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Juan admits that if he didn’t have a son, he may not be doing the hard work on himself that he knows he needs. “He’s like the main motivation for me making changes,” Juan said. “I grew up with an alcoholic dad. It sucks. It definitely shapes you. I don’t want him to grow up with any of those issues. It’s not just alcoholic issues, it’s emotional issues, maturity. I still act like a little kid, being quick to anger, lashing out. Hopefully I can improve on that.”

Juan grew up in Rancho Cucamonga. His mother was a Christian and took the family to church. His father was an alcoholic, but quit when Juan was 12. “When I was younger, I didn’t drink or anything, but I entered the Marine Corps after high school, and that’s where I developed an affinity for drinking,” Juan said. “I did a seven month tour in Iraq and a year-and a-half in Japan. When I came back, I reacquainted with my high school friends and I was drinking a lot.”

Juan got his first DUI in 2010. Shortly after that, he met his ex-wife. “We got married and had our son. We were only together for a few years,” he said. “Through our separation, my drinking got worse.”

Juan’s son is now 8 years old. “His mother and I just rushed into getting married,” he said. “We were in love and got married in Vegas. I wasn’t present as a husband with all the drinking and smoking—I also had a gnarly marijuana problem. So when (our son) came, she made a wise decision. She didn’t want to raise him in a relationship that was quickly becoming one without any love in it. Resentments were growing.”

Juan got his second DUI in 2015. “At that point, I quit drinking for five years, just cold turkey. I didn’t do AA, I didn’t get into church, I didn’t have faith. I had lost my religion in my teenage years, even though I grew up in the church.”

Juan worked at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. He earned promotions and made good money. He decided to go back to school full time as well, since the government would pay for it due to his military service. “I got burned out,” Juan said. “I quit my job to focus on school. I started drinking again later that year. And then COVID hit. I was just sitting at home on my couch every day. I wasn’t putting effort into my classes. I was just attending, waiting until they were over to go grab my beer.”

Juan went to high school with Jason, who was the assistant program manager at Renewed Hope. Jason now works at a sister ministry, the Valley Food Bank. “I called him and told him, ‘I’m ready to make a change. This has to be my rock bottom, because I don’t want my rock bottom to be any worse.’

“I didn’t have a super gnarly rock bottom,” Juan added. “I gained a bunch of weight. I wasn’t happy with myself. I just finally took the steps to really address my drinking problem. I came down here, and I’m working the program, doing the counseling, working AA and the classes here. It was the right decision.”

Juan got to Renewed Hope three months ago. “It was a little bit of a shell shock. There was definitely an adjustment period,” he said. “I was raised in the church, but since I became an adult, I’ve been to church maybe three times. When I originally reached out to Jason, it (working on my faith) wasn’t in the picture. But before I got here, I had, I guess it was a spiritual awakening.

“A week or two before I came here, I had a moment where I was giving it up to God. I said a little prayer, a repentance prayer. Now, the faith aspect is something I’ve been pursuing. It’s a major part of what I’m doing here. I’m praying daily. I’m reading the Bible.”

Juan said he is grateful for these moments of reflection. “It’s a time to be introspective, to consider how I treat and interact with others, a time to ask myself ‘why’ and sit with it and analyze it,” he said. “The counseling and the feedback has been crucial. I’m just going to see where God calls me.”

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