Someone who understands me

Hi there my name is Mark Stevens. I was born in Hobart Tasmania, which is in Australia. I was born to loving parents; I also have an older brother and a younger sister. From a young age I found a great love and passion for music and would often record myself singing on my grandfathers portable cassette player.

This love for music carried on right through my school years and by the age of 12 I had my own band that my brother Brett was also a part of. At the age of 12 I started piano lessons and soon after my Mother and Father brought me a piano as a gift. By the age of 13 I was writing my own songs. One of these songs I placed in a 'talent quest' where I won the encouragement award. Because of this I was placed into the grand final. On the night of the grand final I was the last act. I sang Michael Jackson's 'Ben' and won the show.

There were some judges at the talent quest that were producers of the biggest kids show in Australia which was called, 'Young Talent Time.' My mother and I were flown from Tasmania to Melbourne where I auditioned for the kids show. In front of producers and directors I sang my heart out and was stopped half way through my second song and asked to join the show. For me to be a part of the show would be a massive decision for my parents because it would uproot the whole family from Tasmania and move us to Melbourne, which at the time was considered 'the big time.' Becoming a part of 'Young Talent Time' was a huge deal for a young kid. The show was aired every Saturday night on prime time television. It had a viewing audience of 1 million people, which is huge in Australia which has a population of 20 million.

I was catapulted out of a life of obscurity into a life where everybody knew my name. I could not venture outside without being followed by hoards of kids who were avid fans of the show. This was kind of difficult for a kid of 13 to handle. We were required to go to school as any normal child would however the life we were leading was far from normal. We were doing concert tours that stood us in front of 15,000 people every night sometimes for months running. I was tormented at school by bullies. I was sometimes beaten up on the street and called all kinds of names. I just thought this was all part and parcel of what could be expected. So by the age of 16 I employed a full time bodyguard. Now because of all that was going on at school, this caused me to withdraw and play truant. I began to drink quite heavily, smoke cigarettes and marijuana and 'escape' from reality. I became quite violent at school and was expelled from high-school at the age of 16 for beating up a guy that verbally abused me. Something snapped in me that day and I became out of control. The person I assaulted wore glasses and these were smashed in his face. I was very apologetic but the damage had been done.

Soon after my 16th birthday I decided to find myself a good agent who could help me further my music career. I felt I needed to move on from the show I was a part of and try something different. Instead of a singing audition, my agent found me an acting audition for Neighbours, an Australian soap opera that was hugely popular around the world. I auditioned for the part of a young tear away called, 'Nick Page.' After my 2nd call back I won the part and began work on the show soon after - This was an incredible experience. I was working with Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Craig McGlaughlan (Henry), Alan Dale (Jim), Ian Smith (Harold) and all kinds of other household names.

Now on the flip side of all this was a young man who was desperate for some kind of meaning to this thing called life. I was born a soul searcher - A deep thinker. I don't know if it was because I was an arty, creative kind of person but I was deeply curious to find answers to the bigger questions of, 'Why are we here?' and 'What is the meaning of all this?' I had lived a life of fame and fortune from a young age and it hadn't filled the void within me.

Unfortunately I was filling the void with the wrong things
I tried to find answers in relationships with women but couldn't, I tried to fill the void with alcohol and drugs but couldn't. By the age of 18 I was very famous, yet in my personal life I was becoming more and more messed up. I was snorting cocaine, taking ecstasy, LSD, speed, smoking cigarettes, drinking heavy and sleeping around. I was now a full blown alcoholic.

At the age of 19 my time on Neighbours came to an end so I decided to move to England to record an album. I had just signed a record deal with BMG/RCA and had signed with a very famous manager in Australia by the name of Glenn Wheatley. He managed my favourite artist called John Farnham. Whilst in England I worked in pantomime, recorded an album and promoted the album throughout the UK. I was earning thousands of pounds every week and almost spending it as quickly as I was earning it. I thought this life-style would last forever.

Progressively my alcohol and drug addictions became worse. I was drunk most of the time and was high on drugs nearly as much. I would turn up to recording sessions late or not at all. People who were investing their time, money and energy in me began to not take me seriously. After 3 to 4 years of this life-style I had lost it all. I had blown all the money, I had sold everything I owned, I had become estranged from my family and I had become a wreck. My life had become a mess.

I decided to return home to Tasmania and moved back in with my parents. I got work singing in dingy pubs in front of 10 to 15 people. I was out of it all of the time. I had become a sorry sight. I kept doing this for about a year.

One day my brother turned up and said, 'Lets go back to England.' I didn't need to think twice as my parent's relationship was strained and Tasmania was the last place I wanted to be in at the time. My brother and I moved back to England and tried to get our music off the ground but I couldn?t shake my addictions and became worse and worse. So bad in fact that my brother moved back to Australia because he couldn't stay and watch me kill myself slowly. At this time I was living with an old friend who I had worked with during my time with BMG/RCA. She would bring home CD?s from the record company and I would sell them to cash converters so I could pay for a hit of heroin. I had hit rock bottom. I would get just enough money day by day to get me high and drunk.

One night I was in a club and I met a young lady who at the time was working for Michael Barrymore (he was very successful at the time). She was an Australian and had watched me on TV as a kid. We became good friends and started to date each other. Because of my life-style, I totally messed her around and treated her badly. However she remained a friend. I didn?t know it at the time but she was a Christian and after our relationship she had returned to church and got her life right with God. She and some of her friends began to pray for me and God began to reveal Himself to me in a powerful way. I would have moments of peace and clarity that baffled me because my life was mostly lived in turmoil. When I was talking to people I would know things about them that were beyond the surface. I began to sense a real compassion for people and spend hours talking to people that no-one cared for. I began to search deeper and deeper for true meaning and would find myself mentioning God to people and having conversations about God with people. This was so foreign to me because I had not grown up in a Christian home. My father hated anything to do with God or the church. God was working on me but I didn't understand it at the time.

The night my life changed I was invited to a party at my ex-girlfriends house. I turned up 4 hours late for the party and was with my drug dealer and my drug dealers friend. They were kicked out of the party for doing heroin in the bathroom. I was confronted by my ex-girlfriend and asked, 'What are you doing with your life!' I remember sliding down a wall and cupping my head in my hands and replying, 'I don't know any more. I think I need God.' I couldn't believe what had just come out of my mouth! My ex-girlfriend asked me to stay the night because she believed that if I went she would never see me again because I was that messed up. I stayed the night and awoke a few hours later and was incredible sick. I was vomiting, sweating and shaking. I thought I was going to die. My ex-girlfriend was taking care of me, wiping me down with a cloth, cleaning up the vomit. I must have looked a sorry sight!

All of a sudden I remember the room filling with the presence of God and I began to cry out to God realizing that there was a God and He had witnessed everything I had ever done, yet still loved me and wanted to help me. I cried and cried and cried as God began to deal with the guilt and shame in my life and reveal his forgiveness for all the wrong I'd ever done. A few days later I also realized that all my addictions had disappeared. I didn't need another drink, drug or cigarette! Even my filthy language was gone and I couldn?t bring myself to curse and swear. I had met Jesus Christ and He had saved and rescued me from who I was. He began to show me who I truly was and reveal His plan and purpose for my life.

I sit here writing this 10 years later so thankful for what God has done in my world. I have lived more, done more and been a part of some of the most incredible things in the last 10 years. I am happily married to a beautiful women called Bethan - she is incredible. I work full time at church and absolutely love what I do - helping head up the music team. I'm active in the community helping change people's lives who have lived a similar life to me. They have the same needs - and want answers to the same questions. I have seen my families lives changed. My mother became a Christian and so has my brother and his wife. Although my parents have separated I'm still believing the best for my dad. I don't have any children yet but Beth and I look forward to being parents to beautiful children. God has been so good to me and it's just the beginning of an incredible journey. I haven't even started yet!

Mark Stevens, 20/09/2007