Written by: Donovan Ackerberg
Article source: JOY! Magazine

I grew up in a blended family in Lansdowne, Cape Town – the youngest and only son with three older sisters. As a child, on rare occasions, I attended church with my mother who was a staunch member of the New Apostolic Church, but my father was a Buddhist.

From promising sportsman to drug addict
I was a promising sportsman who went on to achieve various accolades, and – up until the age of 17 – I took a strong stance against the use of alcohol and cigarettes. In my final year of school all sports came to an end after a new principal was appointed. Many of the sporty guys, myself included, were left without a “social life” and the excitement that came with sports. Parties now replaced sport, and at one of these parties I succumbed to peer pressure. A group of guys were using heroin I decided to take part. The euphoric feeling after winning a match was soon replaced by getting high on drugs. It filled a gap which, at the time I thought was due to the absence of sport, but now I know it was the absence of the Lord’s presence in my life.

All I could think about, was getting a fix so I could function ‘normally’.

Donovan before he was converted and still trapped in addiction

Addiction in the bloodline
Although my father was a functional alcoholic, he was a third Dan (black belt) in karate – which is how he got into Buddhism. His father was also a functioning alcoholic. It was clear that addiction ran in our bloodline. Though I managed to complete a diploma degree after school, I became a full-blown addict within a year of experimenting with drugs – I was using heroine daily. By the age of 19 I was a high functioning addict with a full-time job, living with my girlfriend. I was introduced to Crystal Meth (tik) and within no time I was using large amounts of it.

The Cape Flats became my hangout
Because I grew up in Lansdowne, I was familiar with the Cape Flats. Manenberg, Hanover Park, and Heideveld to the “Vlei” in Belgravia became my hangout spots where I could buy and use drugs. I often got involved in all sorts of illegal activities and escaped death a few times.

Unemployed and in a downward spiral
By the time I was 24, I had a son, but was still using huge amounts of crystal meth and heroine on a daily basis. I did what it took to get my fix in order to function “normally”. About a year later I was unemployed and in a downward spiral. My relationship with my girlfriend ended (my son was one year old at the time) and I lived in my car. I was at rock bottom, but I was fortunate enough to have my aunt take me in. Not long thereafter I was caught stealing and given an ultimatum: Go home to my parents, or go to jail for theft. I chose to go home.

God’s saving hand
By then my parents were living in Betty’s Bay. The first morning my father forced me to attend a gathering (in my withdrawal state) at a farm with a group from a rehabilitation centre in Moorreesburg. They were doing a Breakthrough programme that was run locally in the Bettys Bay area. All I could think about at the time was getting a fix to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms.

In that moment I was physically and mentally set free from drug addiction.

Healed of addiction
I vividly remember bumping into an old friend who I grew up with. He was a recovering addict from the restoration centre also taking part in the programme. It was a God-ordained moment that led me to leave the farm and go to Moorreesburg with the group, where I met Jesus. The man in charge prayed with me and, in that moment, I was physically and mentally set free from the drug addiction!

The couple when Ruby was expecting with Caleb. 

I met Jesus and I knew it! During my seven years of drug abuse, I tried various medication to help me come off the drugs. My parents even tried locking me up in the house, but nothing helped. The torment of my body and mind just took over all the time. But this time, I met Jesus! Both my parents got saved, because they witnessed what God did in my life.

“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” – Isaiah 61:1

A new life
Within a year the Lord brought an amazing woman into my life. We have now been married for ten years with a blended family of our own – we are blessed with five beautiful children between the two of us. Not only did the Lord heal me from addiction, but He has also carried me through the challenges of integrating back into society. He has taught me to be part of family life, being a husband, father, and stepfather, as well as how to overcome anxiety and depression. I have learnt how to taste success through the journey of entrepreneurship.

The curse is broken
I was a broken man who has been rebuilt in His Image. Through me and thanks to Jesus’ Blood, the curse on our family has been broken. This year, by the Grace of God, I celebrate 11 years of being clean from drugs and four years from alcohol and cigarettes.

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Date published: 22/06/2022
Feature image: (From Left To Right) Donovan Ackerberg, Carla, his wife Ruby with their baby boy, Caleb, in her arms, Mikyle (behind) and Mika (front).

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