'I Am Nothing Without Him.' How Jesus Spoke To This Young Woman And Saved Her From Alcoholism
She began drinking as part of her adolescent rite of passage.
It was a decade later, after coming to faith in Jesus at her local church, she was finally able to stop.
Leila Lawton, 36, now works as a psychological well-being practitioner, treating people suffering from low mood and anxiety. She is married with two children, one aged 6 and the other, 17. She also has a stepson of 13.
From the outside, her life seems pretty much perfect.
She says: "We try together most nights. While life's not been perfect, God has created opportunities for me to be present on a daily basis, developing spiritually, personally and professionally. Providing stability for my family, growing in my role as a wife and worship leader. Progress not perfection, going deeper with God and becoming more equipped to cope with the demands of life, with Christ's foundations of peace and hope for our future a day at a time. It is quite simply a life beyond my wildest dreams."
Her daughter helps lead worship at the church where she is a member, New Community Church in Sidcup, Kent. More than 20,000 people have watched a video about her story already, many via the church Facebook page.
Yet Leila is lucky even to be alive, never mind still around to tell her story.
It is more than 10 years since she had a drink of alcohol - thanks to the power of Christ, and also of the 12-step fellowship she sought help from and where she now helps and sponsors others into recovery.
She began drinking at school, taking off with her friends to the local park. Her mother, a single parent, was doing three jobs. Her father had returned to Uganda. "I just went a bit wild," says Leila, speaking to Christian Today. "My friends would get fed up with having to pick me up. Young girls without father figures tend to look for love in the wrong places."
So she looked to her older daughter's dad, and alcohol and drugs, for affirmation.
"Alcohol seemed attractive because my life seemed so bleak. I didn't know my identity, and I was lost. My relationship with my boyfriend was incredibly dysfunctional; highly emotional and physically abusive. I couldn't cope with life on life's terms.
"I was a single mum with a young baby, she was the only thing that gave me purpose and the strength to carry on. I felt I needed to escape to a space where those ever increasing negative thoughts of failure and unworthiness couldn't penetrate my mind.
"I never realised my reliance on alcohol until it was too late; as each drink took me deeper into pain.
"I was filled with hurt, shame, fear and dread. I was swept away. I used to drink from any cup as long as the contents had liqueur. I knew that one would never be enough, no matter how much I slipped and I slithered.
"I was always waiting for my life to begin."
She needed someone or something to rescue her from a bleak stark reality.
In September 2004, she found herself in church.
"Jesus just broke into my life. I gave my life to Christ. I have never known such peace and acceptance. I was overwhelmed."
She thought she was too young, at 23, to have a drink problem. But it was a year later that she finally found the courage, in Christ, to stop drinking.
"Active in my alcoholism I bore the psychological scars of an abusive relationship but in the pit of my despair God had walked with me, carried me even when I wasn't aware. He came into my life… His name is Jesus.
"He's given me a new cup from which I drink today. His blessed, precious cup of grace. His blood for my sin, his stripes for my healing. His pain for my restoration. God broke my chains of addiction, fear and shame."
"Today I drink from the cup of grace."
She quotes 1 Corinthians 10:13, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." She also cites 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
She explains: "I just felt like God said to me, 'It is ok, you can hold on to me. Alcoholics just don't know how to deal with life on life's terms. God gave me the confidence that he would be what I need."
She is now hoping to publish her story as a book, Drink From The Cup.
"I am nothing without Jesus. He is my anchor and my rock. He is real to me today, so real. I do not even know how to get through life without him."
This video of Leila was made at newcom.studio, the "digital playground" of the creative team at New Community Church, led by creative director and designer Chris Smyth. The team at newcom.studio is currently considering offering internship opportunities if any creatives in London would be interested.