I grew up in a tight-knit Catholic family on the border of Seal Beach and Los Alamitos.
Despite my family’s stability and support, I fell into the role of the “black sheep,” and was
rebellious and disobedient to my loving parents. My drug habit started when I was 13 years old.
My parents put me in a structured program where I wasn’t living with them anymore. When I was 16, things hadn’t improved so my parents sent me to a locked-down rehab program in Utah, where I spent two years.
When I graduated from the program, I still hadn’t changed. My father said I couldn’t come home, so I enlisted in the Army.
I spent several years overseas and gained rank as a Specialist. My time in the Army showed me that I could do something better with my life. My days were spent working hard on something important with my comrades. We were protecting our country. I could finally be proud of what I was doing. But my heart and attitude had not totally changed, and I was eventually caught breaking the rules and paid the consequences. I was honorably discharged.
I came back to Orange County and stayed with my parents and attended school on my G.I. Bill. But Iike I said, I hadn’t totally changed and I went back to my old ways and started stealing to feed my addiction. I was in and out of jail, and the last time I was incarcerated, I finally started to realize I didn’t want to keep living like this.
My time in the Army showed me that I could do something better. I did not want to continue down this path. When I was released, I sought the counsel of a Chaplain. I was then allowed to enter the Orange County Rescue Mission program under the guidance of the Tustin Veterans Outpost. The staff, who is also a veteran, became my first friend, my Christian brother, and a really good mentor.
When I first came into the Rescue Mission it was hard not knowing anyone and leaving everything in the past behind. But the other veterans and I became close very fast. We have a similar way of thinking and we get along really well. My best friends in this program were veterans and I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
At Tustin Veterans Outpost, all of the loving advice and wise counsel I received from my family
came into focus. I have a relationship with my family again. Thanks to the assistance of my GI Bill, I was able to go to college and complete my teaching credential, and start a new life!