MY PAROLE PAPERWORK LABELED ME A “MENACE TO SOCIETY” AND “INCORRIGIBLE AND HOPELESS.”
What life would you expect a menace to society to lead? One of crime? One spent in prison? How about helping people recover in a men’s ministry in Pacific Grove? There was a time, while I was heavily addicted to drugs, I thought leading a normal life clean was impossible. All my life I had abused some sort of substance starting with marijuana at 10 years old then graduating to pain pills and alcohol in high school. Sometime after the birth of my son, I began to use methamphetamines.
Addiction made me a monster. Every morning I woke up thinking about my next hit. All of my thoughts focused on getting that next high. There was no guilt doing what I wanted to do in order to get it. I believed that I was a functioning addict. I worked high. I also took care of my baby boy high. Drugs blinded me from my responsibilities. Eventually, everything became unmanageable. One by one I lost everything. My job. My son and family. My close friend.
He and I used together. We recognized that drugs were ruining our lives. Worse than that, we were allowing them to. One night we decided we needed to quit. Two days later, his mother found him in her garage. He had hung himself.
His death deeply wounded me. I understood his reasons. But was it my fault? Could I have helped him? After so many years guilt finally struck me. However, now it was guilt that propelled me. I desperately wanted to forget everything. But all the dope in the world could not erase my regrets. I was self-destructing to the point that I myself attempted suicide twice. The second suicide attempt got me admitted to the psych ward. After my release, I checked in to a P.G. rehab. Rather than help me quit, it introduced me to prescription drugs.
One night three years ago, a patrol officer caught me with a car that I stole one week earlier. He also discovered that I had nine outstanding warrants and $500,000 bail. Thereafter, the court sentenced me to four years and eight months in prison. Looking back, by taking me off the streets, prison actually kept me alive. When I ran the streets I joked and said, “So much dope. So little time.” In prison, I had not much more than time except memories and shame. I started to hate drugs because of what it made me do to myself and my life.
Minutes passed. Then the hours. Next the days, weeks, and months. I learned to control my cravings for drugs. Often I wondered how my life would be outside of the walls of my cell. I hardly heard from anyone. I figured everyone was glad that I was gone and had forgotten all about me. After having been locked up for over a year my mother contacted me. She told me about a program in P.G. called The Bridge. It is a faith-based, in-home program for men with addictions. I wrote a letter to the program director, Pastor Mike. Shortly afterwards I received a reply instructing me to write him every other month to begin a correspondence between him and me. His letters brought hope that I had somewhere to go once I got out. And after 26 months in prison, I was released.
My parole paperwork labeled me a “menace to society” and “incorrigible and hopeless.” The Bridge and Pastor Mike still decided to give me a chance. From the beginning, The Bridge did not feel much like a rehab. I had a room with a view of the Monterey Bay. The other men and I all had a specified amount of freedom. Instead of the 12-Steps, we were taught daily bible studies. We helped out at Calvary Chapel learning life-skills helpful with reintegrating into society. Moreover, rather than calling on some higher power to help with recovery, there was the emphasis of relying on Jesus Christ alone.
I had already been clean for nearly two years when I entered The Bridge. But I was blessed with something much more valuable than sobriety. Through the love and dedication from Pastor Mike, the staff and men of The Bridge, I witnessed and experienced firsthand undeserved grace which ultimately comes from God. This mercy removed the blindfold that drugs had placed. Now I see life bigger than just that next hit. There is hope and clarity.
I successfully completed the 12-month program earlier this year. Since then I have taken several steps toward building a new life. I enrolled in college and made amends with those whom I had hurt. I have learned how to trust and build new relationships with healthy friends. I also have stayed heavily involved with the church and with the Bridge, giving back however I am able. As one person gives freely, he gains even more. This is one lasting lesson that I have learned in the Bridge. By watering others you water yourself. Thank you, Mike and Michele, I will be forever grateful.