From the outside, Ray’s life did not look too bad. He had a string of jobs that provided money for a place to stay, a car, and food. He had some friends and some girlfriends, even though those relationships did not seem to last very long. Ray even considered himself happy, at least on the surface. But Ray was living a double life. He was a functioning addict.
“In school I just squeaked by, a C/B average,” Ray said. “I wasn’t a great student. But, I just noticed there was something missing in my life and I started experimenting with drugs and drinking because I was bored. And I liked it, so that became a part of my life. From then to now, I always drank, smoked, and did drugs off and on.”
For more than three decades, Ray, now 54, hid his addictions. “I could go to work and I could get high after work or I could drink after work and I still would accomplish my hours,” he said. “It was just part of my lifestyle.”
Ray had been living with his parents and sister. But, just over a year ago, his sister found out his secret. “Drugs and alcohol were getting used heavily. God was bringing it out in the light. That’s what he was doing,” said Ray. Screams from his nightmares as he was trying to detox caught his sister’s attention. “Hiding it from them wasn’t working anymore,” he said. “They knew I was under the influence, they knew alcohol was being used heavily. I lost my job November 30. I did landscaping and I got in a fight with a guy over something petty. If I wasn’t under the influence, it never would have happened. All my jobs, my whole career, have been terminated because of drugs or alcohol.”
Ray’s sister told him he had to get out and get straight. So he came to the Mission in February 2019. Both he and his family were committed to seeing it through to his graduation. So much so that, when his 90-year-old mother needed care due to Alzheimer’s, the family insisted he stay in the program. The Mission chaplains and even the other men in the program arranged for Ray to leave the mission three times a day to help care for her. Ray sees life differently now, and he is learning to be truly happy.
“I’ve never been sober my whole life,” Ray said. “I mean I’ve always had drugs and alcohol in my life. Now that I’m sober, it feels… it’s a different world. It’s a better world. I wake up not wanting drugs; I wake up not hung over or wanting alcohol.
“If the donors want to know where their money is going, it is being well spent. If I had money, I would donate to this place. I tell the new guys that come in that we are here for a reason. We are here to show the donors that a graduate coming out of this place really wants to change. It’s not hard, but it’s not easy. There are rules here, but there is also opportunity. It’s just a matter if you want it or not.
“I learned by being here that, by being truthful about everything, you don’t have to look over your shoulder,” Ray added. “God teaches you to be truthful in the bible, to be honest. You can lie and be untruthful to people, to man, but he is the only one who knows your heart. I respect people more, I care for people more, I want to help people more. I want to do things for others. Before it was all about myself. Drugs are selfishness, alcoholism is selfishness because you are only thinking about yourself, your pride, your feelings. Now every part of that is gone. I just want to help other people that are struggling, that need help or guidance. People see me differently now. I’m a success story.”
Ray graduated from the Mission program on Dec. 19 and has moved back home to continue to care for his mother full time.