George and Sonny grew up in a large and loving home in Northridge, California. They were two of five children to parents that cared for them and made family a priority. They shared weekly family dinners together and enjoyed playing soccer with their older brother Juan Carlos.
As children, they saw the effects of alcohol addiction. Although their family was close, affectionate, and loving, their father was an alcoholic. After years of alcohol abuse, Sonny and George’s father won the battle over alcoholism, and changed his life after finding God. The family became very involved in their church and Sonny helped with the youth programs.
As the family matured and the brothers got older, George moved out, married, and had three children. After a difficult divorce, George found himself in addiction to alcohol and cocaine after being sober for 16 years. He knew he was setting a bad example for his younger brother, Sonny. George remembers, “It was painful knowing my brother was watching me. I wanted to stop, but I just kept using again.”
After a few failed relationships, Sonny, too, found himself in deep loneliness and depression. “What started with just drinking at a restaurant after work a few times a week, led to daily drinking tequila and then using cocaine,” he said.
Meanwhile, Josie Casarrubias, the brothers’ sister-in-law, became the Associate Director at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission. “I did not know that our community had an addiction recovery program,” she said, “but after working here and learning about all we have to offer, including the Life Recovery Program, I knew that they (George and Sonny) needed this.”
George and Sonny both were ashamed and embarrassed by their addiction and this caused them to drift away from their family. They stopped attending the family dinners and there were times the family did not even know how or where to find them. Josie recalls, “The family was filled with deep worry. There was no peace; we knew something was wrong. I could see the heaviness weighing on my mother-in-law (the brothers’ mother).”
There were times when George and Sonny tried to quit on their own, but their addictions kept prevailing. “Sonny and I are close, but we were a bad combination,” George said. “We lived together and tried to do good several times, but we were not consistent with jobs or staying sober.”
George and Sonny knew the pain they were causing the family and saw how the worry was physically affecting their father. Josie and her husband, Juan Carlos, older brother to George and Sonny, had a hard conversation with George. “We could see that George was ready to make a change, so we spoke with him first,” Josie said. “He was willing to try the Life Recovery Program.”
Josie knew that the brothers needed to separate so that true healing could take place. She told George that the Victor Valley Rescue Mission would be a good fit for him. “It was very painful making the choice to be away from my brother, but we weren’t good together and I knew we had to get better,” George said. Juan Carlos drove him to the Victor Valley Rescue Mission and George began his journey to healing.
George arrived in Victorville in May 2021. He made the connection that only with his full surrender to God would any change last. “I needed to be born again, give 100 percent of my pain to the Lord,” he said. “God showed me the connection of my pain to drugs and drinking.”
After just two months, George’s family noticed a difference, including Sonny. Sonny told George: “I can see it is working and I am proud of you.”
Soon after, Sonny found himself drunk reading his Bible. At that moment, he realized he needed supernatural help. “I was ready, so I reached out to Josie,” he said. Josie thought the Ventura County Rescue Mission would be best, so just as Juan Carlos drove George to Victorville, he also drove Sonny to Ventura.
The Life Recovery Program at the Ventura County Rescue Mission has helped Sonny see that God fills the void of loneliness, not the drugs or alcohol. “When I was drinking, I was so lonely,” he said. “The drinking and drugs got worst the lonelier I felt.”
Both of the Missions’ programs brought clarity for each brother. “I see things differently now,” George said. “I have discernment and see things I couldn’t see before. I have forgiven myself and no longer feel condemned.”
Sonny also experienced a changed life. “I used to be arrogant with no self-control, but now I don’t react,” he said. “I don’t have an attitude. I have given my life back to God.”
Sonny is prepared for the reality of life after the program. “I know life will be hard—God said following Him will not be easy—but I know that following Him will make life possible.”
In February, George graduated from the Victor Valley Rescue Mission program and is now pursuing his own catering business. He served 100 guests at a recent event. Sonny graduated from the Ventura County Rescue Mission last month. He is very excited to be reunited with his brother as they live together again in transitional housing provided by the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission.
The family has been restored. There is peace and the family dinners are sweet again. “We knew God was always in control, but our faith is greater because of George and Sonny,” said Josie.