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Abel looks forward to being there for his 10 grandchildren
Abel grew up in Guadalupe, and moved to Santa Maria at 10. In school, he didn’t have trouble making friends, and enjoyed playing sports. “In high school, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd—you know how that goes,” Abel said. “I dropped out after the 10th grade. “After that, I found the love of my life, and I got with her for a little bit. I was 16 when I had my first child.”
The two got married and Abel found work through the county’s Youth Career Services Program. “Two years later, we had a daughter—it wasn’t planned but it happened, and I was doing well. I was hired full time, and started doing mechanical work, eventually becoming a diesel mechanic.”
Abel said his drinking didn’t get too bad until he was 24 or 25. “It was when I started working, hanging around the guys, having cold beers after work,” he said. “It just became an issue.” Abel’s drinking increased, and he ended up getting a DUI, which resulted in jail time. “I lost my first wife because of that,” he said. “It’s embarrassing to say, but that’s what happened.”
A couple years later, Abel said he was doing OK. He had a third child, a boy, with another woman. But his drinking started interfering with his employment. “As a mechanic, I stayed pretty busy,” he said. “My last job, I was actually working as a service technician at an apartment complex, fixing washers and dryers, doing electric, and plumbing— mostly maintenance. I had this attitude that I worked hard, so I deserved this (to drink). But it caused me a lot of issues.”
He eventually moved in with his daughter, who had six children of her own. “My daughter totally took care of me,” he said. “I was like the handyman of the house, but she made sure I was fed and taken care of. I came home drunk, and my daughter said to me:‘I have six kids, Dad. I don’t need another one.’ It was a big eye opener for me.”
Abel left the house and was on the streets, living in alleys. “I had too much pride to stay there after that,” said Abel, who shortly after, had a bad accident. “I was walking around at night—it was cold. I had my hands in my pocket. I tripped on the sidewalk—a tree’s roots had broken through and I tripped and went head over heels. I hit my head and lost consciousness.”
Abel was in the hospital for four days after a blood clot was found in his head from the fall. He got a visit from an advocate in the hospital, and then met Mike Ruiz, the Mission’s former outreach coordinator. The decision to go the Mission after he was released was easy, Abel said.
Abel has been in the program for a couple months. “It’s been really nice,” he said. “The people here are really outgoing and supportive. I just got out of a one-on-one meeting with Mike and he asked me if I was having any cravings, and honestly, it’s the last thing on my mind. I can’t even express the way I feel right now.”
Abel wasn’t raised in a Christian household, but he’s embracing the teachings. He enjoys outreach events and devotions, and digs into bible reading and writing assignments. “I was never brought up by the bible,” he said. “It’s helped me understand everything I have, and know that I could have more. I want that. This
place has totally woken me up. I go to church—I look forward to Sundays. It feels so good. It’s breathtaking. I learn a lot when I’m there. I feel like I need this in my life.”
Abel is looking forward to a new way of life. “After my daughter told me that, it was tough,” Abel said. “I’m 56 years old. It was time to make a change. I have seven granddaughters and three grandsons. I’m going to be there for them. “It’s been a 100 percent change for the best. I love this place. All these guys are like brothers to me. I couldn’t have made it without the people here—I just want to thank them. They’ve taught me a whole different way of life, and that’s what I want.”
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