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After Years Of Pushing People Away, Michael Accepts Help, Embraces Change

Michael, portrait

Michael was born in San Luis Obispo. He was active in the church in Nipomo as a child. “Church was more my parents idea,” he said. “I was just going through the motions.”

Michael was baptized at a young age, but he said “it really didn’t stick. Life grabbed me and pulled me in the wrong direction.” When he started high school in Arroyo Grande, he went from a small school to a big school. “There was a lot of temptation there and I fell into that temptation,” said Michael. He was active in a band and started hanging out with older people. “I fell into these certain groups. I felt like I belonged. I fell in love with that attention and I allowed that to change me.”

At the same time, Michael was playing guitar in his church youth group band. “It was a split lifestyle,” he said. “There was a lot of self-condemnation. I didn’t like myself. I was very conflicted. As I grew older, I lost sense of priorities and just started falling from grace. The people I based my identity off of weren’t there anymore. They moved on, got jobs and started families. I just started to isolate myself.”

Michael’s family didn’t know what to do. “They kind of casted me out,” he said. “They were praying for me, but I wasn’t ready to change at that point. This went on for 10 years.” It was a long process that led him to the mission. He had a fiancée and two children. “I was more focused on myself than the family I was trying to bring up,” Michael said. “I lost my family, everything that I had accumulated through my life. It was all gone.” Michael ended up homeless and was living out of his vehicle on the beach.

“It was lonely. I did go hungry a lot. I would go four or five days without eating and then reach out to some family and ask for help. Family was really kind to me, even though I pushed them away. They were still there. It was hard for me to ask for help.”

Michael would do some side jobs here and there to get by. “People weren’t going to want to hire me for a job,” he said. “They weren’t going to want to have anything to do with me because of the way I looked, the way I acted, how I presented myself. I believed that, so I didn’t want to reach out to anybody. I was anxious, depressed, isolated and alone.”

He reached his rock bottom when he got a DUI and lost his vehicle. “I was living in the creek bed. It was dark down there. The people I came in contact with down there were not the best people. I had this wakeup call that I can’t help myself. I broke down and I prayed to God with every ounce of everything I had. I made a commitment that I was going to start trying to take care of myself and accept help from other people when it was offered and that’s when things started looking up for me.”

Michael started reaching out to family. “They were always there. They would say, ‘Hey, do you want to come in and eat?’ I tried to turn it down. I didn’t want to take their stuff. I was overwhelmed with love from them, but I didn’t want to be a burden on anybody.”

Michael’s family told him about the mission. “I agreed to go check out this program,” he said. “My cousins allowed me to stay in their backyard in a tent while I was waiting to get into the program.

“I walked into the mission and sat down with the staff and they explained to me how things worked here. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I getting myself into?’ The door was right there. I could walk right out. But, I knew what was out there and I made the decision to stay. There is a lot of love in this place. The guys in the program were telling me if you really want the help, this program works. That created a fire inside of me. I saw it in these guys. I wanted to be a part of that.”

It was quite an adjustment for Michael, going from isolation to living with a bunch of guys at the mission. “My faith in God has grown. Being able to take what’s being taught and applying it to my life and then to pass it on to the new guys in the program is awesome,” Michael said with a big smile.

“I feel the power of God working in my life. Before, I didn’t have a purpose, but now I do. I want to be able to help people like I have been helped. After I graduate the program, I would like to volunteer at the mission and stay connected in church. The church I am in now is awesome. They have welcomed me with open arms.”

Michael’s family has seen such a huge change in him. “They have told me that I have grown a lot and I look a lot better too,” he added. “I feel a lot better. I am thinking clearer. I have hope. This program saved my life.”

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