Robert grew up mostly in the San Fernando Valley, the second oldest of five siblings. His family was close. “We were a normal functioning family, doing everything together,” said Robert. “We went to church on Sundays.”
Unfortunately, when Robert was 13 the family changed. “Everything in our family was good until my early teen years,” he said. “That’s when my dad left, leaving us broken.” His older brother took on the father role of taking care of the family, but Robert still felt heartbroken and empty. “It’s hard when your dad leaves and abandons you when you need him the most,” he said.
The drugs and alcohol started shortly after. “At that time I went into a downward spiral,” he said. “I was only 13 when I tried marijuana and alcohol for the first time.” Robert had family members that were in gangs and he wanted to be part of it too, so he joined. “I idolized the gang life. There was just something about it. It was what I wanted.”
As Robert grew into his late teens, his drug and alcohol addictions grew too. “Drugs filled up what was missing,” he said. Staying in school became difficult and, even though Robert ultimately graduated high school, he found himself being suspended multiple times due to the gangs and drugs. “I knew what I was doing,” Robert said, “but I didn’t want to feel anything.”
During his young adult years, Robert started using crystal meth, which took a toll on his family relationships. Over the next several years Robert became a father to three children—two daughters and a son. He would try to get sober, but would always return to his addictions.
Robert knew he wasn’t the father his children needed. “I did nothing a man ought to do as a father,” said, coming in and out of their lives. “I would be there physically, but not mentally or emotionally present.” This pattern went on for nearly 15 years.
At the age of 36, Robert was living with his mom and working only to feed his addiction. His mom “put her foot down” and told him he had to get help, so he started the process of detox. He began reading his Bible and after his detox was over, Robert said, “I knew I needed more. I shared with my mom what I read and started crying. I felt the Lord speak to me saying, ‘You’re going to go to the 10-month program at Renewed Hope.’”
Three months into the program, Robert was able to see his children again. “Seeing them was amazing,” he said. “There are no other words for it. I missed home.” Robert knew his road to healing was now possible and he could become the father his children needed. Robert is thankful for the second chance at a relationship with his children, calling his son to talk about his day at school, and writing letters to his oldest daughter as he rebuilds their relationship.
Robert and his son talk daily and he tells his friends he is proud of his dad. Recently they spent a weekend together—the first time Robert had been able to be with him, just the two of them. Robert’s son had a writing assignment for school. He wrote: “I can see a major change in him (Robert). It is like he is actually there for me and just spending time with me. It is great because it is a new experience.”
The change in Robert is obvious to everyone, said Rick Chamness, program manager at Renewed Hope. “I really couldn’t be more proud of the work Robert has put into his recovery. The biggest thing he’s done since being here is to learn how to own his part in his recovery and in conflict resolution. Time and time again he comes back to us and says, ‘You know, God has really revealed to me how I was wrong in this situation and what I need to do to be more like Christ.’ That takes a special kind of humility and it’s a big reason his recovery is going so well!”
Robert is currently attending school at Intercoast College and studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor while working as a security guard at a local retailer. He looks forward to the future as a role model to his children. “Only through Jesus can life be changed,” he said.