yet again for possession in 2015, Parramatta Drug Court gave me a choice to attend a drug rehab. While I accepted the option, in the back of my mind, I still planned to escape.


I was released from prison with a one-way ticket to Coffs Harbour to attend a rehabilitation centre. I was also given a black garbage bag of donated clothes that were three sizes too big. Shoes that were three sizes too big. I had a rope for a belt.

 

I was walking through Sydney Airport when I experienced my first spiritual awakening. I looked at everyone else with their luggage, and they were happy. Then I saw my life as it really was, and not the delusion in my head. I was 45 years old, and the sum total of my life was a black garbage bag, the contents of which did not belong to me. 

 

It was the reality check I needed. I smashed my phone to eliminate the temptation of getting in touch with any dealers or former connections and spent 11 months in that treatment centre. It was Adele House, a treatment centre managed by The Salvation Army.

 

There I relearned things I didn’t even realise I had lost.

 

The program allowed me to learn new routines to develop new patterns of living. To wake up at 5.30am, to do things you didn’t like doing (like raking leaves every day), to create smart goals, to budget, to cook and to learn new skills.

 

There was group and individual therapy that facilitated emotional healing. This is important because when you take the drugs away from an addict, what you are left with are the reasons they need to use in the first place. 

 

One day at a time, I got clean, and I did everything they asked me to do. In that rehab, through the work of Salvation Army officers Majors June and Russell Grice, The Salvation Army became an important part of my life.


Jose shares his inspiring story at the Christmas Appeal event in Sydney.

In the beginning, my recovery was difficult. Just because I became sober, it didn’t mean life got easier. ‘Life’ was, in fact, more difficult than ‘addiction’. The reality of my situation now finally hit me. I had no skills, I was unemployable. I had to face the challenges of a normal person – getting a job, putting food on the table and paying rent. I couldn’t reach out to my family. My family was, in fact, my biggest challenge because they had heard all my excuses before. (Today, though, my family is a big part of my life.)

 

I was an addict, even after I was clean for more than six months. I couldn’t see the point of life. I was still the same person. I had no hope. Nothing mattered. Nothing made sense.


Then, one morning, maybe three or four in the morning, I got up to open the door for a puppy we had at the rehab farm. As I was opening the door, I tripped over my Bible, which opened at the book of Ecclesiastes, and I read the words “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless”. I was just stunned.


“I realised also that I didn’t have to look for God because God came for us through Jesus.”

I realised that righteousness and foolishness do not matter unless we are anchored firmly to God. I realised also that I didn’t have to look for God because God came for us through Jesus. That was really the beginning of the journey.


Once out in the world again, I had to recreate my life. I was lucky to have availed various wraparound services that created a pathway to new living. Most significant of all was The Salvation Army. The people there lived, loved and fought alongside me in the early days when I couldn’t live, love and fight myself.

 

Today, I am eight years sober. The Salvos aided my journey in every way, and Coffs Harbour Salvation Army became my spiritual home. I went back to university. I graduated with a degree two years ago, and I am halfway through a Bachelor of Ministry.

 

My mission field today is with the Australian Anti-Ice Campaign. We provide peer support work and specific anti-ice education workshops in schools as well as in Juvenile Justice Centres throughout Australia. We do this in partnership with the Salvos.

 

I live a very busy life today. I have a job, I visit prisons, I run workshops in high schools and juvenile justice centres, I have a Salvation Army church ministry, and hold roles on various association and not-for-profit boards. A watershed moment for me was late last year – I got accepted as a cadet-in-appointment with The Salvation Army. In other words, to be a Salvation Army officer and work full-time in ministry.

 

Jesus said in Luke 6, “Give and you will receive gifts in full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.”

 

Please pray for Jose as he prepares to enter The Salvation Army Training College later this month.




 


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