If God is real, then why am I who I am? Why doesn’t He stop me from doing what I do?” Every time someone told me about God, that’s what I’d think. If God was real, I decided, He’d have wiped me out long ago.
From the time I was a kid, evil was all I’d ever witnessed. I grew up on the streets of Miami—I joined a vicious gang by 13 and was soon a leader. I leaped into alcohol, drugs, violence, and sex. By 15, I was a father.
I ignored my son and instead nurtured the evil lurking within me. Daily I fed it, until the monster inside grew out of control.
I spent seven years in prison, where I joined a violent Puerto Rican prison gang, the Asociación Ñeta. My life and the world around me reflected every evil you can imagine. I served my sentence, then immediately returned to the streets, selling and trafficking heroin and cocaine.
Soon after my release, I met a beautiful woman who, incredibly, saw a good man somewhere inside me. She told me constantly about Jesus and how His love could change my life. I didn’t want to hear it.
We were married a year later, and she was soon pregnant. On August 5, 2005, our son Justin was born. It’s a day we’ll never forget, but not for the reasons you’d expect. I showed up at the hospital with large amounts of heroin, cocaine, and Xanax flowing through my veins. And right there in the maternity ward with my wife and brand-new child, I overdosed.
The doctors put me on life support and told my wife to start making funeral arrangements—but God had other plans. In His great mercy, He gave me another chance at life, and I pulled through.
I ignored the gift God had given me, however, and went back to my reckless lifestyle—until one day, I found myself on the floor, broken and in need of a Savior.
I didn’t believe in God or this Jesus my wife kept talking about. But I was tired of my life—the gangs, the drugs, all of it. I was suicidal. I’d tried it all—NA, AA, doctors, psych wards, meds, probation, prison. Nothing worked; nothing could change me. Not even my family. But when I cried out to God with a sincere heart, something supernaturally shifted within me.
Have you ever seen someone withdraw off heroin and cocaine? It’s hell. But Jesus gave me the strength to lock myself in my house, where I stayed for five days. No medication, no methadone, no suboxone—cold turkey! I couldn’t sleep. I paced, sweated, flopped like a fish when I lay down. Diarrhea, snotty nose, throwing up, even demonic voices. But I made it.
I started going to church, but because I was trying to change in my own strength, I fell back into my addiction. I would get high in the church bathroom, then go in and listen to the message. Talk about spiritual warfare! But God didn’t give up on me. He sent me a pastor with a similar background, and I found hope. If God could change him, then why not me? Suddenly I could see past the horrors of the world to the goodness of God.
I was accepted into an 18-month faith-based recovery program called Youth Challenge of Florida. My life was so transformed that upon completion of the program, I became a staff member. I attended a Bible college and received an associate degree in biblical studies. Now, I help others find their own life transformation in Christ.
God has blessed me far more than anyone deserves, whether sinner or saint. It’s hard to comprehend how God took my fruitless life and gave me meaning and purpose. He helped me become a compassionate husband, father, friend, and son. Praise God, I no longer bring pain into people’s lives, but hope. I’m proof that no one is too far out of God’s reach. †