Message team member and Urban Hero 2016 Cyril Wilding shared his story in Flow Magazine this June…
At the Friday Higher night, I got the chance to share my story with over two thousand young people at the O2 Manchester Apollo. Looking out at all their faces, I remembered how it felt to be 14 again. I felt compassion for them all, because my life was already a mess by then. But I could tell them there is hope for them all because God has done something amazing in me.
I was 14 when I first tried drugs, which was LSD. It gave me the feeling of pleasure that my life wasn’t giving me, and my answer was to get out of my face, often. All my money went on drink and drugs and I would rob anyone that came across my path to pay for it.
By the time I left my teens I was a full-blown addict. Probably one of the worst going, in fact. I was going weeks without properly sleeping, because I was taking so much speed and coke.
After leaving home in Wigan I tried to make a fresh start but somehow I ended up in gang and car crime, selling drugs on the streets of Manchester to fund my drug habit. I thought I was a big man but I was wrecking other people’s lives and I was wrecking my own.
By the age of 30, my whole life was in pieces. Drugs and drink were not taking the pain away any more so I had turned to self-harm. There I was, 30 years old, sitting in a corner crying, depressed, cutting myself with a blade because I was so unhappy with my life. I was desperate for love.
Thank God Jesus met me. It was about ten years ago during my last prison sentence in Forest Bank prison. I was on what was called a ‘20-52’, which is a suicide watch. The prison officers thought I was going to end my life and to be honest, they were right. That’s what I was going to do.
That was until a little old lady came into my pad. She told me that Jesus died for me all the pain I was carrying about, he put on the cross for me. I thought she was a nut job at first! But when she left I opened up the Bible and discovered it was true. I read Psalm 23 with new eyes. I heard him say to me that he was all I needed. I knew this was the love I was looking for. So that day, I asked Jesus to come into my life. Straightaway I could feel a change in my heart. I lost the desire to do drugs and the self-harm stopped too.
At the lowest point in my life I got support from Victory Outreach Manchester which is now my church too. They helped me put my life back together, depending on Jesus day by day. I met an amazing woman of God, Laura, and we got married. I became a team member at The Message where I’m also involved with sharing the gospel and leading people to Christ, including in prisons.
Now I wake up every single day and the first thing I do is I thank him. It was him that gave me my life back. I owe him everything.
So at Higher I got to tell the kids my story and how I found hope in Jesus Christ. I told them I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic any more. I told them that even though my arms are scarred I’m not ashamed any more. Because there’s someone who’s set me free and his name is Jesus.
And when the gospel was preached later that night, it made me so happy to see hundreds of young people putting up their hands to respond. To know that they had heard the same thing I did – there is hope and his name is Jesus.