Bringing hope from a broken past, God is using Bronwen Healy’s story to heal those she encounters. A recovered heroin addict, Bronwen, 30, is living proof that God does miracles.
Bronwen Healy was born to an alcoholic father and a fragile mother but when she was three, they both entered self-help programs and have been sober ever since. She describes her childhood as fairly “normal.” When Bronwen was 13 her family moved to Brisbane, from Melbourne, where she attended an elite private girls school. She was a focused child and had little trouble with schoolwork but looking back now Bronwen says, “I never really found my place at the girls school.” Dreaming of becoming a film director, Bronwen changed schools at the end of Year 10 to attend a school that specialised in film and media. Although well known for its excellent film department, the school also had a reputation for students involved in drugs and gangs. Like every child, Bronwen assured her parents she would be fine. “They were hesitant in letting me go there,” she said, “but they wanted to support the goals I had. I can remember pulling up to the school and Mum saying, ‘No way, Bronwen, this doesn’t look good.’ But like most teenage kids I said, ‘Trust me, Mum.’” Focused on her studies and dreaming of one day making it big in Hollywood, Bronwen made it to the end of Year 12 before she started experimenting with drugs. It was then she felt she had achieved the marks she needed and she could relax.
“First I tried pot, then acid trips, speed and ecstasy and before long my world was an absolute mess and I had fallen out of one bad relationship and into another,” she says. At 18 years of age she fell pregnant, and she saw abortion as her only option. “The doctor never told me the after-effects of it,” she says.
Bronwen became depressed and angry and was filled with guilt and a life-controlling shame. Her boyfriend of the time was a heroin addict and seemed to live in a void. “He was numb to the world,” says Bronwen. “I wanted that, I wanted to shut out how I was feeling inside.” After only two weeks she was using every day.
It wasn’t long before she was selling her possessions for money. She began stealing from family, friends and work, until eventually she lost her job. She was left with no-one and no money to buy drugs.
All she had left was her body. “All I could think about was how was I going to get money to buy more drugs, so I called up an escort agency and started work in an illegal brothel that night.” Lost in a dark, soul-destroying trap, she worked the streets as a prostitute for 12 months earning and using up to $A1000 a day. One evening her mum knocked on her door in tears at what her daughter had become—a mere 40 kg, heroinaddicted prostitute.
“She looked at me and said, ‘What’s happened to you? You’re not the girl we raised you to be.’ But all I could think about was getting to work because I needed the money,” Bronwen says.
She began to question herself and who she was. “I knew I needed to get off the drugs,” she reflected.
Knowing this, Bronwen detoxed off drugs for five days. “If you want to know what hell is like, ask me,” she says, “because I’m sure that in those five days I came pretty close to it.” At this time she was so depressed that she tried to kill herself several times but by the grace of God she survived.
Bronwen’s mum showed up again 18 months later and told her she had to get help. “I didn’t know where to start,” Bronwen says. “So I went to a doctor in Brisbane who had a good reputation for treating drug patients and decided to enter a rehabilitation program. Like the doctor, this program ‘happened’ to be of Christian principles. He told me I had a hole in my heart. I thought he was crazy but had decided to stick out the program.” In the rehab home, Bronwen had to attend prayer meetings, an Alpha course and church.
After spending most of her time rebel ling against these rules and sitting on the church steps smoking, one rainy Sunday she sat in on the service. Before long she was at the front of the church accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of her life. “I’ll forever remember the pastor saying, ‘By the burden-removing, yoke-destroying, power of God,’” she says. “All I knew is that I had given Him [Jesus] all of me.” Through reading her Bible, Bronwen found freedom and release from her past.
She takes comfort in the verse, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Bronwen heard the calling of God upon her life and surrendered herself to Him. A standout verse in Isaiah gave her direction. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send?’” and Bronwen replied, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Bronwen’s life is a testament to this verse.
Today, six years on and after overcoming many challenges, she is married with three daughters and shares her story with people all over Australia, in schools, churches and organisations such as Mercy Ministries . “I want every person I encounter to know they have a value. When you know your value, you begin to live valued,” says Bronwen. She has also done radio interviews, met with the media, and is in the process of setting up a drop-in centre for women, a parents ministry and a drug-rehabilitation program. She has written a book, Trophy of Grace and has recently produced her first audio CD, Where Would I Be Without Grace? With so much on her plate, all the travelling and a young family, one has to learn to keep a healthy balance in life and Bronwen has done just that. “On one hand I don’t know how I manage, but the other hand says ‘His burden is light,’ and I believe I am stepping in His steps.” Bronwen and her husband, Jason, recently established the Hope Foundation* that exists, she says, “to create … a safe place, for men, women and children who want to seek shelter from or be rehabilitated from alcohol or drug addictions or exit the sex industry.” Bronwen lives in awe of God and the work He is doing. “God could have punished me but instead he restored me to who I was created to be.” She says, “l Iive by faith.”