Addiction work is ‘in her blood’. But Natasha Christopher had to discover that for herself—and is now a case worker at the Auckland Bridge.
I can’t complain at all about my upbringing! I’m so grateful to my parents for the spiritual legacy they have passed to me. Our family has always been involved with The Salvation Army—on both sides. But it’s Mum’s side that has an historical link with addictions work. My great-grandmother was even born on Rotoroa Island to officer parents, and Mum’s parents served at various Bridge programmes around the country during their officership.
I was born and raised in West Auckland and have been part of the Glen Eden Corps whānau for as long as I can remember. As a teen starting to think critically, I had to decide if I would accept the message of Jesus for myself. My first Easter Camp—ironically held on Rotoroa Island—was a time of real conscious decision-making, and that’s when I chose Jesus for myself.
When I enrolled as a soldier, I experienced a very strong ‘call to action’. I wanted to be obedient, but I knew officership wasn’t that call. Nor was youth work. So what else was there in The Salvation Army? I wasn’t sure.
I went overseas for a few months with Camp America and when I came home I took a job working at the Waitakere Bridge as the receptionist. One day that feeling of a ‘call to action’ came back suddenly and strongly. It was like the pieces fell into place in my spirit. I had this profound awareness that the core values I loved so much were strongly present at the Bridge. So, I went to WelTech and obtained a Degree in Addiction Studies.
I love my job! When I consider the origins of the Army, social reform came first: ‘soup and soap’ came before salvation—and were necessary to it. At the Bridge, I see healing and then openness to spiritual reconciliation. I work within the boundaries of the DAPAANZ’s (Drug and Alcohol Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa–New Zealand) Code of Ethics, so I won’t use my position of relative power in a therapeutic relationship to push my own beliefs. But when the person I’m working with initiates a conversation about spiritual things, well, you know it’s real!
Addiction is so very complex, and it’s an easy mistake to think that success is about people completing the programme and heading off to live a happy life. But success is also the smaller steps forward. Addiction relapse is actually very high, so having a realistic perspective of what successful treatment looks like is crucial.
For me, it’s about building the kind of relationship where someone feels comfortable to come back again if they need to. It’s improving 10 percent on their motivation—it’s any forward movement! It doesn’t need to be the ultimate end goal now—this often comes months or years later. It’s about doing the marathon, not the sprint, with someone.
When I was younger and trying to work out what this ‘call to action’ meant, I had no idea that there was this whole other half of the Army that needed case workers, counsellors, social workers and budgeters. My advice to anyone thinking about a professional career within The Salvation Army would be to check out the website and see the broader picture of what we’re involved in. Consider what qualifications are needed and what inspires you—maybe there’s something ‘in your blood’ too!
By Natasha Christopher (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 18 May 2019, p11- You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.