Vito had to ‘lose it all’ to learn to put God first

At a young age, Vito’s parents divorced, and those early years were filled with several moves between Arizona, Nevada, and California. He and his dad finally settled in Gardnerville, Nevada where Vito attended junior high and high school. Drugs and alcohol were not part of his life. He remembers having a “good childhood, not a bad one.” He attended church and at 13 years old he was baptized by his dad.

Vito was a likable teen and popular among his peers. It was not until his junior year of high school that Vito started to become rebellious. “We had house parties when parents would go out of town and there was drinking and smoking. I definitely tried to fit in and was the life of the party.”

Living in a small town outside of Lake Tahoe gave Vito and his friends too much time and freedom. This party lifestyle followed Vito beyond high school. Quickly after graduating high school Vito left home, and those years were “filled with drugs and alcohol, and getting into clubs using fake IDs.” This way of life went on for many years.

In Vito’s 20s and 30s, he got married and had three kids. He would go from one job to another while maintaining his addiction to drinking, cocaine, and ultimately his drug of choice—meth. Vito’s wife of 12 years decided she could no longer stand by and be part of his drug-addicted life. “She deserved better,” Vito said. “Our kids deserved better. It was hard but I understood.”

Due to an arrest, Vito was placed on probation. During his probation, he was residing in a sober living home. “I was doing good. I was sober and selling cars. My kids were coming back and my ex-wife and I were friends again,” Vito said. However that all came crashing down when Vito sold a car to a young couple. Vito recalls, “I was pulled over for running a traffic light and the car was searched since I was on probation. The couple buying the car had drugs on them and had put them under the seat.”

Vito found himself in a jail cell that night sobbing in prayer. “I fell asleep that night in jail crying to God, but the next morning I woke up to the cell doors opening,” he said.

His probation officer gave him a choice to either spend the rest of his probation in jail or to go to a recovery program. The next week Vito found the Ventura County Rescue Mission. “I had to lose it all for me to love God first and not myself,” he said.

With the encouragement of the chaplains and other residents in the program, Vito sees himself as God sees him. “I just kept settling on the same patterns and somehow expected my life to drastically change,” Vito said. “It was the shame—the shame of not spending quality time with my kids and messing up the friendship with my ex-wife again.”

Learning the Bible is helping to change Vito’s heart. “I have tried 30-day rehab programs, but none of them changed me,” he said. “What I am getting and learning here at the Mission is that spending time in God’s presence will make me a man of character to give me strength and integrity.”

Vito is halfway through the program and his relationships with his kids and ex-wife are being restored. He enjoys Face Timing with them and they are excited to see that God is changing him. “I’m allowing God to disrupt my patterns and I am focused like never before,” Vito said.