PLACENTIA, NL — A Placentia pastor is sharing the story of his journey out of addiction and into faith with residents of Victoria.
Jason Burge is a Pentecostal pastor, currently living in Placentia with his family. Today, he lets his faith as a Christian lead him through life, and as a pastor, he helps other like-minded people do the same. However, this was not always the path Burge — his addiction to drugs and spiralling mental health problems were at the forefront of his life prior to December 2007.
Burge’s story starts early, when he began experimenting with recreational drugs such as marijuana and hash oil from as early as ninth grade. From there, he explained it as a snowball effect, as he began to experiment in harder drugs, and before long, the experimentation transitioned from just on weekends, to every other day, to a daily habit. He said that although it started with marijuana, he found himself doing whatever it took to get the high he felt he craved – cocaine, ecstasy, and whatever else he could get his hands on. This, mixed with heavy drinking and mental health issues, meant his day-to-day life got more and more difficult to deal with as each day passed.
“There was a number of events throughout my life that made me turn to drugs and alcohol to different degrees,” Burge explained to The Compass. “I didn’t enjoy doing drugs, by any means, but it would ease the pain of whatever I was going through at the time, and that in itself is a very addictive feeling. When you’re going through something difficult, it’s very easy to say, ‘oh, I know how to make this situation easier to deal with,’ and so, that’s what I did. It helped me not focus on the bad things, and just get away from it all for a while.”
Burge went on to explain that things such as his parents’ separation, and the loss of a close friend following an accident, led him back to old habits, despite the fact he had the desire to change.
Depression, and thoughts of suicide, also racked Burge’s daily life. He said the addiction itself, as well as the emotional damage it was causing to the people around him, had his mental state at an all-time low. As the years of his life flew by, he said these problems only got worse.
However, it was Christianity and Burge’s faith in God that helped him overcome his biggest inner demons. He recognizes the night of Dec. 20, 2007, as the day his life took a turn for the better. Since then, he’s never looked back to his old ways, and continues to improve himself in a number of areas.
“I never actually entered into a rehab program, or anything like that. I did have thoughts about doing it, and talked to people about it, but I just never made those steps,” said Burge. “But, like I said, I had suffered from some severe depression for a number of years. I had made a plan to end my life on the night of December 20th, 2007. I told my mother I was going to do it, and obviously she tried to talk me out of it. After talking with my aunt that night, I ultimately decided that I just really needed to make some changes in my life. I had to go from being addicted to drugs, to try and follow God’s teachings the best way I can. That’s how my life changed that night – a complete reversal.”
Although religion had always been present in Burge’s life, he said his actions as a teenager, his addiction and mental health problems led him away from his faith. Now, over a decade after that night in 2007, he has completely embraced his new life as a Christian, leading the Pentecostal church in Placentia, and travelling around the province to various churches to speak on his story.
To date, Burge has visited churches in Stephenville, Port de Grave, Bishop’s Falls, and a number of other communities. Now, he is taking his story and message to the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Victoria on Sunday night, April 22, at 6:30 p.m. Here, he hopes to reach out to people who may be going through their own struggles, to remind them that they are not alone.
“I just go and talk about my personal journey of finding God again, and the struggles I went through both before and during my recovery from addiction,” said Burge. “Everyone has their own struggles, and everyone has their own ways of dealing with that. For me, my struggle was addiction, and I overcame that through my faith, but everyone’s different, and everyone is going to handle things in their own way. I just want to make sure that no one feels alone out there, because they’re not. Everyone’s going through something, and sometimes it helps to just talk about it.”