Brandon worked hard at the family business—they owned some vineyards—and always planned on continuing on that path. He began working at 16 and dedicated the next 11 years to the crops. But when his father died suddenly in 2009, Brandon learned that the company was in severe debt. “No one in the family knew,” he said. “They took the land, the crop, the equipment—the banks took everything.
“I was dealing with the loss of my Pops, but also the loss of this legacy I thought I had. I thought I would be running that business someday.”
Brandon grew up in Moorpark with his twin sister and older brother. At 8, his parents divorced, and his twin moved up to the Central Valley with his dad. Brandon stayed with his mom. The older brother was 18 and on his own. Brandon was a good student early on, but admits he began only attending class to play sports.
Brandon’s mom started pulling away from the family, so he moved up north to join his dad and sister. He didn’t like his new high school, and dropped out to start working for the family business at 16.
When Brandon was 27, his father died and the family business was seized. “I started drinking heavily,” he said. “That same year I went to the Salvation Army (recovery program). I was there for a year until 2010. I stayed sober until 2016.”
For six years Brandon didn’t drink. But after losing a good job and applying for Medicare, Brandon was humbled and hurting. “It was another bottom for me,” he said. “I went and got—I remember this—a three-pack of tall boys (beer). I started drinking on and off after that. I was working doing plumbing, but when COVID hit, I ended up on unemployment before maxing out on that.
“I kind of secluded myself and started drinking heavily. I gained a bunch of weight and started having health problems. By the beginning of 2022, I was just basically drinking myself to death.”
Brandon’s girlfriend of six years, as well as his twin who now lived in Northern Texas, encouraged him to get help, especially when his kidneys started shutting down. “They said, ‘Either we are going to help you, and walk with you in sobriety, or we can’t be a part of your life anymore. It’s just too much.’ I went back and forth for a few months.”
Brandon had reached out to the Central Coast Rescue Mission in the past. Director Chris Rutledge had spoken to Brandon a few times. “He’d say he had a bed for me. But I never committed. I kept going back and forth.”
Finally, Brandon made the choice, and entered the Mission’s Life Recovery Program in May. “It’s really good—I really like the program,” he said. “I like going to church, and I like the one-on-ones with (Program Manager) Luke. I like being able to go to the thrift store and (volunteer). I’m starting to get acclimated to that sort of a routine again after being off of work for so long.
“I wasn’t in the best of health when I arrived, but I’m slowly but surely getting help here. I’ve been working out with another guy here—we have a routine going. That’s another big part of this—the fellowship with the other guys. We challenge each other to stick with a routine and be a part of something. We are all trying to better ourselves.”
Brandon said he’s always believed in God and knows his family did too, although they “weren’t religious in the sense of going to church.” He remembers getting in trouble as a juvenile and being released into his uncle’s custody, who was in the local police force. “A stipulation of my release was that I had to go to church with them every Sunday,” Brandon said.
“I went to church the first time and I was nervous, and my palms were sweating. I was just thinking, ‘These are good people here, and I’m this guy fresh out of juvenile hall.’ I told my uncle what was going on (in my head) and he told me, ‘That’s not what it’s about. Church is full of sinners. We all fall short.’ I liked that.
“I like being able to learn more about God here. It’s still kind of new, but I’m focusing on that.”
Brandon, now nearing 40, is planning to graduate the Life Recovery Program and then go into the Mission’s transitional housing. “I’ve been running from my obligations,” he said. “I want to get back on my feet financially, continue going to Pacific Christian Church, and be a functioning part of society.”