Choose Life! | Graduation Letter & Testimony
Hello, my name is Ashleigh Rudd.
I have been in the Esther program for just under two years and coming into this program has not only saved my life but I have become a completely transformed individual. Although coming to Esther was not initially my choice as I was on parole and had breached it the second day I was out of prison. I soon was faced with having to make that choice when I wanted to go back to prison so I could smoke, rather than face all my problems and pain head on without anything to numb myself. That wasn’t an easy choice because I knew how hard staying clean was and it wasn’t my first try at staying clean.
Previously, I had remained clean for 2 years and 8 months. After that relapse, attempting to get clean again felt like a mountain. Coming through all those initial battles, I realised now that the first time I got clean was never a fail. It was simply the building blocks to understanding myself and understanding what I must do differently this time in recovery.
I try to use every experience in my life to my advantage. To know where to step next, to know what route to take. Every day I have to choose life! Anything else is choosing death and I can't afford to do it as death is only too real to me...
I started showing signs of extreme behaviour in my very young years when I pulled all my eyelashes out, due to an anxiety disorder and dealing with grief. Looking back at my childhood, I had a very privileged upbringing. I went to one of the most prestigious schools in Australia, I lived in a stable home with loving parents and the best little brother anyone could ask for. Knowing what I know now I was probably always destined to be some kind of addict as alcoholism and dysfunction was rife throughout my entire family on both sides. All extremely high achievers but with hidden addictions and afflictions.
I started on my own drug addiction as soon as I hit my teens.
I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and I was hooked on heroin and ice on a daily basis by age 13 – 14. I was also hanging around with hard core criminals and committing all sorts of crime on a daily basis.
Over the next fifteen years I found myself dead 8 times, twice from suicide attempts, the other times from heroin and benzos...
I was in and out of mental health wards, diagnosed with severe drug induced schizophrenia at 17, was on 1900mg of Seroquel a day and other strong medication that use to paralyse half my body. I don’t think I can remember a time in all those years that I was actually straight.
I have also been in and out of prison for large drug charges, high speed chases, dangerous weapons charges and so on. At many stages throughout my life, I thought my mind had been taken by something. I was lost in the sea of hopelessness forever.
The stories I could tell of violent crimes and dangerous situations that I had been involved in—and involved others in are pretty traumatic. But the most trauma that I experienced was due to my own hand, when I chose to repeatably use meth.
I used meth in such high doses for so long, I remember the deep, deep level of torment I used to experience every minute and second of the day.
I suffered extreme paranoia and delusion, paired with an extreme violent streak I had in me, particularly to anyone I suspected of doing something against me or my family. Those years of my life were horrible but I didn’t know how to stop.
Throughout all this, my parents were so strong. They had to love me from a distance because they wouldn’t allow me to be around the family home.
Looking back now;
tough love has saved me,
boundaries have saved me,
wisdom has saved me,
and now finally meeting my saviour,
Jesus—he has saved me.
When I walked into the safety of Esther, I was met with something I had never felt before. This unconditional love and overwhelming sense of belonging and purpose.
Over the past two years I have learnt so much about this man, Jesus, who came to save me. To pull me out of the pit of hell, offering me freedom and peace if I wanted it. I have been obedient and humble, most of the time, and tried to remain teachable throughout this whole process. I have sat through some of the most uncomfortable challenges and I’ve come out the other side.
I think the main thing that got me through all this was the family I have sitting here right in front of me—this community. It’s these tight friendships I have made along the way.
To whom I give thanks...
Thanks to our program leaders and the friendships I developed within the program. They really helped me get through some tough days, especially where I would try and find an excuse in my head to give up. My mind would always go back—never able to leave them because they are now my sisters. Once I had allowed them to get close to my heart, I started letting the others in. Both staff and the girls.
I started allowing these people to occupy positions in my heart.
Positions that I could never turn my back on, not even if I tried because they wouldn’t allow it! They knew me! This was scary at first but now it's the best thing that ever happened to me. It seems like the most basic human thing... to have a friend. But I had never, truly had a proper friend before.
These were the kinds of relationships I had never experienced in my childhood properly and it was my way of protecting myself because I didn’t know any better. I had to really put myself out there to be in relationship with these people because it has never come naturally to me. Although this is a short version of my testimony and my darkest stories are for another day, I want you all to know that there is no point in harbouring shame and hate towards yourself and your past.
It is the past for a reason.
You can become anything you want to because each day is a chance to recreate yourself and start again. Believe me—it's not just a cliché saying this because there is nothing truer... if I can do this, anyone can do this!
You can be free from addiction just like I am standing here before you today. Together, we can beat the odds and we can make new statistics.
God bless you all and thank you,