“I think Britain has a huge drink problem,” Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy for Tony Blair, recently told Jesus Life. “I think there’s a real danger that all the focus is on binge drinking and people causing trouble in city centres. I’m not saying that isn’t a problem, but I think the bigger problem is the middle class professionals who are addicted to alcohol.
“As a country I don’t think we have accepted that so many people, particularly middle-class people, are addicted to drink. They’re not so visible – they are often at home – they don’t come out drunk.”
Dominic Finch-Noyes, 58, a member of the Jesus Fellowship, runs a group at Northampton Jesus Centre for people who with serious alcohol issues called “Stay Dry, Be Free”. Dominic has experienced firsthand the painful slide into alcoholism.
“My father was a wine merchant,” explains Dominic; “I grew up in a drinking environment. I went into the wine trade, too, and had my own business. Until my late 30s I was a borderline alcoholic.
“In the late 80s and early 90s I had been very successful business-wise. But the early 90s financial crisis caused interest rates to rise quickly. Being a small business man, my company overdraft suddenly cost me much more; customers stopped paying; cash-flow dried up. I had a young family and a mortgage and started drinking incessantly to cope with the stress.
“My wife, Susan, was a Christian (I wasn’t). She had the courage to believe that things would eventually get sorted. She coped until she couldn’t cope anymore, but eventually told me I had to live somewhere else.
“I tried as hard as I could, for four years, to give up drinking – unsuccessfully. I wanted more than anything to stop. I managed to get into residential rehab, but was chucked out for drinking (worse than ever) and hitched to near our house in Huntingdon, where I lived rough. One morning, I waited till the kids were at school, knocked on the door and asked my wife for a cup of tea. I went into the downstairs toilet and saw myself in the shaving mirror and the enormity of my helplessness hit me; I looked like a twitchy scarecrow. I realised I just couldn’t fix this. At that point, for the first time in my life, I started crying out to God.”
Dominic’s wife had heard about the Jesus Fellowship and rang asking for help. Two weeks later, Dominic went to stay at Honeycomb, a Jesus Fellowship house in Northamptonshire.
Dominic continues: “I was ill with alcohol, underweight and weak. I spent June and July 1994 working on the Jesus Fellowship’s farm. I got physically well and at the same time I found new life; I was born again. Later I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I did drink a couple more times, but six months later I had my last drink. That was in January 1995.”
“My wife visited me and made friends, too. I lived at Honeycomb for six months and Susan was so happy with what she found that she had the confidence to agree to sell our house in Huntingdon. In 1995, my family all moved into Honeycomb with me and we stayed for six or seven months before moving to our own new home.
“My family was back together again. They’ve forgiven me for the pain I caused them and I have a new church family too. Jesus continues to give me the strength to stay dry and to help others to do the same.”
Alastair Campbell describes his “big crash”, back in the 1980s – the day he ended up in hospital when drinking and depression triggered a breakdown – as “the best day of my life and the worst day of my life; it was the best because I survived and sorted myself out”.
He added, “I think part of the problem with all mental illness, and I include alcoholism in that category, is that there’s still so much stigma and taboo attached to it that people are generally reluctant to open up. The most important thing, I think, is to bring it more out into the open. If you’re reluctant to open up, you don’t find the services that might be able to help you.
“I know from experience that the first step you have to take is to admit your problem. My worry is that for some people there is no rock bottom, before death.
“It’s only because of what I gained through the experience that I have been able to do what I have done since. It’s helped me prioritise and accept things that are important which before I had pushed away.”
Dominic identified relationships as key to his recovery: “I had never met Christian men I could relate to before. Now I met guys of my age, people I could connect with. I realised there was a masculine, virile, radical faith available. I’d never appreciated this – and it was for me.”
“Stay Dry, Be Free”, the alcohol support group Dominic and others run, aims to be a secure, trusting environment for people to share honestly how they have coped with their addiction during the last week.
“The group has to be a safe place,” Dominic explains. “People can look at us and say, ‘If they can do it – people who have hit rock bottom – I can. The group is inclusive – people of any faith or none are welcome. However, we do say, ‘This is the Jesus Centre; sometimes we may pray – but we will not shove it down your throat. We may also discuss our experience from a spiritual dimension.’ There is no programme, no professionals and sometimes we just sit around and have a discussion.”
Paul, a member of the group, put it like this: “A car that has had a head on smash can take months, even years, to repair and that is the same with us. We have to learn to cope with the guilt, the regrets. People need to not just know about forgiveness; they need to experience it.”
What Is An Alcoholic?
Someone who is dependent on or addicted to alcohol.
What Are Alcohol’s Withdrawal Symptons?
When alcoholics abstain from drink their experiences include: sweating, nausea, shaking, diarrhoea, rapid heartbeat and seizures (which
can be life threatening). Psychological symptoms include stress, anxiety and depression.
What Are the Side Effects of Alcohol-dependency?
- Physical problems include: insomnia, infertility, memory loss, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease and obesity.
- Psychological problems include: anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings.
- Personal problems include: loss or disruption of relationships, loss of employment, financial difficulties.
- Social problems can include crime such as violence or theft.
- Safety problems include accidents at work, at home, and on the road.
This article first featured in Jesus Life magazine Q3 2005.
The Northampton Jesus Centre has witnessed some remarkable events. Jesus Life reports.
HEALING RAYS, the name of the group, comes from Malachi: ‘But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,'” explains team member Dave Howell. “In a book on healing, I discovered ‘wings’ could also be translated as ‘rays’.”
Twenty-nine years ago Dave was told he had the ministry of intercession. “After a while I realized it was my particular ministry, and moved into a healing gift,” he recalls. “The first brother I prayed for, we were amazed to see the pain went!”
Every Tuesday morning Dave, together with Ann and Tony, assemble in one of the Jesus Centre’s skills rooms and wait to see who will come through the door.
“The three of us work very well as a team,” says Ann. “Tony is very prophetic. Dave brings healing and deliverance. And I have discovered a gift of discernment.”
All sorts of people, Christian and non-Christian, come looking for healing for their body, soul or spirit. Ann has seen many ‘God happenings’ with the group.
“One lady was obviously very distressed. People are usually reticent but she just sat down and started talking. She had grown up knowing God (her dad was a vicar), but had rebelled and delved into the occult and hypnosis. Now she was climbing walls, literally, was about to be prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, and was really scared. ‘Help me please,’ she said to God.
“We spent the whole two hours with her. She arrived stooped and sad, and went out glowing!
“The next week she was back with a friend who wanted to get herself right with God. We encouraged them in their vision to start healing ministry in their own church.
“Another week, two elderly ladies came in. One had severe sciatica. I had a word of knowledge: ‘By this evening you’re not going to have any pain.’ And she didn’t – not that we knew that for some time afterwards!
“A young South African was referred to us by another church member. He had been very badly damaged, first by rejection from his birth mother, then by abuse from a step-parent, and finally, by a very bad trip after eating some magic mushrooms. We did our usual praying bit. Dave led him through a prayer of repentance, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and he started to speak in tongues.”
Church members are welcome to join the group too. “One member with HIV has been so much better since he has been receiving regular prayer. His doctor says he’s the healthiest HIV patient he has!” says Ann.
“We are just the channels of God’s power,” says Tony, “and as we are obedient to Him, He can do what he wants through us.” “Being an intercessor has given me more empathy for people,” concludes Dave. “And seeing results is a tremendous encouragement to believe for more things to happen.
“We just want more people to come along!”
As you can imagine, learning to drive is essential for Gypsy Travellers. And we’re not talking about horses and carts here!
Paul Veitch of the Northampton Jesus Centre heads up a driving theory skills and support group for this often marginalised population. We interviewed Paul to find out the group’s ‘why’ and ‘how’.
Hi Paul. Where did the idea for this group come from?
When we first researched services available in Northampton to identify a few niches which we at the Jesus Centre could fill we realised that there were hardly any services for Travellers. Not only were they on the margins in the eye of the public but their transient lifestyle meant they were also marginalised from charitable services. Also, we already had friends in the Traveller community and one Gypsy woman came to learn English with us for a short time. The last piece of the puzzle was a recommendation by a health visitor who had visited Travellers who suggested we offer help to Travellers with reading & writing, driving theory, form filling and help with getting into colleges.
If I was a Traveller visiting the group for the first time, describe what I’d find.
After parking your cart and horse in the car park a volunteer would show you to one of our upstairs classrooms! You’d meet volunteers who understand Traveller culture and laptops would be available for tutoring. I think you’d find it a friendly and informal time.
So is this a formal teaching program?
We run through the DSA complete theory test kit one-to-one, the whole shebang – revising the highway code, mock tests and hazard perception. We also help with form filling, letter writing and we can refer visitors to other services, both Jesus Centre services and other charitable organisations.
Do you have any specific examples of how the group’s helped visitors?
To date all nine students have passed their theory tests and all but one have passed their practical driving test. All students grow in confidence, not just in their grasp of driving theory but in using computers and filling in forms.
What do you enjoy most about running the group?
Making friends and seeing their joy at finally passing their test, and helping them to become independent. It’s thrilling to see justice carried out as Travellers who are often illiterate often don’t know what they’re entitled to. We help students to sign up to vote; it’s fulfilling to see a marginalised community being empowered and receiving rights to live as citizens fo the UK.
If you know anyone who’d benefit from this service please call the Jesus Centre on 0845 166 8202 or email Paul Veitch to arrange a meeting.
Part funded by
This is part three of a series of posts on the range of English speaking and writing classes and groups that meet regularly at the Jesus Centre.
For this post I spoke to Judith Hunt who runs a weekly group known as Bible Study With English. This interview explores how the group benefits non-Christians and investigates it’s complimentary niche in the Jesus Centre’s range of English teaching classes.
NJCB: Hi, thanks for your time. Where did the idea for the Bible Study with English group come from?
JH: Seeing how high demand was for our ESOL classes inspired me to start a group for Christians to learn English with us, and I actually had the idea for a few years before finally deciding to make it happen. Having a former teacher on the team helped us know how to start a constructive group.
NJCB: If I was visiting Bible Study With English for the first time, describe to me what I’d find.
JH: A friendly little community. We’re a small, informal friendship group who enjoy meeting together in the Jesus Centre to learn and help one another.
NJCB: Isn’t it just for Christians? Do non-Christians really get on with using the bible as a study tool?
JH: Originally we thought it would just be for Christians, but we’ve been surprised by how many non-Christians appreciate learning English through reading the bible and are keen to participate and interested in discussing what we read while learning.
NJCB: What do you enjoy most about the group, what’s been most fulfilling?
JH: The group is a relaxed, open and informal forum. As we teach and learn members are free to discuss spiritual stuff without any worries about putting each other off by being pushy!
NJCB: Can you give us any examples of ways in which the group has helped people, things they can now do in everyday life through being part of the group?
JH: Quite a few people in our group also attend ESOL too, so we’re part of the bigger picture of teaching English. However, because of our small size and flexible format we can work at a pace suitable for people who aren’t able to keep up with the formal ESOL course. As well as members of the group gaining confidence in their English language one of the ways I’ve seen the group work is by supporting one another through prayer- whether that’s for housing, transport, personal struggles or a job. In fact, members of the group often ask for prayer even if they’re not ‘formally’ Christian themselves. One Chinese couple went back to China inspired by the group and keen to bring what they’d seen among us back to Churches in China.
An evening for non-english speakers who want to improve their English and find friendship in an informal setting, whilst studying the bible.
The group of eight meets every Wednesday evening from 7:30pm – 9:00pm, led by Judith & team.
Open to (and popular with) non-Christians.
Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes.
One of the services we run is ‘Listening Ear’. This service is open to anyone who walks in regardless of faith or non-faith who needs someone to talk to.
It’s amazing that in this social networking, media obsessed society, with many ways to communicate with the outside world that people still feel there is no one who will really listen to them or who they can talk to about the things that are really worrying them.
Your Space, our Women’s only drop in session on a Thursday afternoon also operates as a listening service. The women who’ve come to talk recently shared concerns about their lack of meaningful relationships, abusive pasts, struggles with depression, anxiety, mental illness and their health. Some of them struggle with faith and their relationship with God, seeing Him as an angry authority figure, who they can never please, rather than as a loving heavenly Father who loves and accepts them and wants a relationship with them. This may well be a reflection of their relationships with their fathers, step fathers or partners.
It is always an immense privilege and often very humbling when someone shares their story with you. Often where they start isn’t where they finish and you have to listen right to the end to uncover the real issues they want to talk about.
Sam (not her real name) came in very agitated and concerned about her mental health, feeling very depressed and anxious and on the surface concerned about a doctors’ appointment. But by the end of our conversation she opened up about her loneliness, which had led her into pornography and masturbation and the feelings of guilt this left her with that kept her from coming to God to ask Him to help her. We were able to share together and pray for God to deal with her emotional needs that were at the root of her habit.
Do you have to have been through the same experience as the person? No, you just have to be willing to give up some time to listen.
Do you have to have an answer to their situation? No, most people just need to talk. Sometimes they find the answer within themselves; others are keen to receive prayer.
Does God come and wave a magic wand and sort all their problems out? If He did we’d have people queuing around the building to get prayed for! Prayer does sometimes work like that. But essentially what we ask the person to do is to invite God into the situation and ask Him to bring wisdom, peace, healing, or whatever the person feels they need. Then we hand the situation over to God for Him to work.
And He does.
Our Listening Ear service is available Mon- Fri 10-4pm
Your Space women’s only drop in is available every Thursday afternoon 1.30-3pm in the Step Up lounge
‘Compassion in action’ is the slogan of the Jesus Centre initiative, compassion for every kind of person, with every kind of need. For some people divorce can be one of the most stressful things that life throws at them, but the support of understanding friends can make a world of difference.
This is why Janet Burling, after appreciating the support of friends throughout her own divorce decided to start a group to offer the same kind of support to other people who are or have suffered from divorce or separation.
Divorce Recovery meets at the Northampton Jesus Centre on Wednesdays from 7.15pm-9.15pm, using ‘Divorce Care’ resources. Find help, discover hope, experience healing.