A few years after high school when he was working for his dad at his machine shop, George developed an addiction to cocaine. He battled it from 1998 to 2002. “During that period, nobody knew except my dad,” he said. “I quit cold turkey with his help and I kept myself clean—no alcohol, no tobacco, no nothing.”
George thought addiction was out of his life for good. But 16 years later, it came roaring back. George worked for his father for seven years. He married his girlfriend in 2005, and they raised three children. Alberto, Gina and Samuel are now 22, 21 and 20 respectively. “That was my ticket to learning the manufacturing business, while also getting my mechanical engineering degree,” he said.
George stayed in the field until 2018, when the stress of the job started to get to him. “I was in charge of a department of prototyping very expensive parts,” he said. “I was feeling that pressure from my job, and a bit of pressure from my marriage, and I decided to quit. I just felt like something was wrong. A week later, I had a stroke.”
That year was also when George and his wife divorced. “I wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “I wasn’t caring about my wife. When it got to that point and she asked for a divorce, my response was very prideful. I said, ‘Bring it. Where do I sign?’ Now I realize how much damage that brought to my kids. That was November 2018, and that was the last time I saw my kids. They were in so much pain, they didn’t want to see me.”
Things went downhill quickly. “After I stopped working, I didn’t realize that I was just going month by month, emptying my savings. It was hard for me to get back in the field and find a job.”
When George found himself alone and hurting, his addiction returned. “It was in a solitary moment in my apartment,” he said. “I felt that loneliness. I just wanted to minimize the pain. I was in denial about what had happened, about losing my family. It started with one beer.”
But George’s addiction grew. “I was thinking, ‘I got this. No one will know.’ I was thinking I could go anywhere and be all right, but it was the reason I couldn’t keep my jobs. I realized it was a problem when I ended up homeless. It became my reality when I couldn’t pay rent and I was sleeping in my brother’s car. I realized I needed help, but I was too prideful to ask.”
George’s sister-in-law works at a sister mission in the San Fernando Valley. “I was tired of living like that,” he said. “I just wanted to get out of there and start a new life. I didn’t think twice about (coming to the Mission). The day we talked, I knew I was ready.”
George got to the Mission in May. “It’s a safe environment where you are around people who are willing to change their lives, and that show great love to me,” he said. “And after God of course, Pastor John Schmidt (program manager) has made the most difference in my life. The way he teaches and speaks, it’s allowed me to be the man I’m meant to be. This is where I need to be to have a genuine transformation.
“The devotionals from Pastor John really got me to knowing Jesus and to surrender my life to Christ. I came for forgiveness, and now I truly have a relationship with God. It’s a great feeling. It’s like I feel alive now. I was barely living life before. One of the things I’m just realizing is that, although my kids grew up in a Christian church, I was playing at being Christian. I never had a full knowledge of God’s word.”
That has changed though. “The only reason I’m standing is because God helped me in coming here, to be in the middle of nowhere, with my family and friends not around me. He put me in situation where I’m really getting to understand God, getting to know him, and have a relationship with him.”
George is planning on going into the Transitional Living Program after graduation, and then working in ministry. “I know God is opening doors,” said George, who is also hoping to open his own restaurant. “I love food, I love cooking, and I’m passionate about it.”
George is also hoping for restoration with his kids, who he hasn’t seen in three years. “I’m thankful that during the bad times I didn’t go looking for my kids. I would’ve just broken their hearts more. I needed some healing. Now, going through this, I’m 100 percent. I’m no longer that man I was. I’m aware they might say no (to a relationship), but I now have the ability to ask for forgiveness.
“God will take care of this. I’ll do my part and he’ll take care of the rest. I’m praying for that moment, and I know God will grant it to me.”