My addiction drove my children away
Abuse of her new-found freedom turned Maria into a pregnant teenager who was heavily addicted to alcohol.
"When I started high school I moved to another city where I stayed on my own. I met friends who introduced me to drinking and dated married men, even though I had a boyfriend. I continued with this lifestyle till I fell pregnant when I was doing grade 11.
When I told my boyfriend that I was pregnant, he said it was possible that he was not the father of my child and broke up with me because of my wild behaviour. I dropped out of school and went back home. My neighbours started speaking ill of me and I sank deeper into addiction in an attempt to cope with the stress.
People used to warn me about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, but I ignored all that. I drank every day. After giving birth I could not take care of my child because I was always drunk," said Maria.
After a few years Maria had two more children and life became harder. She was unemployed without any financial support from any of her children's fathers.
"My children and I depended on my mother’s small salary. I continued drinking every day while my children were in the care of my siblings. When they started high school they were unhappy and said that my drinking habit embarrassed them at school. They moved to my grandmother's place. That hit me hard, but I did not stop drinking," said Maria.
Maria found a job at a retail store and her addiction became worse because she could afford to buy expensive alcohol.
"Even though I was working I could not afford to buy my children school necessities. I would borrow money to buy alcohol during the month and when I received my salary I had to pay back all of it. I lived with the guilt that I had failed my children," she said.
Maria's colleague invited her to attend services in the Universal Church.
"After the services my colleague took me to a pastor for counselling. For the first time I was able to talk about my problems to another person. The pastor advised me to take part in the Chains of Prayers on Fridays for deliverance from alcohol. I committed myself and was able to quit drinking after six months. No one at home could believe that I had stopped drinking. When my children saw the change they came back home and followed me to the church. I bought a stand and built a house. We lived as a family, something I never thought would happen. When faced with problems, I trust God to solve them," said Maria.