Putting The Past Behind Him
Despite having only just turned 22 last month, Zachary has had a lot of life experience.
His father was in the Air Force, so Zach was born in Germany and then lived in Idaho, Texas and Montana before settling in Santa Maria when he was in junior high. He excelled at school, earning a 4.0 GPA and finding success on the football, basketball and baseball teams. He also played bass and guitar in the worship band at church. But in high school, Zach started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, which soon turned into an everyday habit, before and during school.
“I thought it was alright because I was still playing sports and getting good grades,” Zach said. “I was staying busy and doing well. But my parents didn’t see it like that.”
After graduating from high school and spending a year in Montana, Zach returned home. But he was in for a rude awakening. “My parents wouldn’t help me because they knew I was still smoking. My dad’s just a stickler. I should have stopped. From their perspective, I was disrespecting them, and I understand that.”
Zach got a job at McDonald’s and was living in his car when a coworker introduced him to a friend with a room to rent. Zach’s new roommate turned out to be a meth dealer. And while he had experimented with psychedelics and was now using cocaine regularly, Zach had never been interested in meth.
“There’s such this big negative stigma about it,” he said. “They make a big deal about it in D.A.R.E. I was just thinking, ‘I’m not going to do that. I’ll lose all my teeth.’
At first, Zach declined his roommate’s offer to try the drug. “I developed a relationship with this guy and one of his friends. I kept checking these dudes out, thinking, ‘What if I ended up like these guys?’ Well, they were great. They weren’t what you expect to see. So I decided to try it.”
Soon Zach was using every day, but his daily habit began to weigh heavily on his mind. “I told my parents,” Zach said. “I wanted to get it off my conscience. I started to feel bad about it, that I was doing this hard core drug and nobody knew.”
Zach’s parents sent him to a program for teens in Bakersfield, but he was kicked out after getting into a fight. Next he completed a yearlong program at the Bakersfield Rescue Mission and stayed there while attending community college. During that time, he started to slip. After smelling alcohol on his breath, he was kicked out.
“I don’t know why I started messing around again,” Zach said. “I had to really analyze myself. I didn’t feel like an addict. I felt like I enjoyed alternate states of mind and I just wanted to do it.”
Zach spent two months in jail after being caught in an abandoned house with drugs. When he got out, Zach’s dad offered him a place to stay—a tent in his backyard. While he had trouble accepting his parents’ tough love, Zach says he and his family were close. So when his dad told him his family was moving back to Germany, it hit him hard.
“I blew a paycheck on a hotel and partying,” Zach said. “I spent all my money and I just started wandering. I was kind of homeless and walking around Santa Maria for a week. I think I was sad that my family was moving and my dad hadn’t even told me. Eventually I walked to my church and said, ‘I need to get into a program.’ They brought me here.”
Zach’s new routine begins with bible study over coffee, a good breakfast and chores, working out and helping out at the thrift store.
“The mission has given me the opportunity to improve myself and improve my relationship with God, my family, and others. I’m grateful for a place to get clean. I try to work hard, clean up. I’m not perfect, but I try my best. That’s just how I am.”