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JR's Story

Growing up, I knew something was missing, I I just couldn't put a finger on it. I was searching for my identity, a sense of belonging. And then God showed up.

When I was about ten years old, I remember attending a rugby match. My dad was a rugby player at the time. I remember getting thirsty and going up to my dad and saying, “Dad, I’m thirsty, can I have something to drink?” My dad looked around and all that was around was Coors. He handed it to me and told me to drink it. And it was funny at the time - we grew up calling it Colorado Gatorade - but I didn’t know at the time, and I’m sure my dad didn’t think about it, but that would be the thing that would lead me down this destructive path.

I grew up in a two-parent home with a loving mother and father, but the influence outside of the walls of our home was pretty heavy in my life. I looked up to all my older cousins and friends in the neighborhood and wanted the lifestyle they were living: drug dealers, gang bangers. I grew to love it.
I think that was the sense of belonging we were looking for.
As I entered high school, my drinking became an “every weekend” thing. We'd go to parties on the weekends, get into some major fights, things like that. In a close group of six, three of my friends were shot to death. Family members ended up serving time in prison.

I knew were this life led, but I didn’t know how to get out of it.

In 2016, I was at a church event in Oakland where my in-laws lived, and I'm drinking in the parking lot with a few guys and it got out of control. Next thing you know, I'm waking up the next day and it's still a blur to me; I don't know how I made it back to my in-law's house. I don't know what happened. Apparently, the night before, I'd gone missing.

Fast forward, about a week later, I'm walking home with my daughters, who are eight and four at the time. We're walking home from a cheerleading event, which was just down the street from where we live, and they broke down crying, telling me how scared they were when they couldn't find me. And they asked me to stop drinking. My kids. Asking a grown adult, their father, to stop drinking. In that moment, I remembered my relationship with my dad. And I remembered the destructive path that drinking led him down.

I didn't know at the time, but God used my two girls to help me stop drinking. And because of the conversation that my two little girls had with me, I've been sober for going on seven years.

There's this song titled “As You Find Me.” The first time I heard that song, the lyrics just cut deep down to my soul, and I feel like it summarizes everything I've gone through. I feel that, because of my Christian upbringing, I tried to be faithful, but yet I plundered and squandered the blessings that God poured into my life.

Yet throughout all the struggles, the brokenness, the ugly parts of my life, He's still there. I look back now and I see how God has used all of that to equip me and to prepare me for what He has in my life.

Find belonging in Jesus today.