The following is an edited extract from a Newspaper article published in October 2007...
Jackie Burke wasn't what we might regard as a typical young drug addict...never in trouble...good home...girlfriend...showed promise at school. Jackie says..."I didn't take drugs because my mummy didn't like me or my daddy beat me. I had a normal, happy, loving family. My parents couldn't do enough for me, even when they found out I was on drugs."
At 11 he started to smoke. At 13 he first got drunk. Cannabis and amphetamines followed and at 16 he left home for a life of drug-filled abandon in England. He loved drugs...That was in the early 1970's but nowadays Jackie travels the length and breadth of Ireland visiting schools and describing how drugs almost killed him.
"I tell the school-kids about my life from first drink to heroin, with all the trauma and tragedy. I enjoyed drugs at first - but it just crept up behind me and I was a prisoner. By 18, I was a registered drug addict. I believe the process began when I started smoking...it kind of breaks down a wee barrier in your head that you can do something that's disapproved of and get away with it."
Now in his 50's, Lisburn-born Jackie puts his survival down to divine intervention and the unstinting efforts of his mother who never stopped praying that her wayward son would one day escape his life of self-destruction.
After years of personal chaos, including several stints in prison, now back in Lisburn, his bleakest moment came at his mothers house while she was in hospital.
"I woke up at 4am suffering with barbituate poisoning. I knew I was in serious trouble. But I also knew that Christ's presence was there with me". For reasons that he can't explain, he began to feel much better. "Over the next few days I should have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms; none came. The old desires gnawed but ten weeks later, drug-free without any medical intervention, I was given a clean bill of health."
Jackie now has a wife, Hilary, who shares his faith, and three young children. He earns his living from talks about drugs, mostly to schools.
The fascinating thing is that eight out of ten questions asked by pupils are about his faith in Christ. Many would regard him as a lucky man. But he disagrees. "I don't believe in luck. I believe in God's providence. You might say that by the Grace of God, I'm a very lucky man!"
An Ulster Star article about Jackie is reproduced here: www.lisburn.com/archives/info/2007news/jackie-burke.html