John Hemans – a rocker gets unchained

My somewhat chequered career as a musician is documented here, in words and photos. The bands I played in had varying degrees of success, and through my career I guess I must have played just about every venue from Sydney to Perth (and all points in between!). There’s a story behind each of these bands, and these days they’re all like bookmarks of my life to me. In my testimony, you’ll see how my life was completely revolutionised by an encounter with God. I hope my story touches you. If you’d like to contact me, drop me a line.


I was brought up by Christian
parents here in Australia, along with two brothers and two sisters. I went to good
schools, got excellent grades up until I hit about 15, and generally had a normal, though
very strict, upbringing.

When I turned 14 or 15, I started to question
everything my parents had taught me – I began to question the strict religious upbringing
I’d had, the values I’d learnt, everything. I felt like I was just getting told
what to believe about life, that my parents had set a course for me to follow, and that
they expected me to blindly walk that course.

I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things
that other kids my age could – listening to rock’n’roll music, watching any TV
programs that contained sex or violence, going to unsupervised parties, etc etc.
As soon as I was old enough to legally refuse my parents’ wishes (16 in Australia), I
quit school and got a job, and started teaching myself rock’n’roll guitar –
Hendrix, the Stones, the Who, Zeppelin, Cream, Black Sabbath etc.
At the same time I met other kids of my age, from my area, who had just discovered smoking
pot, drinking and generally having a time of it.
This was so far removed from the way I’d been brought up, and seemed like such a
great way to rebel, that I jumped on the bandwagon, and discovered a whole new world that
I’d only ever read about, and had thought sounded pretty exciting – sex, drugs and

At that time in Australia, the whole drugs
sub-culture from the 1960’s was still going strong, and kids of my age who were
getting into this scene and alternative lifestyles thought we were finding a better and
more enlightened way of life than our parents had.
At 17, I quit my job and moved into a big old house with 4 other people, a little older
than me, and really threw myself into the alternative lifestyle – the people that I hung
out with were into elements of Transcendental Meditation, Zen Buddhism, Indian mysticism,
and a big diet of psychedelic drugs.


The Rockets – 1980

In that first year I embarked on what I
thought was a ‘voyage of self-discovery’ – my friends and I would sit around
having what we thought were ‘enlightened’ discussions under the influence of
various drugs – in that first year of drug use I tried pot, hash, hash oil, LSD and magic
While initially my drug use seemed like great fun, and a huge adventure of flashing
colours, hallucinations, astral travel and gales of laughter, tripping to music by
Hendrix, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Santana, Dylan, Janis Joplin etc, that phase of my drug use
didn’t last very long.

Pretty soon I began to have some pretty weird
things going on inside my head – I would suffer incredible bouts of paranoia, thinking
that people were against me. A couple of times I had some pretty heavy LSD trips that I
had to be talked down from – I realise now that the effects must have been pretty close to
psychosis. I astral travelled a couple of times – floating above my body on my bed,
completely detached from the physical world.
The thing was, instead of getting enlightened, or leading a better life than I had had,
and being set free from the petty restrictions of my parents, and becoming a better person
through enlightenment, these drugs were doing some pretty destructive things to my mind
and my spiritual well-being.
Never having been the kind of person who’s done things by halves, I decided that the
solution to my problems must be to use more drugs, until I ‘broke through’ some
sort of barrier. There was something completely reckless that had taken hold of me, that
urged me to flirt with danger – I was starting to discover some dark things in me.
I had just turned 18, and was starting to move in a heavier scene – friends and I went to
score some pot one afternoon, and the guy I was making the buy from said he didn’t
have any pot left, and offered me heroin instead. My friends backed away, but I thought
‘What the hell, I’ll try it, once won’t kill me’. Talk about famous
last words …

A few months later, I had a motorcycle
accident, nearly losing my left leg in the process. I was in hospital for months and
months, having operation after operation as the doctors tried to save my leg. All the time
they pumped me full of pethidine, morphine and other narcotic painkillers, and I came
close to a physical dependency at that point. I remember when I was finally released from
the hospital, I was too weak to use my crutches, and my Dad had to carry me to the car to
take me home.


Saigon – 1982

My poor parents had been through so
much during this time, as they knew I had dabbled in the drug scene, but were not aware to
what extent.
They thought that as I had moved home after leaving hospital, I would straighten out,
maybe go back to school and finish my education. However, I still had a lot of friends who
were doing drugs, and I got back into it, but this time with a vengeance.

The thing was, I had discovered that there
was no enlightenment in these drugs, or in all the mystical practices and religions that
all my hip friends were into. Instead, it felt like there was this big black hole in the
centre of my being, a vacuum that kept screaming out to be filled.
I started using different kinds of drugs to try and fill up this void – speed, mescaline,
barbiturates, nitrous oxide, alcohol, in any concentration and mix.

That hole in the centre of my being was still
there, but I was starting to lose sight of any normal perspective I could have used to
seek some help out of the mess.

And all this time, at the back of my mind,
and at the heart of my desires, I could remember the first time I shot up heroin – that
warm wave that just enveloped my entire being, that seemed for a time at least, to put the
world where I wanted it – at my feet.
I started hanging out with people that were into it, and my old friends dropped away, as I
started moving in rougher circles.

As I began to move in these new circles, I
discovered that people in the drug scene weren’t all peace, love and understanding,
that terrible things happened in life, and a lot of them were done by people to each

I was now 18, and my brush with the
‘hippie’ scene was well and truly over, as I saw a complete absence of the
ideals that the hippie movement claimed to stand for being manifested in real life.
My disillusionment found a perfect vehicle in the punk rock scene which sprung up towards
the end of the Seventies.
I joined my first band as a guitar player, called World War 4, playing Sex Pistols,
Stranglers, the Damned, and stuff we wrote ourselves. We got a few gigs in Sydney, but
spent most of our time doing drugs.

Never Ending

Never Ending –

The bass player in that band, his
girlfriend and his brother were all heavily into the heroin scene, and I started hanging
out with them, doing heroin occasionally at first, but mostly smoking dope and taking acid
and mushrooms. But the more I hung out with them, the more heroin we did. Pretty soon I
stopped taking any other drugs altogether, because I could never trust what was going to
happen in my mind, whereas with heroin you always new how it would feel.

The thing is, the first few times you try
heroin, you feel like the king of the world, but after that, the craving for that first
huge rush isn’t satisfied as easily, and there begins the slide into addiction.
Each time I used, the high wasn’t as high, and it didn’t last as long, so I
needed more. The line between being really stoned, and having an overdose becomes very
blurred, very quickly.
And no matter how I justified it and rationalised it to myself, there can be no real
justification for trying to escape into a world that can only lead to overdoses, diseases
and an early death.

As well, I was now starting to feel out of place somehow, when I was straight.
I found that using heroin was something you had to hide, that the only people who accepted
it were other people who were also heroin users, that my old friends didn’t want to
hang out with me any more, because I just didn’t relate to them any more – my
emotions weren’t stirred by the same things theirs were, and as they heard about what
I was doing, initially they’d try to help, but they soon figured out that I
didn’t want help, or friendship, or love, because all those desires had been replaced
by the need to be so stoned on heroin that absolutely nothing could touch me.

Close Action

Close Action –

I was also starting to drop the
pretence of being a ‘casual’ heroin user – I even found a perverse
‘cool’ in being a junkie. I was starting to associate with people who have that
desperate edge to them, people whose drug addiction was the be-all and end-all of their
lives. Now, also, the line between right and wrong began to blur as my need for heroin

Initially I had things under control, holding
down jobs occasionally, but more and more heroin became the focus of my life – I started
resorting to dishonesty to pay for it, then outright theft – from my parents, friends,
everyone I knew.

By 1979 I was in big trouble – I’d been
kicked out of home, my girlfriend had nearly died from all the heroin we’d been
taking, and I weighed about 7 stone. As my habit got worse and worse, my dealer set me up
selling for him, and I made enough money for a while, but pretty quickly it was all just
going straight in my arm. After losing everything I owned, I straightened out for the
first time – taking barbiturates to numb the horrific withdrawal pains. My folks let me
move back in, and I found a job.


The Hurricanes –

Things went OK for a while, but once
you’ve had heroin everything else seems to pale in comparison, and that desire never
seems to let you go. Pretty soon I was hanging out with my old friends again, using heroin
as often as I could get it, and wandering aimlessly through life.

I used heroin, cocaine and amphetamines, in
that order of preference, whenever I could, with a few short breaks now and then, for the
next 6 years. I travelled all over Australia, playing in bands, chasing sex, drugs and
rock’n’roll. In that time I also graduated to speedballs – heroin and cocaine
mixed together, because heroin by itself wasn’t enough for me anymore.
I got married in 1984, and my wife and I moved to the States for a year, living in Los
Angeles and scoring ‘Mexican brown’ heroin and street cocaine in Hollywood.
It was in America that my wife fell pregnant, right in the middle of one of the worst drug
binges of my life.

In that year alone, I had already spent close
to $100,000 on heroin and cocaine.
My mother flew my pregnant wife home, as I had spent every single cent we possessed
feeding my habit, and I stayed on with my brother in Las Vegas, came down and dried out,
and flew home just in time for the baby’s birth.

Bone_Man2.jpg (25858 bytes)

Bone Man – 1993

That was the only time in my life where
I stayed off serious drugs for any length of time – even though my wife and I divorced a
year later, I kept straight, kept my job, and just occasionally I’d have a line of
coke, though I did some serious drinking in that time.
Things improved (or I thought they did) – I had a succession of OK jobs, played in some OK
bands, had a couple of pretty girlfriends that really cared about me, but the demons that
I thought had been laid to rest were still there inside me, content to lie dormant for a

Then in 1994, after 8 years of never
touching, or ever really considering touching, heroin, I woke up one morning, and I had a
craving for a speedball of heroin and cocaine. This desire, which I had thought was dead,
awoke in me like it had never been away.
One day I was fine, the next I craved heroin – craved it to the point of not being able to
think about anything else.

I lasted two weeks, and then I was into it
again, like I’d never been away. I headed straight for Sydney’s red light
district, and within a couple of hours I was back to being a junkie. This time I went to
desperate lengths to conceal what was going on. My girlfriend left me, though she fought
hard to keep me away from the drugs, and for the next three months I got stuck into it.
After overdosing twice, I realised that I was going to die if I didn’t do something –
the second OD I woke up from with a collapsed lung, and I was paralysed down one side for
nearly two days.

I managed to stop using again, but now I had
a worse fear – the knowledge that I had no control over this thing – that though I could
fight it off successfully from time to time, it was always going to be there, and that one
day, this thing was going to kill me.
You have to understand that I’ve been through five or six overdoses in my life. Three
of these were critical – on one occasion, I was revived by paramedics with Narcane (an
anti-opiate) after being blue for 15 minutes – according to medicine, I should have brain
damage, but I don’t.
Most of the people I had hung around with who were into heroin are now in one of three
situations – dead, in jail, or drug addicts and alcoholics.

Texas Rattlers

Texas Rattlers –

I managed to pull out of this
tail-spin, but my idea of ‘getting it together’ was to become a pot dealer – I
knew so many people that liked smoking pot that I found it easy to make money from it. By
the end, I was making a steady $1500 to $2000 a week, and sometimes up to 4 or $5,000.
I was playing in my own band, I had a gorgeous girlfriend, nice car, didn’t have to
work, if I wanted to have a holiday on the beach for a couple of weeks I could, if I
wanted to buy anything I had the money, and for a little while I thought I was really
living – outside the law, thumbing my nose at society – a successful sociopath.

I didn’t take drugs, I drank moderately,
I had it together.

Then things happened to bring things to a
head – my girlfriend split up with me, and that started the ball rolling.
I coped with breaking up with her OK, but then I began to sense something I’d never
experienced before –

Now something or someone was speaking to me,
right in the place where all the heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, sex and
rock’n’roll had gone – that hole in my being that I could never fill.
It was like a guide taking me back over all the things I had done in my life – a trip
through all the dead, empty spaces in my life, where you start off with hopes and dreams,
and you wake up 36 years later, and half of your life is gone.
I was remembering things from my past that I had buried for years – things that I
didn’t want to look at – but I had no choice -this person was bringing these things
up out of my dead heart, exposing them to the light, and asking me to evaluate them and
take responsibility for them.

It was a devastating experience – for
years, every time a bad memory had popped up, I had pushed it away, pretending not to
remember too many of the specifics of the horrible things I had done. Now though, I had no
choice – and I had to face the person I had become.
At this point my whole world just imploded – I couldn’t function at all –
For three weeks I’d just burst into tears, tears of heartbreak and guilt and


Unchained – 1998

At this point, a friend of mine told me
I needed to get my relationship right with God, and that’s when I realised what was
going on – that it was God showing me the person I had become.
I began to realise that it was a real, living person speaking to my spirit, and this
person wasn’t condemning me, or taunting me with my failures – this person was
showing me the results of the choices I’d made in life, and this person was telling
me, in my spirit, that it didn’t have to be that way, that there was a way out of the
hole I’d dug for myself.
God was telling me that it was time to let Him take over, that He wanted me to put things
right with Him. Not only that, he wanted to help me, to heal me.

All I had to do was surrender.

It was the hardest thing I think I’ve
ever done. I had been a rebel all my life. To have to admit that you have completely made
a mess of your life is an extremely humbling thing to have to do.
In the end I did it, because I knew in my heart that there was nowhere else to go –
I’ve tried anything and everything else in my life, and they all brought me pain.

I’m not going to tell you that it’s
all been sweetness and light since I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour and redeemer,
because it’s a hard and narrow road to obey God, but at the end of the day I know in
my heart that it’s true –

That God cares about every one of us, even
though we deserve nothing, and to prove it He sent his only son to be tortured, humiliated
and killed by the likes of you and I, and that that death brings us eternal life if we
just humble ourselves and ask for it.
I now know in my heart that drugs and alcohol will never be a force in my life again. Drug
and alcohol rehabilitation programs have never been highly succesful, because they
don’t deal with the evil that generates these desires.

Only God can do that. That’s what God
has done in me, and He is working a continual miracle in every aspect of my life.

John Hemans

John’s Home Page with testimony

I invite you to build a faith community together with me. Join my social media channels and let’s connect, especially if you want freedom or fullness in Christ.

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