Conrad leaves behind life of ‘lies and deceit’

Conrad’s father was a Los Angeles police officer for 30 years. “My dad was always at work, and my mom was always home. The abuse started early, physically and mentally. It led to worse rebellion by me and worse punishment by her. I’d tell my dad, ‘You leave and go out save the world with a big gun on your hip, but you come home (and do nothing).’ I wasn’t a prince, though.”

Conrad does have fond memories of going to church when he was very young. “Early on, we’d go to church Tuesdays and Sundays. Bad things were happening at home—the abuse was pretty serious—so I started praying. I’d talk to God and I’d feel something different when I was leaving. That was my escape, my getaway.”

Conrad’s parents moved the family out to the Leona Valley. “They had me milking goats and riding horses,” he said. “But I didn’t want any part of it. The rebellious seed had already been planted in me. I already had a grudge.”

Conrad spent time in camps and youth authority. He turned 21 in prison after he started getting into armed robberies and auto theft. He served four prison sentences that got longer each time. “I embraced it,” he said. “I thought I was the cat’s meow. The way me and mom went at each other mentally, it made me really sharp. I became knowledgeable and could communicate well. When I got to those prisons, I wasn’t the one being laughed at or victimized. Prison wasn’t scary enough for me. I’d tell the guys in there, ‘I’ll be back,’ and I was.”

Conrad met a women in a program in Los Angeles. They moved to Piru, got married and had a son. “I forgot about God the whole time,” he said. “I was still drinking and doing drugs.” And after his last 10-year prison sentence, his wife and son had left. “I finally found someone I loved, and she was gone. My son is probably 12 now, and I haven’t seen him since he was 2. I don’t know where they are.”

When he got out of prison, Conrad said he immediately bought a sack of drugs and stayed in the Oxnard area for a few days until he was sober enough to go to the parole office. “I was hungry and they told me about the mission,” he said. “I came on Thanksgiving—that was my first experience. When you think of a mission and the food, you think of peanut butter and jelly and watery macaroni and cheese. But that was not what this was. It was great, and I became a line guest for months, staying in the shelter.”

Conrad was encouraged to enter the Life Recovery Program, but wasn’t ready to give up drugs. “I’d stay at the shelter for a week at a time, get high, go back. Finally, I think God was calling me. I just thought, ‘I’m old. What exactly am I doing?’”

Conrad eventually entered the program, but it wasn’t smooth sailing right away. “I pushed some line guests and was exited, I got into an argument and was exited. I can be a heathen. It takes work and you have to keep working at it. I felt the presence of God as a young man, and I knew I had to follow the bible. Scripture, God’s word and his love, that’s what worked. The teaching of the word of God is it—nothing else is going to work for me.

“Without the presence of God here, it would never work,” Conrad added. “That’s the difference between this and other places. This place is full of love, from the bottom to the top.”

Now Conrad is staying rooted in the present and listening to God. “I had built a life of lies and deceit,” he said. “I was doing my own thing for so long and I needed more. I’m focusing on staying grounded and I want to stay here for a while. God will let me know what’s next.”

In the meantime, he’s enjoying his time in the program. “I love it right here,” Conrad said. “Words don’t do it justice. It’s a unique setting with all the people, the chaplains, but it all works somehow. Not everybody succeeds, but they give you every opportunity every step of the way. It’s just grace, grace, grace. If you need something, you are going to get it. You’re going to get exactly what you need.”