He recently celebrated his 30th birthday sober
Jorge never imagined he’d spend his 30th birthday completely sober. After 13 years of addiction and years living on the streets, Jorge figured that was just his life. “It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “I never thought it would happen. Every day is a small victory for me.”
Jorge grew up in Glendale with both parents and a younger sister in a loving, supportive family, though he always felt like the “black sheep.” When he was 17, Jorge tried crystal meth at a party and started to use frequently, eventually developing an addiction.
Early on, Jorge didn’t think he had a problem, believing himself to be a “functional user” since he always found work. However, as his addiction grew, Jorge found himself unable to keep a job. “Getting a job was easy,” he said. “I always worked in the beginning. But then I would just blow it.”
At 23, Jorge started shooting heroin. He still remembers the look on his dad’s face when he got caught. “I’ve never seen someone look as disappointed as he did,” Jorge said.
Jorge said he knew he had to distance himself from his family, so he slept on the streets with his dog, Simba, until he found an abandoned church to sleep in. While it wasn’t the best situation, Jorge still found it to be safer than being out in the open. Until it wasn’t.
One day, Jorge was kicked out of the church by a gang member. But Jorge retaliated, deciding to “end the man’s life.” He stole automatic rifles from another gang and went to take matters in his own hands. He never got the chance.
The people Jorge stole the guns from found Jorge first, beat him, and attempted to stuff him into their trunk. Thankfully, a neighbor came out, interrupting the assault and saving Jorge’s life.
Jorge took this as one of many signs that things needed to change. Another was the sudden death of Simba. “I wanted to get clean, but it was one of the reasons I couldn’t,” Jorge said. “There would be nowhere for him to go. I knew once he died, I would get help… I just didn’t expect it so soon.”
Jorge also saw change firsthand. His cousin is in the Renewed Hope program, and he had been encouraging Jorge to give it a try. “He said they had a bed for me. And I saw he was different. I saw the fire in him. I wanted that too.”
While Jorge entered the program still grieving, he found it to be welcoming. “I didn’t expect to get comfortable this soon, but this place feels like home,” he said. “I wake up happy and loving life. I have that fire in me now.”
Jorge is completing his GED and wants to pursue a career in engineering. His relationship with his family is healing, and he encourages others that need help to join them. “I never imagined myself sober and yet here I am. Life on this side of sobriety is so much better. Take the first step.”