ASK Jonathan Hyratt about his past and he willingly rattles off the laundry list of drugs he once used and abused.
A recovering addict who has been clean and sober for more than 21 years, “Jono” knows all about the 12 steps to recovery and wants to assist others via a new support group.
However, the Oak Flats pastor has expanded this program to incorporate not just those grappling with drug and alcohol addiction, but also mental health issues, gambling, over-eating and other problems.
“My heart is there just to reach out into the community and offer hope and love,” the 45-year-old said.
“We live in a great area, but people can get caught up in lack of money, employment, marriage or relationship problems, drugs and alcohol.
“We want to say, ‘we’re a place that’s a wellspring of hope’.”
A pastor since 2005, Mr Hyratt and wife Allison formed the non-denominational Tree of Life Community Church at Oak Flats last year. He has eight children and two grandchildren.
Growing up in a small community in the Blue Mountains, he said he made poor decisions early in life as an attempt to “fit in”.
“I got involved in drugs, alcohol and the bikie scene … I didn’t know it would lead to a life of destruction. Having fun ended up destroying my life.
“I didn’t know there was a way out of it. I couldn’t stop.”
While on the run from an outlaw motorcycle gang “out to get me”, he finally decided to act.
“It ended up that I had to go to court for stealing a pushbike,” he said.
“The policeman who arrested me suggested I go to detox.
“I had lots of addiction-related charges, so I went.”
At the time even the sound of a motorcycle engine passing by his house would put him in a state of paralysing fear.
“On the fourth day of detox, I had a revelation that God was real,” he said.
“After that I wasn’t fearful as much.
“I left the detox and used again, but went to [an Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous] 12-step meeting in March 1991 and from that day I haven’t used anything.
“Have I struggled? Yeah. But I’ve put my faith in God and now I want to say to others, ‘how can I help?’ “
Pointing to a patch on his motorcycle jacket that reads, ‘These are my church clothes’, he promotes a laid-back environment.
“I want to help those caught in addiction and spread the positive message of hope,” he said.
“You don’t have to drown your sorrows.
“There’s the shame [people feel] of being called an addict; things people don’t want to talk about.
“We’re anonymous. We don’t have an agenda; we want to share the message of Christ with them, but don’t want to make them believe anything.
“That’s up to God.”
The free support group began last week.
For more information, phone Mr Hyratt on 0412 174 181.