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Tony Begins Recovery After Early Start With Drugs
Drugs took hold of Tony early. In middle school, he was already using and felt out of control. He asked for help from a teacher and entered a rehabilitation facility in Orange County. “I couldn’t control myself anymore,” Tony said. “I couldn’t handle it. I was 12 or 13 years old.”
Tony was born in Mexico City, but came to California when he was 1. He was raised in East Los Angeles with his parents and two brothers, but the family moved to Hesperia after Tony’s stint in rehab. He finished high school and then vocational school for landscaping and welding. “I was really outgoing, and had friends. I was doing great until I finished school and couldn’t find a job.”
Tony caught a break when a friend offered him a plane ticket to New Jersey and a job in a restaurant. He took the opportunity and did well, washing dishes and bussing tables, prepping food, and then serving. But Tony’s new stable life hit a snag when he was hit by a car. He got into physical therapy and was accepted back at his job, but he was using. “I knew it was (affecting) my life: the hangovers, the bad feelings, getting sick and all that,” he said.
Tony still worked hard, but when he received a settlement from the accident, he went on vacation. “I did so much drugs I couldn’t control myself,” he said. “I asked for help, but I didn’t get it there, so I came back to California. I asked for my family’s help, but I was still using. I couldn’t find a job. At that time, I had nothing. I was losing hope and faith. I regretted leaving New Jersey, but I didn’t have the chance to go back. I gave up.”
Things got worse when a friend took her life. Tony said it was because of drugs. “It broke my heart,” he said. “I gave her patience, love—we had fun together,” he said. “We went to sushi and Universal Studios, and then the next day she was gone. I don’t know why. It hurt my heart so bad. I thought, ‘Why am I giving love to people when they aren’t going to appreciate it?’”
Tony’s drug use increased. His brother told him about the mission. “I said no, but inside of me, I knew I needed it,” he said. “I needed to refresh myself. I needed to be born again. I was saying, ‘No, no, it’s not going to work, it’s not going to fix me.’ But deep inside me, there was something greater. Something in me said, ‘Just do it. Do it for her and do it for yourself. I know you miss her and I know it hurts.’ I felt something deep in my heart. I prayed to stop doing drugs. I prayed so many times, and for some reason, I felt something.”
Tony had been to church and his brother told him that the mission’s program was faith based. “He said, ‘You’ve been to church. You know a little about Jesus. They’ll talk about God and the bible.’ They encouraged me to take the opportunity.”
When Tony arrived, he said he instantly felt relief. “The brothers there, I saw that we were alike,” he said. “I’m not the only one (struggling). And there were smiles on their faces. And then I had a smile, about something I couldn’t explain. It was happiness. The brothers would tell me I had a good smile and asked me, ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘I really don’t know. Maybe I’m happy to be here.’ I was relieved. Finally, I can change and find some hope. They told me to keep up the smiling.”
Tony said the biggest change he sees in himself so far is the hope he has. “I have a better relationship with my family, and have more conversations with them,” he said. “They see I have changed. I’m opening up to my brothers a little bit. I have love, respect, patience with other people. I have trust and hope. I have (stronger) faith, and more compassion. I’m learning about Jesus and God, and more about the bible. I’m learning about miracles.”
Looking forward, Tony wants to start working. “I want to live better, be a real part of society, and maybe have a family,” he said. “I see my nephews and nieces often now. My brother wants me close, he wants me to help them, he wants me to be part of the family. I want to make my family bigger and happier, and live my life better and more joyfully.”
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