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From casinos to Christ’s Divine Mercy: One man’s journey to healing

Andre Adolphe

André Adolphe: “Even though I was young, the only thing I knew what to do was eat, drink and then gamble.” Photo: Emilie Ng

ANDRÉ Adolphe’s car drove itself to the casino.

The motor vehicle took him right up to the Gold Coast’s “Taj Mahal”, ending his personal five-year gambling recession.

He walked into the casino with $167 and came out with $800.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans where he speaks of the spiritual warfare that confounds the will to do good and evil could have easily been about André.

The Mauritian-born Catholic has spent most of his life as a compulsive gambler, but he also battled bipolar disorder for 50 years.

Living with bipolar, a mental health condition that causes manic and depressive mood swings, was, for André, like living out the Book of Romans.

“What I mean is that little switch that controls evil and good disappears,” André said.

In André’s case, the inclination towards sin overtook his desire to do good.

“If something didn’t go the way I saw it, I would just go berserk,” he said.

“The person that copped the most was my wife.

“I lost two good jobs because I told the boss that what I thought was right and what he was doing was wrong.”

Living with both bipolar disorder and a gambling addiction was, for André, a disastrous cocktail of evils.

“I was a cripple for more than 50 years,” he said.

André first tasted the gambling rush at 17 years of age, losing $2400 in one afternoon.

When his siblings decided to leave Mauritius in search of a new life in Australia, his mother, knowing about his addiction, gave him $20 to use on the entire seven-day boat trip.

“The thing that I remember the most, and that was 50 years ago, was I landed on Fremantle, and I didn’t have five cents to buy an ice cream,” André said. “I was broke.”

André managed to quell the addiction for the first six months of life in Australia.

He worked three jobs, but “for one reason or another” he reverted back to gambling.

“Even though I was young, the only thing I knew what to do was eat, drink and then gamble,” André said.

“You went to work, got the pay and gambled.”

He couldn’t even stop when he got married in 1972.

“What I was earning I spent; what (my wife) was earning I would spend also,” André said.

His wife suggested André join Gamblers Anonymous in 1976, and he attended meetings “until recently”.

But because of his bipolar tendency to have manic, obsessive episodes, it was impossible to make any real progress on his addiction.

In 2005, on a “very cold morning at about 2 or 3am” André made the long walk home from the casino after spending up every available dollar in his bank.

“I left the casino and I only had $19 to my name,” André, who by now had worked for 35 years, said.

“I went to bed that morning and I didn’t want to get up the next day.

“I was in such a state, saying ‘You’ve got nothing. You’ve worked. Here you are, desperate, worthless’.”

In the dark, André heard a distinctive phrase: “Love is the answer”.

A Catholic from birth, André believed the message he heard was divine – but it took nearly 12 years for him to understand the fullness of that message.

In August last year, André was invited to assist on a mission promoting the Divine Mercy devotion to parishes across Australia.

The 67-year-old admits he knew little about Divine Mercy, thinking it was only “a picture”.

Trekking across the coast in a custom-made Divine Mercy campervan, plastered with images of the Divine Mercy, André was about to find out that “a picture” had deeper significance.

Andre Adolphe campervan

Mercy road: André Adolphe took up the challenge of driving a Divine Marcy campervan to parishes across Australia promoting devotion to Divine Mercy. Photo: Emilie Ng.

André had made a deal with God on the trip – to help him develop strategies to manage his bipolar disorder.

His trip, which included daily Mass and constant prayer, coincided with the tour of renowned French retreat leader Fr Jacques Phillipe, from the Community of the Beatitudes.

“I got a real insight when I bought three of his books,” André said.

“It really went to the core of my problem; my problem was not having peace.

“With bipolar you don’t want to do the things that are good for you.

“It was the guilt you were carrying, doing so many things wrong.”

André started going to confession regularly, laying the burden of his mental illness inside the confessional.

It took several sessions in the confessional before André said he received the grace to forgive himself.

“It was after reading these books that the Lord told me that whatever I had done, all the money I had lost, all these awful things, that was forgiven, that I didn’t have to carry that guilt,” he said.

“It’s like I had a 200-pound bag that I was carrying was being lifted from me.”

André said the ability to forgive himself gave him the grace to forgive others and accept them for who they were, something he could not do while suffering from bipolar.

“I had a choice to carry on that same way of wanting to control, to be the control freak but I didn’t because the grace was there,” he said.

A major breakthrough came during a 10-day retreat at Penrose Park, NSW, in what he considers his miraculous cure of bipolar disorder.

“If you close your eyes, it’s dark; now if you open it you can see,” André said.

“I could sense that the darkness, that inability to choose properly, had changed.

“Now through the Holy Spirit I could choose rightly.

“Now I could see.”

André said since the retreat, he had not had to take any medication for his bipolar disorder.

“I don’t take any tablets, but my tablet is going to my Mass as regularly as possible because when I am at Mass it is the living Lord that I am receiving, feeding me,” he said.

“The Lord is doing more than the tablets.”

As Catholics across the globe celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy today, André will be handing out fridge magnets of the iconic image to help others receive God’s infinite mercy.

“Pope John Paul repeatedly has written and has spoken about the need for us to return to the mercy of God as the answer to the specific problems of our time,” André said.

“God’s love is the answer.”

Holy devotion: André Adolphe has found healing through the devotion to Divine Mercy. Photo: Emilie Ng.

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