May Nicholson is the Project Director and Founder of the The Preshal Trust in Govan, Scotland. Preshal (meaning ‘precious’ in Gaelic) is an organization that was founded on May’s vision of helping people on their journey to finding hope and a future. She is a woman captivated by Christ, a woman set on loving those who the Lord’s heart breaks for and a woman whose story is, itself, heart-wrenching.
This is just a bit of her incredible story.
“I was born and brought up in Ferguslie, Paisley, which was the worst housing scheme not just in Britain, but in most of Europe,” Nicholson begins, “but I was brought up in a good family. There was a real sense of community where we lived, everybody helped everybody else out. My mum was a Catholic, my Dad was a Protestant. Neither church would baptize us because it was a mixed marriage, so we never really went to Church or chapel or anything.
At the age of 15, I got a job working in a café. One day, one of the girls in the café said, ‘May, would you like to chip in? We’re getting a wee bottle of wine.’ As soon as I took my first drink, I was addicted at 15. Drink seemed to make me into the person I wanted to be.”
I thought, There must be more to life than this. I had tried everything, even AA, but I couldn’t stop.
Nicholson continues, “One night, it took a turn for the worst. I had gone out and was popping tablets and drinking and my sister found me. I was in a coma. If it weren’t for her I’d be dead. She put me in the hospital where I laid in a coma for a week. After that week, they put me in a mental hospital and gave me Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). They would wire me into the wall and put big electric currents on my head. I’ll tell you… that was the scariest thing for a wee girl, just 15, like me.
My memory would be gone each time, and after each session I felt I’d lost a bit more of myself. I was so frightened. I was in that hospital for 11 months. The first thing I did when I got out was go for a drink. Drinking, drugs, stomach pumping—that’s what my life became. I’d find myself back in the hospital or in the psychiatric ward many, many more times.”
Nicholson goes on, “See, the drink and drugs, they’re takers. They take your self-respect, your sanity and they’ll not stop ‘til they take your life. I hated myself. Hated the life I was living but I didn’t know any other life. I thought everybody else hated me, too,” she admits.
“I had a good family. They sent me to rehab, they tried to look out for me. By the time I was 17, though, they’d had enough. Everybody has a breaking point. They wanted to send me to relatives in America. I said I wouldn’t go, but that if they gave me the money I would go to the Channel Islands and stay with my cousin.”
Now for the turning point—Finding hope.
Nicholson explains, “This part of my story reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son from the Bible. I took all my mother’s money and went away, spending it all on drink and drugs. One night, my cousin and I went out, hot-wired and stole a motor. We crashed it and then ran away. It even came out on the news that they were looking for two people from Glasgow.
I kept running and spent all my money. I landed homeless, just like the prodigal son, filthy and begging in the street. This lasted for a while. Finally, I couldn’t cope with it anymore. I phoned home and said, ‘Mum, I’ve nowhere to go.'”
“You know what that wee woman said to me?” Nicholson pauses. “She didn’t say, ‘Away you go, you’ve done nothing but break my heart.’ She said, ‘May, go to the bank and I’ll wire you money.’ When I got home my bed was made, the bath was drawn for me and dinner was on the stove. My mother hated my sin and what I was doing, but she loved me, she loved the sinner. The Father is always waiting with arms open wide for us.”
But her story doesn’t end there. Nicholson goes on, “I was married, briefly, and during that time had a little girl named Tracey. Ten years after I had Tracey, I found out I was having a son. I spent my whole pregnancy in the psychiatric hospital. The night he was born, I couldn’t even look at him. My children were so beautiful and I had become so afraid I would only contaminate him, as I had with Tracey. I vowed things would be different with Alan.
The drinking didn’t stop though. When my son was two, I woke up, having been drinking the night before, and found my son toddling around with the same clothes and diaper from the day before. I thought, There must be more to life than this. I had tried everything, even AA, but I couldn’t stop.
I got up and dressed us both, then went to the only woman I knew who would let me into her home. She gave me tea, then said she was going to church. I said I was going with her. She said no, I was too filthy. We argued back and forth. Because she said no, I was determined. My mind was made up, I was going to church.”
“I followed her across the road and sat down. They were reading from the Bible. I had no clue what they were talking about. But then, a lovely big man up at the front said a prayer for me. ‘Lord, see that wee woman you brought in here today? We can all see that she is filthy on the outside, but you can see the inside of her.’
It brought me to tears. I felt so unworthy, even of a prayer.
After the service, the man asked if he could speak to me and if I wanted to know Jesus as my personal Savior. I said, ‘God doesn’t want anything to do with me.’ He told me all about Jesus and I cried my heart out. That night, I said, ‘Father, forgive me. Come into my life. Don’t just be Lord of this life, be Master of it.’ That night I walked in with no hope, no future. I walked out with a new life. It was the 22nd of September, 1981. From that night on, I never needed another drink.”
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