‘I was out of control’ – Jason’s story
Meeting Jason Hooper today, it’s easy to imagine how the disciples must have felt after watching Jesus heal the man with an unclean spirit.
For here is a young man once again ‘in his right mind’ after having almost killed himself through overdoses, self-harm and suicide attempts. It’s impossible to imagine how he could have turned his life around – expect for Jesus.
‘From as young as I can remember, I was never able to handle my temper,’ says Jason. ‘I was always in trouble in school, always smashing up my mum’s house, always running away from home. I even stabbed my own sister. My mum put me in care because she didn’t know what to do with me. I was just out of control.’
Introduced to drink and drugs while in a children’s home, Jason’s life was soon marked by violence and criminal behaviour.
‘I had no good influences. Looking back, I know I didn’t want to be that way. I remember thinking, “This isn’t me.” Deep inside my heart, I was always upset, always crying on my own. But I didn’t know how to get out of it.’
Jason was given his first prison sentence aged just 15, and went on to spend most of the next 12 years in custody. Prison itself didn’t help him – he continued taking and dealing drugs, still full of anger and unable to understand his emotions.
His self-destructive streak took over, as he tried one thing after another to harm himself: ‘I stopped eating for a week. I cut my wrists. I took overdoses. I whipped myself with a belt and buckle, cutting myself open. There was a point I was screaming so loud and for so long that blood was coming out of my lungs.’
After one of his sentences, he was so afraid that he would kill himself, he voluntarily handed himself in to a psychiatric unit. Jason was confined to a cell, with staff at a loss what to do. But then, one night, Jason had a dramatic encounter that would change everything.
‘I remember shaking, the blood in my veins was boiling – my whole body was in pain. I began walking round my cell, thinking that if I stopped moving, I would die. That was when it happened. I didn’t know anything about Christianity or God but I knew Jesus was speaking to me. I felt like I was getting cleansed and cleaned by him right there in my cell.
‘After three hours, everything just stopped. All the pain, all the bad thoughts disappeared. My brain was empty and hungry for what God was showing me. I asked someone to go and bring me a Bible I had seen once on the hospital wing.
‘I opened it and started reading about sorrow, repentance and salvation. It was for me! God was speaking to me. I started crying my eyes out. Over a small space of time, he built me up rapidly. Before I knew it, I was finding out I can sing and play the guitar. I can speak to people about God. The staff couldn’t believe it.’
Soon after his life-changing encounter, Jason heard about some courses Reflex were running on the wings. Impressed with his new state of mind, staff gave him permission to join a group, where Jason met Simon, Matty and Nick from the Reflex team. They began to mentor him in his walk with God.
‘They’ve become like brothers to me – I feel like I’ve known them all my life. When it came to getting out, they set me up with a church. They come and pick me up, bring me into The Message, encourage me and help me out with what God’s got planned for me.’
Jason is now being considered for a place in one of the new businesses to be housed in the Message Enterprise Centre, opening later this year. He is eager to work to establish a good life for himself and even has business ideas of his own.
‘I feel like a tree that’s come into the light – I’m getting the right nutrition at last. Words can’t describe what he’s done for me in my life — and this is just the beginning!’