There is way too much sadness in the world today. Stories of people turning their lives around are a welcome change.
I recently met a man named Mike, from San Diego, whose roots are in El Centro and Brawley. As a child he faithfully went to church, and attended parochial school through the 12th grade. All the while he lived in a physically and emotionally abusive home. He has memories of his father
trying to teach him and his siblings’ morals while beating them up.
Although his father was a harsh man, he taught Mike many skills which allowed him to earn a good living when he wasn’t in trouble with the law. His father and grandfather were alcoholics, and Mike said he is too, although he no longer drinks. He never touched a cigarette or drank a
beer until after high school.
“I was a functional drug addict and alcoholic,” he said.
His first run-in with the police was in 1977. He was jailed for assault and battery. Over the next 10 years he was in jail about one weekend a month for fighting. He fought almost every night.
“I enjoyed the feeling I got when I could dominate a man.
“I had approval issues. I never felt my Dad approved of me, so I tried to get approval from my friends by showing how tough I was. On his deathbed my Dad told me he was proud of me.”
He had 17 assault and batteries on his record. At one point he was facing two to five years in jail when he heard about Senate Bill 38, an early release program. The program included
meetings for Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and a Bible study. He also attended
counseling sessions, three weekly group meetings and one-on-one meetings with his probation officer each week. He admitted to only attending meetings to get out of his cell.
A fellow inmate approached him in the yard one day, and asked him why he was being such a clown. He said to Mike, “I see something in you….Why are you doing this?” He shared some scriptures with Mike, and they became friends.
Although Mike never drank after he left jail, he started doing crystal methamphetamine when he got back into construction. Doing crystal allowed him to work 14 hours a day. His wife finally told him that he had run out of chances with the courts, and with her. She made it clear she was not going to raise the children in this environment any longer.
Mike wasn’t afraid of the courts or jail, but he feared losing his wife and children.
In June 2009, his wife invited him to a Saturday evening outdoor church service. She had started going to church when he was locked up.
“I felt the pastor was talking just to me,” Mike said. “I don’t know what it was, but I had this electricity running through me. I could hardly wait for the next service. We went Saturday nights and Sunday mornings the whole summer.”
“There is only one path to peace,” Mike said, “it is not in a joint, it is not in a needle, it is not in a bottle, and it is not in violence. It is in Jesus Christ. He gives us His peace.”
Today Mike is in his mid-50s. After many detours he completed college, and owns a business. He is a devoted family man, and active church member. He is still married. The love and respect this couple shares for each other is a joy to see. When I first met his wife I expected
to see a halo over her head from Mike’s glowing remarks about her.
Since 12:01 am, on Oct. 9, 2011, Mike has been off probation, and eagerly looking forward to the next season in his life.