Tony started drinking alcohol and using drugs when he was only 13 years old. Alcohol and drugs had always been a part of his family. His father was part of a motorcycle gang, which entailed regular occasions to use alcohol and drugs. And on his mother’s side drinking had caused the death of multiple great uncles due to alcoholic sclerosis. These habits that started when he was barely a teenager would continue as he became an adult, following him through his four-year stint in the Marines during his early twenties and for three decades afterward. For Tony, drinking alcohol and using drugs had always been a part of life.
“There was so much of it around me and in my family, and because I always had a job I honestly didn’t think it was a problem,” Tony said. “I drank every day and got loaded on the weekends.”
Yet, when his children started drinking alcohol and using drugs he started to realize things were unraveling.
“I’m dropping my kids off at rehab and then I’m going to the park and I’d be drinking and popping my pills,” Tony shared. “And that’s when I started feeling there was a problem.”
He made half-hearted attempts to stop, joining a 12-step program and going through short seasons where he would stop using and drinking, but they never lasted.
“I would become clean for a little bit, just to please my wife,” Tony said. “But I always knew I was going to go back.”
This more or less continued until his mom passed away. Tony struggled to cope with the grief of losing her and began using methamphetamines, causing him to lose 80 pounds over the course of six months. Although the grief was certainly tough to handle, Tony admits that it was ultimately just an excuse to use drugs. He was on the brink of total destruction.
“That’s when everything got really bad; I was battling with the Devil. There was a day when I was going to start drinking again,” Tony said. “I was already popping pills and doing meth, and I knew I was going down and I didn’t care. But I came clean with my wife and called my sponsor and he took me to a detox facility. And right there I surrendered. I told God that I’m tired of this and that I need help.”
God heard his prayer, and after he was released from the detox facility he made an appointment to see his priest at his parish.
“I had only been to confession twice in my life, and I sat down with this priest and told him the whole story of what was going on. And the obsession with alcohol and drugs was honestly lifted. It was amazing grace. I remember being so at peace with God. That changed my life.”
After that grace-filled confession, Tony dove headfirst into a 12-step program. He hasn’t had a drop of alcohol or used a drug since November 20th, 2017.
However, six months ago Tony came across something that would take his Catholic faith and love for Christ to another level. He spotted information about a Catholic in Recovery meeting in his parish bulletin at St. Martha’s in Murrieta.
“I went to my first meeting, and we started with a reflection about the readings from Sunday and how our faith is tied in with our recovery,” Tony said. “These meetings have made my faith grow in leaps and bounds. They are about getting closer to God and sharing things that are going on in our lives. It’s a very special meeting.”
Tony has only missed one Catholic in Recovery meeting since his first one those six months ago. For Tony, those meetings are invaluable resources for him and his wife to grow closer to their Catholic faith and to each other, while remaining firmly rooted on the road to recovery. From Tony’s first meeting a few months ago where he was one of three members to a recent meeting where he was one of nine, the ministry is certainly growing in his area.
“Catholic in Recovery has allowed for a dramatic change in my life and my marriage. I have been married for 33 years and it has brought us closer. My wife goes to the family Catholic in Recovery group meetings. My faith has grown a hundred times with Catholic in Recovery and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
Tony’s passion for the ministry has him working with others to expand Catholic in Recovery’s reach at St. Martha’s. In fact, a committed parish priest is in full support of their efforts to widen the reach of the ministry.
“There are so many people struggling with different addictions and we want to grow it in our parish and be there for the people who are struggling with alcohol, gambling, sex, food, and anything else,” Tony said. “Come to a meeting and just listen! The Spirit runs through our meetings and there is peace.”