By all accounts I had a fairly normal childhood. My family attended Church every Sun. It is harder than expected for me to pin point where my hurt’s, hang ups and habits originated. The first hurt I can remember started in Kindergarten and it still pops up occasionally 35 years later. I had the darkest skin tone in my school for a very long time and as a result kids were very mean. I was teased and bullied almost immediately. Half way through Jr. High I was very small and had a lazy eyelid, so I remained a target. After hearing insulting name after insulting name the one that stuck was “poop stain”. The only people who called me Johnny were my family and the few friends that I had. I remember crying in the bathroom or pretending to have to go to the nurse on multiple occasions just to get away. I would wait by the door at the end of school so I could run as fast as I could down the walker’s path and into the presence of adults in order not to get beat up and sometimes that didn’t even save me. The “poop stain” name made its way to the baseball diamond so I quit playing.
Throughout elementary school I was a drummer in the school band. When I got to Jr. High School I joined the Jazz band. My dad built me a sound proof drum room in the garage for me to practice in and that is what I did, all day, every day. By this time I also picked up the guitar and started to write music. The first song I wrote “Slave Driver” was about my parents making me and my friends do chores before we were allowed to practice music. I started to hang around Mexican gangs in San Marcos during Jr. High. I am Italian, but I still looked more like the Mexicans did and they didn’t treat me like an outsider. Also, If anyone tried to mess with me I had backup. When I was 13 I got drunk and stoned for the first time. I didn’t care so much for the alcohol at this time, but the marijuana helped to take away my insecurities and anxieties. The more I hung out with these friends, the more I would do to try to impress them. I started stealing, getting into fights, and selling pot at 14 years old. Even though I knew my actions were wrong, I felt like I belonged. In my Sophomore year in High School, my friends in the gang told me in order to be initiated I had to rob a random guy getting off a bus and bring them the money. I refused and instead I got the crap beat out of me by the same group of guys who had protected me for the past few years. We were still cool with each other after that happened, according to their code that’s just what they do. I actually respected them for it. At the end of my sophomore year my mom was scared because of my affiliations and had finally had enough, we moved to the San Pasqual Valley.
An opportunity to reinvent myself and become anyone I wanted to be. That summer I started lifting weights and learned how to box and the time the school year started I was ready. I started getting into fights my very first day. Between my gangster friends in San Marcos and my “I’ll fight anyone” attitude I quickly gained a reputation. I was still in multiple punk bands and as a drummer in a punk band it is pretty much expected that you are going to be reckless, violent, and insane. I certainly didn’t disappoint. I started selling and taking copious amounts of meth, coke, and acid. By the middle of my junior year I had a tab at a local liquor store. My peers finally liked me. I could get them into places they weren’t supposed to be, get them substances they couldn’t otherwise get, and girls were always around the bands. I was finally accepted, even admired. I used this as a way to manipulate people who wanted in my circle. I would feign interest in becoming someone’s friend just to get money or drugs out of them. I made some of them patsies for my illegal activities. I never got my hands dirty when it came to anything felonious. I thought I was so smart, nevertheless it took its toll and I was falling farther and farther from God and the person I knew I was supposed to be.
By the time I graduated from High School I was morally bankrupt. Everything I was doing went completely against the values I learned from my parents and in Church and I could feel it killing my soul. This still wasn’t enough to get me to change. Three days before my 19th birthday a couple of friends and I got loaded and robbed some cars outside of a house party. After dropping off my friends I was stopped by 6 cop cars. I was arrested for DUI. My behavior stayed the same until I was 20. I met an older woman and fell in love. One night after heavy drinking I lost my virginity to her. In the morning when I realized what had happened I was devastated. I had given away the only pure thing left, that I was saving for Jesus. I felt there was nothing redeemable about me anymore.
2 Peter 2:20 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
I was lost.
Later that year after a party I found my girlfriend engaged with two other guys. I was heartbroken. I went into a deep depression, was living in my bands practice studio and couldn’t hold down a job. I checked myself into McAllister house and started seeing a therapist. I was taught some important tools and as a result I was able to quit using the amphetamines completely and cut back big time on everything else. I was still drinking heavily and smoking pot but I was in my 20’s. I figured everyone was supposed to do that.
Over the next few years things started looking up. I joined a stable band with a good group of guys and was actually making a living doing what I loved to do. We were playing in front of big crowds, we even got air time on radio stations. I was dating a girl name Katie who I planned on marrying and my drinking was under control, or so I thought. One night after a show we were all hanging out. We were sitting around drinking and talking trash. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and my roommates brother, who had just been released from prison, ambushed me and almost murdered me. I was on the ground with my head pinned against the building and his hands around me throat. Two guys walking by pulled him off of me. I believe God put those 2 men there at that exact moment or I wouldn’t be here.
Psalm 91:11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
Later that guy told his brother I made a joke that he thought crossed the line and was disrespectful of his family. This was a big wake up call for me.
I then realized my real dreams had nothing to do with music. I wanted the family life, like my parents had. I got a 9-5 job as a loan processer for a mortgage broker. I planned on asking Katie to marry me when I earned enough money for the big ring and honeymoon. I , however waited too long. Katie’s dad fell ill and we moved in to help take care of him. Katie’s dad and I developed a great relationship. As time went on Katie grew tired of my drinking and two days after her father’s funeral she broke off our relationship. I was heartbroken again. I felt like I had lost so much. It was almost too much to bear. I even considered suicide. The Lord wasn’t finished with me yet.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you shall bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
I continued with the worship team even though I was drinking heavily. This wouldn’t last as my life was about to spiral out of control again. I had a job working in Mortgage Operations for a fortune 500 company. It seemed as if I had it all together. I was pretty reclusive. In addition, the job allowed drinking at outside meetings and 2 drinks during lunch. It wasn’t long before I had a bottle of vodka in my desk and one in my car. One day at a training I met a young lady who became my wife within a year. She had a cocaine habit and didn’t judge my drinking. We both love music and sports. I thought we were a good match. Little did I know she was violent. After I received my last DUI I took a 30 day leave of absence from work and check in Vista Pacifica House in Linda Vista. I tried to get my wife to participate in the counseling that was offered, but she refused. Afterward we tried to have children thinking that might help our relationship. Thank God that didn’t happen. I eventually became a very angry drunk. I was verbally abusive as one can get. My drinking was affecting every area of my life. My office moved to Texas. I was offered a chance to relocate, but turned it down. I would regret that decision later. In a last ditch effort to save my marriage I checked into Green Oaks Ranch in Vista. I stayed for their 9 month in patient program. It was wonderful. I re-established my relationship with Christ. When I completed the program I felt healthy and happy again. Things were great for the first couple of weeks with my wife, but then things started getting bad again. I thought that I was sober so things should be better, not worse. I had a lot of resentment. I felt like I was putting in all the effort to save our marriage. So I started drinking in spite of it all. She wasn’t going to try, then neither was I. She filed a bogus restraining order against me and I filed for divorce and went to live with my parents. My parents went on a 2 month trip to Italy, so I spent my time working on exercises my therapist gave and drank. During one of the exercises memories flooded in that I was sexually abuse when I was 5 or 6 by a neighbor, these memories I had repressed. This helped me understand why my drinking had become so out of control.
Still my drinking stayed the same. I was still depressed and couldn’t get out of bed. I had all but given up. I resigned to the fact I would probably die an alcoholic. I prayed over and over for God to take away the desire and then I would pray for Him to just take me. One evening I was walking around the backyard with a half a bottle of vodka in my hand like I had done so many times before and a wave of emotion came over me. It was the Holy Spirit inside me telling me to fight. I fell to my knees and for an hour I was weeping and begging God to take this burden from me. Two days later He delivered. My neighbor had a friend who recommended a place called Restoration Ranch. God answered my prayer in the most direct way I had experienced in a very long time and I knew I had to go. My 1st day was Jan. 15, 2018. From the moment I arrived God has continued to bless and comfort me. I can honestly say the desire to drink has been lifted.
2 Corinthians 5:17 and 18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and behold, all things have become new.
Since coming to the Ranch my life changed drastically. I went all in. I trusted the staff, the process and most importantly God. I had more peace than anytime I can remember. I was gradually given more and more responsibilities. After a couple of months God restored my interest in Guitar. Four months in I started a Celebrate Recovery meeting at Calvary Church in Ramona.
About a year into my stay at the Ranch, I was asked to be the Sober Living Manager at the Ranch. I didn’t even have to think about it. To be associated with such an amazing program is an honor and a blessing. See the miracles that walk out of Restoration Ranch is incredible and still inspires my own walk every day. The Lord has been restoring my relationship with my family. I’m in a relationship with a God fearing, uplifting woman who makes me smile on a regular basis. Every person who I call my friend is involved in recovery or the church in some shape or form. I started an amazing new job working with the disabled which gives me a lot of joy and purpose. Serving others is something that I really underestimated my entire life. Not only has it helped me not to focus on my own issues and problem it has put them into perspective. In addition, I have been to Pendleton to worship and minister to the new recruits. I lead worship at Celebrate Recovery and other Churches in the Community. I lead Celebrate Recovery meetings at the Ranch on Saturday’s, Step Studies on Tuesday, and Step Study/Token and Senior Meetings on Sunday Nights. This is the level of involvement that I need to remain sober.
Even as believers we sometimes struggle with choosing which path we are going to choose. We have a helper to call on and who is always there to direct us as long as we are willing to listen.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way to go.”
Johnny’s Story (Finding The Way)
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