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Ray celebrates his graduation at long-overdue ceremony


 “The Mission saved my life.” These are the first words out of Ray Vaughn’s mouth when sharing his story from addiction to recovery.

Life had not been easy for Ray. He grew up in Santa Monica one of five children to a former Marine father who was abusive. He recalls his childhood as being “rocky and violent.” At the young age of 11, Ray took his first drink and by his 14th birthday, he already had a DUI.

Ray was an athletic teen, but sports couldn’t keep him out of trouble for very long. At 15 years old, Ray dropped out of high school and moved out. He started working at a body shop and learned he was a natural mechanic. He soon got a job with Nissan and married his first wife.

His addiction to drinking and a violent temper ended the marriage after nine years. Over the next few decades, Ray would find himself trying to get sober but relapsing time and time again. He also married again, but that too ended in divorce due to his drinking and using. “I would attend AA and start using again,” Ray said. “I would give up one addiction for another.”

In 2019, Ray was at his lowest point. That’s when he entered the Rescue Mission Alliance Victor Valley. “I was broken, going through another divorce after 32 years,” Ray said. “I had lost a business and tried to commit suicide, but I knew Jesus was calling me.”

The Rescue Mission showed Ray that God’s way was what he needed to get sober. “My ways ruined my life, but God allowed me to have a new life,” he said. Program Manager John Schmidt had a tremendous impact on Ray’s life and taught Ray to be still so God could be heard. “John told me that I needed to shut up, and he was right on the money. I needed to get quiet to hear God and the other guys here at the Mission.”

During Ray’s time in the program, he needed to exit the Mission early due to health reasons, so he ended up leaving only four weeks before his graduation. Even though his time in the program was cut short, the lessons and lifestyle changes he learned have kept him sober for the last three years. “I give Jesus the credit for staying clean and John helped me see that my faith in God is real.”

Earlier this year, John invited Ray back to take part in a long-overdue graduation ceremony. Ray’s faith in God has kept him clean and sober, and his relationship with his daughter is better than ever. “Amber (Ray’s daughter) has always been my girl, and now it is beyond what I could ever ask for,” he said.

At Ray’s graduation, Amber read a letter about her dad, telling of how proud she is of him.

“I was born a daddy’s girl. Before I was able to tell time, I knew when it was time for my dad to get home from work. I was always waiting impatiently for him to get home. My dad was always my hero and I always wanted to spend all my time with him. After my parents divorced, I lived full time with my mom and did not get to see my dad often. I remember asking about him all the time and whenever I would get into trouble I would cry for my dad. I just wanted to be with him. Eventually, I got to live with him full time and I was in heaven. As I got older, I realized that my beloved daddy had a drinking problem. Along with the drinking came arguments, fights, screaming and yelling, and disappointment.”

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