Mark was born and raised on the Central Coast, primarily by his mom. “I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said. “I attended church here from a young age. I played sports—basketball and football in high school—and got my diploma.”
Mark enrolled in college and attended for a couple semesters. He’s always worked, mostly in retail sales with a couple of industrial jobs in between. He got married at 20. “We met right after high school,” he said. “We were together for almost 20 years and married for 17. We are divorced now, but I got four beautiful children out of it.”
When he and his wife separated about five years ago, Mark hit “a few bumps in the road,” he said. “Shortly after the divorce and all that, I was free and able to do whatever I wanted to for the first time in a long time. I took some missteps in my life, a couple of wrong decisions and they eventually caught up with me.”
While Mark says that while he also struggled with drugs, “it was drinking that brought me here,” he said. “I started drinking at a young age—I was always a drinker. Some people would call me a functioning alcoholic. It was constant and steady, the drinking. I felt like because I never got to the point that I couldn’t function, or go to work, that it wasn’t that bad. But it ended up catching up with me.”
Mark got in trouble with the law due to his drinking, and that had an effect on him. “The first time I had to do time, I realized that I didn’t want to be there. That’s when I came here. I knew it was the best opportunity for me, so I’m trying to put my best effort into the program.”
Mark got to the Mission almost five months ago. “It was a different situation than what I’m used to,” he said. “I had a little head start. People (in jail) were telling me what programs are like, but I know that everyone’s experience is different.”
According to Mark, the bottom line is: if you stick to it, it’ll work. “I’m learning that it matters how you are going to respond and adjust to the program,” he said. “Not being able to be in your own environment is difficult. You’re around people you don’t know. You have to be willing to be patient and understanding. And people have to be understanding with you.”
Mark said he’s been focusing on being positive. “I try to avoid putting any negative energy out there,” he said. “I’m taking it day-by-day, holding steady, even though every day brings something new.
“I’m just having a very positive nature. If I see something that needs to be done, I’ll do it. When I see others putting forth that effort too, I tend to migrate toward those people. It helps us better ourselves. I know I want to better myself, and when I see others wanting that too, it helps.”
When Mark was young, he went to church, but backed off as he got older. When he was married, the family would go from time to time, he said, but not often. “I didn’t veer away from God though, just church.”
Now at church, Mark tries to focus on the pastor’s words, and takes his own notes. “I try to go beyond,” he said. “I do my best in classes to actually pay attention—I don’t want to sit around and be dead weight or day dream. In the evenings, people (volunteers) come take time out of their busy lives to teach us. I try to ask knowledgeable questions. I extend myself in homework. I don’t do it for extra points—I do it because that’s what I feel on my heart.”
Mark is looking forward to reconnecting with his children, now 25, 22, 13 and 10. “It’s difficult right now,” he said. “I don’t want them to see me in this environment. This is perfect for me—perfect as it can be. I’m getting my ship steered in the right direction. I don’t want to distract them. I don’t want them worrying about daddy.”
More than halfway through the program now, Mark said he know this program is what he needed. “It’s been very helpful because I make it helpful. I’m not just going through the motions. Anything that’s going to make me better, those are the vibes I try to pick up. Anything in between, I let it go. I don’t pay attention to it.
“I take it day by day. I learn more every day. I want to graduate the program and then go into the transitional living program. I want to go back to work. I’ve always tried to be productive in society. Yes, I’ve had a couple bumps in the road, but instead of avoiding that, I want to face it head on.”