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After 15 years in and out of jail, Miguel just ‘let God take over’

After 15 years in and out of jail, Miguel just ‘let God take over’

Miguel’s rock bottom came in August of last year. He had recently been released from jail. “I was on the train tracks,” he said. “I was homeless, stinky, and had no food. I was doing badly and using a lot of drugs. I was losing my mind. I had an awakening. I needed a program. There were a lot of options for me, but I knew 90 days wasn’t going to be enough for me to get my act straight. When I saw the 10-month program, I knew that was the right thing for me.

“I’ve been in and out of jail for 15 years. I’ve been in for long stretches, and I just got tired of it. I came to the Rescue Mission, and they pretty much saved me.”

Miguel has lived in Santa Maria his whole life. He grew up there with his family—his mom, dad, brother and sister. “We had a normal childhood,” he said. “My parents raised us with everything—we always had food and clothes. There was no struggle.”

Miguel said he did fine in school until eighth grade. “I didn’t take school seriously,” he said. “I got introduced to marijuana, alcohol and other drugs. I guess it just started with me hanging out with other kids that did that. I got kicked out of ninth grade for possession, just five months into high school.”

Miguel did independent learning for a couple months, but then quit school completely. “I stayed home and pretty much did nothing,” he said. “I wasn’t motivated. I was a big kid. I weighed 340 pounds. I just didn’t want to do anything.”

Miguel continued to get into trouble and started going to jail. The first time, he went to prison for eight years, after a car crash resulted in a manslaughter conviction. “After that it was drug-related, or alcohol, or not reporting (for probation or parole). I just kept getting in trouble.”

Fifteen years later, Miguel had had enough. He got to the Mission in November. “It was great,” he said. “Everything was good. We have a lot of freedom and also a lot of responsibility. I am used to jail, so I know about routine and structure. I’ve been incarcerated for so long, that when I’m by myself, it leads me to problems—drugs and drinking. Here, there is another way.”

Miguel grew up Catholic. “My parents took it seriously, and now I want that,” he said. “I’m getting closer to God here. I read a lot of the bible, I do my homework. I take it very seriously. It’s really important for me to get closer to him, because without God, we are nothing.

“How I’m living right now, that’s what I want. How I was living before—I don’t want that anymore.”

Miguel plans to get his AA in liberal arts and is thinking about what career he’d like to pursue. To have the time and focus to consider his future, is priceless. “Feeling secure is so important,” Miguel said. “Knowing you have somewhere to sleep at night, knowing there is food. If I need anything, I know I just need to ask. I know I won’t be on the streets anymore. I won’t be cold or hungry or without a bed. I just need to be sober and practice the word, and everything becomes easier.

“I just want to encourage everyone who needs it to come here. This is the program. This is the place to be. I was pretty bad. I just let God take over.”