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Aug15WedAllan Jones is determined to help others fight for mental health. August 15, 2018 by Ken Ramstead
Allan Jones is the first to admit that he did not do it by himself.
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- Faith & Friends
“Every day is a struggle with my schizophrenia,” he says. “But I wouldn’t be where I am today without help—help from the medical community, fellow patients, friends and my church family. You can’t do it alone. I’m proof.”
Not Giving Up
Born in Sudbury, Ont., Allan attended a Christian school, but a horrific event in his high school years scarred him for life.
“I was sexually abused by an employer, who then tried to run me over in his car,” he explains. “I was hospitalized for six months.”
Allan barely had time to work through that trauma when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and auditory hallucinations. He was in and out of institutional care over the next decade as the doctors tried to wrestle with his illness.
“For many years, I stopped practising my faith,” he admits now. “I was drinking heavily and into drugs. I had unresolved anger issues that I didn’t know how to work through. I was a mess.”
It was while he was serving a jail term for impaired driving that Allan, now married with two daughters, realized he needed to get clean, if only for his children.
“It was a rough process but I got sober and stayed sober.”
With the help of his father-in-law, Allan recovered the faith he had lost as a teen. It was then that he moved back to Sudbury, where he could be better treated for his schizophrenia.
“Despite taking medication, I still have auditory hallucinations. Fortunately, they fall to the wayside when I’m talking or someone’s talking to me,” Allan says. “I have to stay in control, but I am doing this, with help from the doctors and God.”
Faced with numerous traumas, including psychotic episodes and delusional thinking, Allan weathered psychiatric hospital stays, forged a career as a diesel mechanic and became a devoted father. Through all this, he recovered his self and his life.
“Every day, I have to push myself to function and have as normal a life as possible,” Allan says. “I’ve learned so much from doctors, nurses and pastoral care. Life is too precious to give up.”
Growing in Faith
For more than five years, Allan has been attending The Salvation Army Community Church in Sudbury.
Before he did, though, Allan already had some fond memories of The Salvation Army. As a teenager hitchhiking through western Canada, a Salvation Army facility hosted him for a few nights and he never forgot their kindness.
“I knew there was an Army church near my home,” he relates, “so one Sunday morning, I decided to see what it was all about. I’m so glad I did.”
While he is not an official member, Allan attends regularly.
“Allan was involved with our men’s fellowship,” confirms Marianneke Summerfield, the co-pastor at the time. “He was not an official greeter, but always took time to interact with the church family on Sunday mornings.”
Why does Allan keep coming back?
“I love it!” he answers simply. “The congregation here is so great and so understanding.
“They know I suffer from a mental illness and they haven’t banished me,” he laughs.
He also appreciated his pastors at that time, Marianneke and Craig Summerfield. “They unpacked the Bible with elegant simplicity,” Allan says. “Since I have arrived here, I’ve purchased numerous Bible study materials, but the pastors knew how to make complicated theories and beliefs accessible to anyone.”
“Allan has grown in his personal understanding of Jesus and The Salvation Army,” confirms Marianneke. “He wasn’t afraid to ask questions about church doctrine. He was thoughtful and analytical, taking in everything he heard and applied it as needed.”
Encouraged by the welcome he found with the Army, Allan determined to chronicle his journey through mental illness. He’s penned two books, The Book of Al and On Rock Bottom and Know Where to Turn, and he is in the process of writing a third.
“I wanted to tell people how it feels to have schizophrenia, and how wonderful it can be when you have the support of friends, family and church,” he explains. “It’s a horrible disease but it does not have to be faced alone. If by telling my story, I can help just one person, that would be great.
“I wanted to change my life around and help others,” Allan says, “and with The Salvation Army, I have done just that.”