Sex, drugs, rock bottom, and finding hope. Again

New life after growing up in a ‘Christian bubble’

“The change of heart I have had isn’t just with young people – I never saw myself working to help people,” admits Joshua Niclair.

“I was like, ‘nah, I just want to make money for myself.’”

“I was really depressed and alone. I tried everything and my last resort – was God.” – Joshua Niclair

Before COVID-19 shut Australia down, Niclair changed jobs. He started as Workshop Coordinator at Hand Brake Turn, a Melbourne-based mechanic program that teaches automotive (and life) skills to young people at risk. Hand Brake Turn is run by Concern Australia, the charity created by renegade minister and God Squad founder John Smith. Students are young people who come out of the youth justice system, or who are disengaged with school or their community.

In short, Hand Brake Turn exists to help others – a way of living that was not a priority for Niclair for a long time.

Although Niclair is from a Christian family and had that “faith and hope” as a child, by his late teens he thought he would give some other things a try. A defining moment for Niclair was his “healthy home life” being smashed by the separation of his parents when he was 13.

“That was a big hit to me, mentally,” reveals Niclair. “Through that, I was broken … That destroyed my faith a bit, so going through my teenage years I was up and down – not the happiest kid.”

Considering himself an atheist as a young adult, Niclair didn’t think much of Christianity – at all – for a long time. Instead, he thought about himself and all the stuff he could do and have. “I grew up in a bit of a Christian bubble and I wanted to see what the world had to offer.

“I went and tried everything out, you know. Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – and then I hit rock bottom.”

Niclair came to realise he was searching for what he had during his childhood – hope – but in every place other than God.

Having moved to Brisbane for work about ten years ago, the Victorian remembers he started to go down a “dark path.”

“I was really depressed and alone. I tried everything and my last resort – was God. I’ve been on that journey ever since.”

One of the big reasons Niclair loves Hand Brake Turn is that his own experiences are similar to those of the young people in the mechanic program. “I definitely relate to some of these kids and how they deal with pain and things going on.”

“It’s the perfect job for me. I’m thankful every day that God has put me here and I’m excited for the future,” says Niclair about Hand Brake Turn, which has had to suspend its workshop classes while continuing to offer services and repairs. Niclair and his colleagues are in steady contact with students and are exploring online options for skilling the disadvantaged or vulnerable young people they work with.

While Niclair has not become a saint, his life now is vastly different to when, back in Queensland, he was consuming a lot of alcohol: “With that comes women and partying [but] as soon as you wake up the next day, you are back to square one.”

Lonely and spiralling further out of control, Niclair had a sobering and life-changing Christmas Day, 2012. “I came down [to Melbourne] for Christmas to spend with my family. Mum asked me to come to church and I was like, ‘Oh, all right.’ So I went to the Christmas Day service and, yeah, the preacher was talking right to me.”

“When I became a Christian, it changed my whole perspective on what is important.” – Joshua Niclair

What was it that struck Niclair at that particular celebration of the birth of the saviour of the world? “I don’t remember what the preacher was saying, but I was just in a really bad spot, and it felt like every word was spoken to me. My heart was racing and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got to turn myself around here.’”

Niclair was surprised that he was calling out for help to a God he’d knowingly dismissed years earlier. But the following year, when he moved to the Sunshine Coast, he threw himself in with a church community and began his quest to “find God again.”

He’s glad he surrounded himself with “good people” and steadily knew he wanted to leave his old ways behind.

“When I became a Christian, it changed my whole perspective on what is important – and that’s being the ‘hands and feet’; spreading the good news,” says Niclair who, incidentally, did not realise Concern Australia has its roots in Christianity until he became more involved with the charitable organisation.

“We don’t advertise that we are a Christian organisation; we just live by it,” says Niclair of Concern Australia.

“And that’s the way I live my life. I don’t go around Bible-bashing people and telling them that Jesus loves them and all that. But I try to love people and be as Christ-like as possible.

“Being the ‘hands and feet’, people notice. And then they start asking questions and they want to know why you do what you do.

“That’s the perfect opportunity to say ‘there is a saviour. He died for me – and he died for you as well.’”

Concern Australia works with vulnerable young people, including those experiencing homelessness. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these young people is huge. You can help them get the support they need by donating to Concern Australia’s COVID-19 Crisis Appeal.

Give