A brief biography of Justin Lippiatt © 2010
I wasn’t a bad kid. I was shy, and I suppose one could say…cautious. I was part of the ‘in’ group during Primary School, but things changed when I went to boarding school. Suddenly I was in High School, alone and vulnerable and 1000 kilometres from home.
If you could call it home. After years of bitter fighting, my parents decided to call it a day. My brother, and I stayed with my mother. It was tough. We had had a great childhood apart from the bickering, but it seemed then that I was taking the blame for the breakdown. Everything that went wrong was my fault. So Boarding School was an excellent opportunity to ‘run away’.
The school was, and still is one of the most prestigious schools in South Africa. My father was extremely well off at that stage, and so money was no object. Orientation came and went, and there I was…alone. Lots of the other Newboys knew each other from other primary schools. I knew no-one. I poured myself into academics, and sport. Believe it or not, I joined the choir!
Although I was a well built teenager, I was timid and excessively non-confrontational. I didn’t want to argue, I didn’t want to fight. That made me a target. I just couldn’t find my niche. Was I a nerd, or a jock, or a spare part? I felt like the latter. The emotional bullying, the humiliation, the torment went on and on, with no escape. “I am sacrificing everything to give you the best, don’t let me down!” my father used to say. The loneliness was a blanket that shrouded me. I got letters from time to time, and once I got a parcel, with the contents smashed. Effective postal service, I’m sure.
Whenever, I was in a play, I would scan the audience desperately hoping that against all odds, my father or mother would be there. At every tournament or sports event, they were conspicuous by there absence. I would be one of three kids who would stay at the college at half term, whilst the rest went home, or parents came and took their kids on a long weekend treat. Ah…I longed for a family like that. On school holidays, I went home to my mother’s house. She had subsequently remarried and had two step-daughters. I hated going home because the private school holidays ensured that for three weeks I had to be home alone, until everyone came home after work and from day care. I hated going back to college more. The kids would relive tales of adventure, and beaches, and…family. I had a shell of an existence. My little brother who went to public school had a better life than I did. I loved him though; I always have even despite the 6 year difference in age.
In the third year of High School we started to have co-ed classes. We shared classes with our sister College. This created even more angst for me, as I tried to bypass the ill affects of being a spare part and tried to gain favour with the girls – with disastrous results. I suffered even more rejection and ridicule.
There were two major incidents that would set wheels in motion change my life forever. The first was an incident were, the ‘blue eyed boy’ of our dorm was teasing me relentlessly, much to the guffaws and laughter of his wide circle of ‘popular’ friends. I couldn’t take it anymore! I lunged at him, and grabbed him around the throat and shook him violently. Apart from getting a huge fright the young man didn’t suffer any harm except some humiliation. My punishment: Nobody, not one person, spoke to me for two weeks. It was as if I never existed.
The other incident happened one night after lights-out. There was some taunting going backwards and forwards across the dormitory. The ring leader in our dorm and I were exchanging insults, and challenging one another. Suddenly there was an explosion of blue and white flashes in my head, and I experienced sudden pain in my mouth. Almost immediately, I had that rusty taste of blood in my mouth. A few of my teeth were chipped. This boy had punched me in my face, whilst I was in bed with my eyes closed! I vowed that this would never happen to me ever again. This incident would shape future events in my life.
I was befriended by a few misfits (please forgive me, if you ever happen to read this!) and we learned to smoke cigarettes together and shared alcohol from time to time. This is when I met a guy who was a year higher than I. He knew people! People in town, and girls! I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread – he was my hero!
During the half term, during the mid semester, we went out on the town. We went to a party! There we were, smoking marijuana and drinking vodka on the pavement. Man, this was what life was all about! I don’t remember the rest…
The next day, we were called directly to the Head Master’s office. Oh boy, I have never felt so sick – and trapped in my life! He spoke to my friend first, and then me. We were to return in an hour to offer out defence, to receive sentencing, and judgement. We were each caned, given ‘six-of-the-best’. We were told it was not over, because the school board had to ratify his decision, and that he would call us back shortly to tell us the outcome. It was not over! It was not over! What does he mean ratify his decision?
An hour later I was called in. The school board had indeed ratified his decision – I was to be expelled. Expelled! Expelled! It can’t be! My father has sacrificed everything, and I got expelled. What was I going to say? I couldn’t breathe! Calmly, the Head Master told me that because my father had not paid for the previous two semesters, he would just ask me not to come back for the next half of the semester. My father was notified, and the next thing I knew, I was flying back to face my father. My father was so hurt! I couldn’t speak I was so distraught.
Anyway, that is where the raging battle for their child began. My father and mother fighting over my affection and allegiance, and all the while I was trying to shield my brother. In the heat of my expulsion, I sided with my father and decided to stay with him, my brother came too. My mother took it upon herself to get me into a public school, where fees would not be a financial burden.
My first days in my new High School were a nightmare. Everyone was staring at me, because I hadn’t yet got the school uniform yet. A classmate had a brother at my old school, so she sort of took me under her wing. I was extremely grateful. I remember seeing two girls having a fist fight and one ripped the others ear nearly from her head. I was horrified.
Then it started…the taunts, the whispers, the sneers…
No more! I screamed into my pillow. No more! Please!…
Then the mask…
The simplicity of it was; that no matter how afraid, insecure, or vulnerable I felt, no one would see. They would only see the mask. The mask was inspired by my brother’s primary school reader, “The Troll under the Bridge”.
I became; “Billy the Goat – the grass is always greener on the other side”. That was my mask. Billy the Goat was an instant hit. He was crazy, rebellious, aggressive, daring, and most of all…he was fearless! Billy could drink more than anyone else, he was crazier and funnier than most. He was a good sportsman too! The mask embedded itself, and was in a way, desperately massaged into place. Ah…to be accepted! To be part of the ‘in’ crowd. The status! I must say, that I never allowed any form of bullying to take place from our group. I hated bullies, I suspect that was just that I couldn’t handle anyone else going through the same things that I went through.
For the first time in a long while, I felt respected, and accepted. My claim to fame was my ability (or so I thought) to be able to drink more than anyone else. It was strange recently to hear someone talk about how the youth of today (2007) had fallen so far. People are horrified to learn that their teenagers are being dropped off at shopping malls where they get changed and go ‘party’, only to be picked up later by unsuspecting parents. We were doing that and worse in 1986!
Anyway, apart from being the drunk, and the clown, I felt lonely. The real ‘me’ always felt alone. My façade extended to the class room where I couldn’t let myself be seen as a nerd, focussed on academics. I spent my time harassing teachers and distracting students. Outside it felt great, inside it felt terrible. I just couldn’t get any girls to accept me as a serious boyfriend, someone to love, and be loved. How I longed for that. The best I could do was be loved as a brother. All the girls loved me as a brother! What was wrong with me? So I found ‘love’ in the bars and clubs my father frequented.
I started drinking almost immediately after I started living with my dad. For the two of us it was a mutual beneficial relationship. My father had a friend, drinking partner, and was exalted by my friends. They called him, ‘XL’. He was extremely generous, and a well built man with shoulder length silver hair. All my female friends called him the ‘Silver-maned Fox’. Oh boy, he loved that! As my father’s drinking partner, I became accepted in all the bars. I was considered part of the crowd. I was a 15 year old drinking with 30 to 50 year old men. The ‘love’ came in the form of divorcees that had too much to drink. It caused a great deal of friction between my father and I. This was because we were effectively hunting the same ‘prey’. I had many infatuations, but never found someone to love me. Sadly, it wasn’t me the girls were looking at – it was Billy the Goat.
I had a ‘good time’ until I graduated in 1986 – just! My father was insistent that I go to university. My whole life I had wanted to be a marine biologist. I had a whole library of books on fish, sharks, whales, and the ocean. I really wanted to become a marine biologist! My fathers plan was that I would go to university, and then go straight on to my uncle in Canada, or straight to California to Pasadena College in California. It didn’t happen like that. In those days in South Africa, white boys and men went to the army for two years.
I was due to go the best university in South Africa to study marine biology on 15 February 1987. I had been conscripted by the army, and was due to be ‘mobilise’ on the 13th. There were a few of my immediate circle of friends that happened to be conscripted to the same place. The anti-aircraft regiment was based in Cape Town. It had the reputation of being a spa. A bit of guard duty during the week, and the beach over the weekend. I convinced myself that I could always go to university afterwards. My father was not at all convinced, and totally against it. However, much peer pressure, and far too much drinking saw me board the army train to Cape Town. I remember the tears rolling down my father’s cheeks. I knew I had made a mistake, once the hangover started to set in. I knew it was a huge mistake, when the commanding officer told all the new recruits in one of the hangars that the regiment was no longer going to be known as a spa. He was determined to make it a Special Forces support regiment, and that we would receive the best and toughest training available.
We were allowed a grace period of one week to ‘adjust’. That is when the nightmare started. I had decided to enter into the NCO and officer course. It was tough. One of my acquaintances from school, committed suicide during guard duty. It was a stark reality of those who were just not equipped to deal with that kind of pressure and loss of independence. I felt trapped! Even more than at boarding school! I just could not get out, except for committing suicide. I was too scared to do that. So the fear of being caged, humiliated, and tormented by Afrikaans instructors (Bombardiers) who picked on the English speaking soldiers who were in the vast minority. I hated it at the camp. I was spiralling downwards into depression and hopelessness. That is when Billy the Goat took over. He was fearless, bold, and cocky. He would go AWOL and go drinking with instructors! It was amazing that I never got caught! At the end of our 3 month period of basic training, we were faced with; “Kap om vlou”. Translated, it means “Fall over faint”. There were 360 of us that started off on the 150km cross country obstacle course over 4 days. Only 44 of us finished…
Being Billy cost me promotion. I just wanted to get to the “Border” and become a lean mean killing machine. In November of 1987 I got my opportunity. We were sent through to the border of Angola and South West Africa (now known as Namibia). After 2 campaigns, the last being six months I was demobilised in December 1988. Billy the Goat was the ideal soldier – fearless. Billy the Goat may have been fearless, but behind the mask I was petrified. Another thing that got to me was the loneliness. I never had a girlfriend to share with. In the two years I was in the army, I got three letters from my mother, three from my grandmother, and one from a school friend. I used to wait with a ‘pessimistic to be optimistic’ attitude every time we were supposed receive post. My fellow soldiers would get letters from family, girlfriends, fiancée’s, wives, and friends. They got parcels! I got a total of 7 letters in two years. I felt so isolated, almost outcast.
I received my Pro Patria medal with pride, and sadness at our final parade. It was an especially emotional time for the parents of those who had lost their lives in a war that would become a lesson in futility.
My father was extremely proud of his ‘mentally unstable’ son. He told everyone I was not of sound mind, and I suppose this was true. Excessive alcohol consumption, coupled with a complete disregard for my own personal safety, made folks particularly weary of me. I loved it! Now people really had a reason to fear me! The mask was reinforced on a daily basis. For a while my ‘weapon’ of choice was a 3 pound hammer – just for effect!
My dad was involved in all sorts of financial scams and schemes. Effectively he became part of a syndicate that dealt in foreign currency, illicit diamonds and emeralds, and rhino horn. Their speciality was white collar crime – ripping people off. It was inevitable that I would end up as the ‘muscle’, especially for my father. Often he would start fights with guys, and once they had reacted physically, he would come to me to restore the family honour. I did many things, to many people that I regret. I hope that one day; they would find it in their hearts to forgive me.
My father and I stayed in a hotel, and my brother had moved in with my mother. After staying with my father for a couple of months, I realised that our relationship was extremely destructive, not only to ourselves, but to others. I just could not sustain the lifestyle anymore. I was drinking two bottles of whiskey a day, and kicked that off with six beers or so for breakfast. I decided to get a job with my step father (my mother had remarried) in the retail clothing business. I moved in with them, and started to try and clean up my life. I was a mess.
At the end of February 1989 (I was 19 years old at that stage), my father called me one day while I was at work. He knew all the right buttons to push, and so he enticed me to give up the ‘common’ life, and move to Jeffrey’s Bay with him. He had already bought me a surfboard, and a Volkswagen Baja Bug! What was I to do? An opportunity had presented itself, that I just could not refuse.
We lived at a B&B right on the sea. It was awesome! For months, the morning routine would be to get up at 6a.m and walk down the beach, armed with n oyster knife, Tabasco sauce, lemons, and a black pepper grinder. The surf at Jeffrey’s Bay was ferocious, and used to knock oysters off the rocky reefs, and wash them up on the shore. I loved it, and they are some of my happier memories. The owner’s daughter and I became an item.
It wasn’t long before my dad got locked up for not paying a hotel bill. It was a set up, but he got nabbed. He was in jail, and I tried in vain to find his associates who had all gone into hiding, or would not ‘get involved’. I started commercial squid fishing on the ski-boats of the Eastern Cape coast. It was extremely tough. The characters were very memorable. Nevertheless, it was not long before I had earned enough money to get my old man out of jail.
As soon as he was out, his associates came out off the wood work as if nothing had happened. I was extremely angry, and they kept their distance. It wasn’t long before my father pulled another scam. In a sudden flurry of activity, almost like a whirlwind, I found myself driving down to Cape Town to catch a flight to Greece. Why Greece you may ask? We didn’t require a visa. We bought three Rolex 18ct gold Oysters to try and get the money out, as well as traveller cheques and cash.
We flew to Johannesburg and stayed in the Presidential Suite in a major hotel. My mother and teenage brother came to see us off. My father gave my mother money and we said our goodbyes to my brother, who would resent this up until today. He believes that we abandoned him, and if I’m really honest, I think we did. Being on the run from criminals is not exactly conducive to do the ‘right thing’.
We arrived in Athens and my father behaved like a multimillionaire. The money flowed…
We left Athens and went to Mykonos, because I insisted we get away from anybody trying to follow us. We were there for about three weeks. It is difficult to remember because of the total assault on me – culturally, visually, mentally and emotionally. The amount of alcohol we consumed was unimaginable. My father wanted to find some ‘solid ground’ so we moved back to Athens, where we stayed in a hotel. I spent a great deal of time in Glyfada. Eventually, we decided that we wanted to move to a quiet island, somewhat off the beaten track. So after several discussions with local Athenians we decided on Kos. It was only about 10 nautical miles from Turkey (Bodrum) and would be convenient to renew our visas which were only valid for 2 months on the islands.
So we moved down to Kos which forms part of the Dodecanese island group. The change in season meant that the islands were slowing down, and most tourist type restaurants closed down for the winter. The challenge for us at the time was that the old man was spending money like water. Towards the end of winter, the money had dried up. Our trips to Turkey had been expensive. We had asked the daughter of the owner of the B&B in Jeffreys Bay to bring over whatever she could salvage in terms of assets we had left behind, and then to bring the money over to Greece. I was elated at her arrival. She really was one of the nicest and most decent people I have ever met.
My drinking was out of control, my days blurred.
There were two jobs that I had that stand out for me whilst in Greece. One was working on a 78ft motorised yacht called the Riomada, which took exclusive guests down the Turkish Coast. The other was running the Palace Beach Restaurant and Bar. In the early hours of the morning an acquaintance of mine from Passport Control, came to me and warned me that the police were coming to arrest us on the suspicion of smuggling. In a hurry I gathered all my stuff from my apartment which I shared with the young lady mentioned previously and also got all my dad’s clothing from his place. I got whatever money I could get and we caught the ferry to Rhodes Island, hoping to draw some of my savings, but the authorities had already restricted the account. Without much money, we decided to go to Cyprus. We caught another ferry to Cyprus.
I can honestly say that in hindsight I must have been going through some sort of nervous breakdown. We had almost no money, yet we continued to drink excessively. Between looking over my shoulder, trying to protect my dad (and rein him in), and the fact that I had abandoned this girl back in Greece, I was in a mess.
We arrived in Limasol in Cyprus, and I started to look for some sort of bar or waitering work to survive. An immigration raid just prior to our arrival put paid to that. We were in a jam. As we struggled to find our bearings and figure out some sort of survival plan, we met two Israeli’s who befriended us and got us passage to Haifa in Israel. They acted as references and gave us some money (I think I may have sold something, but I’m not sure). We arrived in Haifa, Israel and caught a bus to Tel Aviv. We headed for a recommended hostel and on arriving found that we had enough money for one night’s accommodation, two beers and two packets of cigarettes. That was it. We had planned to get to Kibbutz but it would take three days and some money which we never had. I started washing dishes the next day.
So I worked at night whilst my father drank on the bar tab. I was over wrought with guilt and shame for leaving the girl in Greece, and tried to use whatever money I could to get hold of her, but to no avail.
I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant during the day (considered a promotion!) and occasionally got the opportunity to work on a shrimp trawler out of Jaffa harbour. It was during this time that my father befriended an English girl, and when we met, we hit it off straight away. I think that she liked the rare glimpses she saw of Justin, but 95% of the time she saw my mask.
We decided to move to England, and we could get married so that I could stay in the UK. I ‘arranged’ a bona fide one way, and a fraudulent return ticket back to Israel. I was told that South Africans didn’t need a visa to enter. Boy, I was naïve! The old man and I parted ways and I was off to England. I should have realised the plan was flawed when I was strip searched and interrogated for 3 and a half hours at Ben Gurion Airport, and subjected to another 5 and a half hour interrogation at Gatwick. I got to stay in the UK for 3 days and then my girlfriend followed me back to Israel.
During this time the Gulf War broke out, and after many destructive and violent situations I found myself in, my father and I decided to part ways. He went to Moshav in the Negev, and I stayed in Tel Aviv. Watching the scuds blowing up Tel Aviv and Ramat Gaan All I ever seemed to do was drink and smoke hashish. Work, drink, pass out, work, drink, pass out…
My girlfriend and I went to a Moshav in Tulkarm (near the West Bank) for six weeks to save money to return to the UK with a Letter of Consent to get married. We left Israel, and my father for the UK.
I got married in 1991 to this young lady. I can honestly say that she was my ‘world’. Sadly, I could not give up drinking, and even worse she never got to know the real me. It is a tragedy, that no matter how much I loved her, I could not bring myself to ‘reveal’ who I was, because as someone once said, “The lie had become too big”.
We moved to South Africa with our entire lives in our back packs. We stayed with my grandmother for a little while. I got jobs in the insurance industry, and then in the entertainment industry.
One night my father arrived on our doorstep. Both my wife and I were surprised that he had pitched up out of nowhere. As it turned out he had spent the year or so in Cyprus, with a stint in Cypriot prison. His arrival complicated matters, and put enormous strain on a fragile marriage. Eventually I had to give him whatever funds I had, and ask him to leave. He had nothing, and nowhere to turn, but he wanted to go to Durban. I dropped him on the side of the highway, and he started hitching. To this day, it is one of my most shameful and painful memories – watching my father in the rear-view mirror as I drove away. That said, it was either him or my wife.
I blew it more times than I care to imagine during our stay in South Africa. I really put my wife through unnecessary pain and suffering – all caused by my stubborn refusal to lay down the bottle.
We moved back to the UK in 1993 and tried to start again. As soon as things started to get better I would get out of it and create some sort of disaster. I can honestly say that she tried hard to make things work. I just would not stop drinking, and when I did, things went pear-shaped. She always forgave me, and so I continued.
Midway through 1995 my world fell apart. My wife told me that she was leaving me. It destroyed me. I tried so hard to reconcile, but every time I got close I would throw it away by drinking. I take full responsibility for our separation, as well as the further breakdown of our marriage. I just would not, could not stop drinking – and then there were the drugs.
We met at Heathrow airport on the 12 December 1995, prior to my flight. I had thrown away every opportunity to regain her trust and to reconcile. She was crying, I was crying. We agreed that I would return to South Africa to see my family, and get my head right. When that time had come, I would return to the UK and start the process of rebuilding our marriage.
I barely remember my trip back to South Africa, I drank a bottle of whisky on the plane, and had started to drink another once I arrived. Friends fetched me from the airport and I stayed the night after being rushed to hospital after splitting my chin on their tiled floors.
I arrived in Durban and lived with my brother for a couple of months. It was during this time that my wife sent me ‘the letter, a dear Justin letter’. I fell apart at the seams. It was a black hole, filled with utter despair, shame, guilt, and pain. The pain was constantly gnawing at me. I was drinking all day, and as much as I possibly could. I ended up staying with my father, and I also ended up sleeping in some very dark places.
Those who have been through this situation will know that the estranged partner is always in ones thoughts, and dreams. There is always the hope of reconciliation, no matter how irrational. I even believed at one stage that she was going to arrive in Durban and tell me all was forgiven. It was not to be. I really know what it is like to have one’s heart broken.
The next couple of months were a blur, or a haze of constant anguish, hopelessness and drunkenness. My friends got me to travel from Durban to Johannesburg. I arrived as a tramp. At our High School Reunion in 1996, I misbehaved once again, confirming what everyone knew. Billy was a loser, destined for jail or death. I stayed with a friend of mine. All we did was drink. All I could think of was drinking, and getting drunk. I constantly dreamed of reconciliation, but the reality of loss became more evident. I am ashamed to say, that I had wished at times that she had died, so that I could in my selfish way, have closure. The guilt seemed unbearable.
I met a woman who was ten years older than I and we really hit it off. I had some semblance of normality – at first. However, the drinking got out of hand, and drugs were becoming a real problem too. Marijuana was the primary drug of choice followed by Ecstasy, Cocaine, and various other combinations of ‘dots’. Things started to get out of hand. She convinced me once and for all that I had a problem.
I went to Alcoholics Anonymous. I did very well for six weeks, and then fell off the wagon for three months. Then I went back for another seven weeks, and fell off the wagon. It was during my ‘sober’ times with AA that I learned something called substitution. This was where one substitutes one substance of addiction, for another. It was a recipe for disaster. I ended up smoking 8 to 10 joints a day, and took whatever other drugs that I could find.
Eventually, my relationship with the older woman ended, and I moved back to my mate’s place. I was alone – again. I felt trapped that there was this cycle of drunkenness, and associated destruction. The dreams of my estranged wife haunted me at night, and shame and guilt hung around my shoulders during the day. Still I drank.
One Sunday night my mate and I went to a sundowners club. I was trying to sign a credit card slip, when I noticed this beautiful brunette standing beside me. “Excuse me madam. May I borrow a pen?” I asked her. Later on that evening we got better acquainted. She got drunk and I for some reason stayed sober. I knew that I was going to marry her, and that she would be the mother of my children. It was the last time she ever got drunk. I unfortunately never stayed sober. Her name is Barbarah.
We met on 6 July 1997, as I’ve mentioned previously, but we only really stared seeing one another a few weeks later. I just hadn’t learnt a thing. I drank and drank, and took whatever drugs were going at the time. Barbarah comes from a domestically volatile situation, where alcohol abuse formed the cornerstone of her upbringing. Both her parents were alcoholics. She actually hated alcohol, and it seems incredible that she was drunk that first night (and never again) and I was a hard-core alcoholic and drug addict.
As our relationship progressed, it became evident that my irresponsible behaviour was not something Barbarah had signed up for. It must be said here, that NO ONE thought I would be alive to see thirty years of age. If there was any hope of me making it to thirty, it would be in a prison cell. No one had any hope for me, including myself. There was of course the mask. The mask. The mask.
One Sunday night in February 1998, Barbarah and her cousin went to find God. I wasn’t particularly bothered as I sat at hope with a beer in my hand. That night Barbarah found Jesus. Later on that week Barbarah told me that not only was she going to church on Sundays, but she was going to attend a mid-week Bible Study too. This was too much for me! “You better choose! It’s either the church or me!” I told her. I lost.
After being thrown out for the second time, I convinced her that I would change. I even went to church with her on Sunday. It was a strange feeling as the Pastor delivered his sermon to me the whole night. I felt as if he was staring, and talking to me the whole service. He knew about the mask. He knew about me! I was so furious when we left the church, I shouted at poor Barbarah for revelling personal details to the Pastor. She categorically denied it. I sensed something happening, outside of my control.
The following Friday, I was ‘coerced’ by my work colleagues to go out for one drink. I agreed, but I wasn’t going to drink. Two hours later I was pouring Guinness down my neck. I was so ashamed, that I couldn’t go back home. I ended up at my friend’s house, where I spent the weekend – drunk. In the early hours of the Monday morning, I had a vision of the face of satan laughing at me I lay in the spare bed. His face was inches away from mine. I went to work (in the same clothes that I had worn of Friday), and had to leave at tea time. I went to a church nearby, and pleaded for someone to help me! I was so desperate! I knew that I had blown it again. Barbarah would not answer or return my calls. How could I have made the same stupid mistake again? It was over…
I convinced my mother to call Barbarah, in the hope that she could convince her that I needed to see her. I just need one more chance. I just need one more chance. I just need one more chance. Please! I begged God all the way to Barbarah’s house. I knew that this was it. This was the fork in the road. There would be no more chances. If I could convince Barbarah….
I remember watching Barbarah sitting on the bed crying. My stuff was unceremoniously shoved into dustbin liners in the lounge. I could hardly breathe. I was so scared. I knew that this was to become the turning point in my life. I begged Barbarah for one last chance. She was the only shot I had a real life, at happiness. She agreed. Reluctantly, if only to prove to herself that it was not worth pursuing this relationship.
Like most non-believers, I believed that it would take an extraordinary act of God to take place before one committed themselves to God, the walk of Salvation, and a real relationship with God. I imagined being struck by lightning in the service. When we went to church again on the Sunday. That didn’t happen. However, I felt something change.
As soon as I gave myself to Jesus, and I accepted that my sins were forgiven something happened. The mask of deception and fear that become so intertwined, so embedded in my life that I couldn’t remove it, came off. It was as if the Lord had slipped His Hand under the mask and supernaturally just popped it off.
I can only begin to share what sorts of emotions I went through. I felt vulnerable, afraid, guilty, shamed, convicted of sin, and insecure. However, I had never felt so free. I felt this huge burden lift from me. I had received the miracle of being reborn. I was a new creation. It was wonderful, because I knew I would have Jesus and Barbarah by my side. For once I had a glimpse at true happiness.
A convicted murderer is not set free from prison because he receives the free give of Salvation. In God’s Mercy and Grace we receive Salvation through Faith. However, we still suffer the consequences of our actions. The sin may be forgiven, but the consequences still need to be dealt with. For most new converts that is the bitter pill to swallow. That said, I would never have had the strength and courage to face these consequences by myself, and certainly not as the ‘real me’. God’s Grace is sufficient for all, and in all things.
I had accumulated a great deal of debt (mostly through underhanded means) which I had to repay. The enormity of that fact was something that I battled with. My car got repossessed, and the wolves were out in force. Barbarah is an awesome negotiator, and with God’s favour, she managed to get settlements for all my debt, which we repaid from a small inheritance that she received from the death of her father. It took us a year to be freed from all the debt. That is a miracle in itself.
I stopped drinking, smoking cigarettes (I smoked about 30 to 40 a day), and taking drugs on 28 March 1998. I always celebrate it on 1 April – April Fools Day. We abstained from our intimate relations until we got married on 11 October 1998. I was officially divorced on 9 October, two day before. That was a very hard year for Barbarah and I. We stayed at home for a year! I couldn’t face even going out for a pizza, because all I would want to do is drink.
Our marriage was often on the rocks, and fiery old lady put me in my place and ‘kicked’ my attitude out the window. Her counsel got Barbarah and I through some of our toughest challenges. My volatile temper got dealt with next. We soldiered on.
On a Young Adults / Youth camp Barbarah and I were told we were going to have a baby. This was confirmed shortly afterward. The Lord spoke to me and said, “Blessed be your son Gabriel, who will breathe the Fire of God!” I knew it was going to be a boy, his name was Gabriel, and God had a very special plan for him. Gabriel Jonathan Lippiatt was brought into the world at midnight on 9 October 1999.
It was in the June of 2000 that one of the most painful things I could imagine happened. My father died. It was not really his passing that affected as much as the fact that he would not forgive me for giving my life to Jesus. He never got to see his grandson. He never got to be proud of the real me. In hindsight his unforgiveness may have been based on me having lived a lie behind the mask. He didn’t really know me. His forgiveness would have meant a great deal to me, and somehow I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have his forgivness.
Michaela Dorothy Lippiatt was born on 26 February 2002, and she completed our little family unit. We are an extremely close family. It was only through Jesus, that I got what I always dreamed of. Through Grace, and not because I deserved it, I was given a beautiful wife, and two beautiful children. Apart from God, they mean everything to me. I am happy! I am blessed! I love Barbarah more and more every day. That’s awesome!
At the beginning of 2005 we decided to head for the distant shores of Australia to seek a better, more secure future for our children. Through miraculous and Divine intervention we are now living in Sydney. I work for Christian Outreach Centre, and my role is to help transform people’s lives. What an awesome privilege! My mother remains in South Africa. My brother is there too. He continues down his own path of destruction, stubbornly groping around in the darkness that alcohol and drug addiction create, but there is always hope…
For those who I have hurt, and whose lives I have destroyed, I ask for forgiveness…
So, that is my story. That is how I got set free. I was finally able to become the man I had always wanted to be. I left for dead Billy the Goat, and the mask. I was no longer captive to ‘someone else’. Instead I became a husband, a father, and a servant of the Almighty God.