My name is Michael. I came to California from Hawaii in 1974. I went to school in Eastside San Jose. I had a normal childhood, my parents provided everything we needed. We were very well off.
In high school, I was pretty athletic. My favorite sport to play was football. I was introduced to marijuana and tried to find other ways of how I could make money. I started selling weed at an apartment building in San Jose. I had a friend introduce me to her older sister. We got together. She moved me in. She was not only my girlfriend but she also raised me.
Years went by. I was taking care of her kids, being a father figure. Things were going well. Then she introduced me to cocaine. I would leave the house and disappear for days at a time. She didn’t know my whereabouts, thinking I was cheating on her. But really, it was the drugs taking over me. She was also pregnant with my daughter. So, then I started doing petty crimes to keep my habit. I started a trend of going in and out of jail with numerous parole violations, numerous drug programs. My longest sentence was three years.
One day, she came to visit me to let me know that she didn’t want me anymore and that she was with someone else. From there, I went on a downward spiral of deep depression and severe drug use. For three years, I ran the streets being dirty, homeless, and just basically not caring. As years went by, it got a little bit better, but better as in how to be homeless. It was more of [learning] survival skills to be homeless. If I wanted to eat shrimp that day, I ate shrimp. I was riding the bus every night to stay warm. I would use gas stations or anything with a sink to take a ‘bird bath.’ I would wear clothes then throw them away so people would not think I was homeless. All this while I was still using.
In 2014, I was arrested for petty theft. Some doctors came to see me and diagnosed me with Major Schizo Effective and major PTSD. I was put on medication and sent to Mental Health Court. They were monitoring me and making sure I was taking my medication. I also went to Drug and Alcohol out patient. I sat down one day and said to myself, “Why am doing this drug, because it is not making me feel comfortable in my own skin?” I was scared to leave the bathroom, scared to leave the house, scared of life. There had to be something better for me. So I graduated Mental Health Court in 90 days. Came to DST and a girl told me about their [Rapid Re-Housing] Program. Things started to turn around in my life.
Everything I went through with my daughter’s mother taught me how to survive because I was never really by myself growing up. It made me become a man. Even though my time with her was good and bad. I have a best friend who was always there for me, too. He helped me to change my mindset, “You can’t have certain people at your home, random women.” I didn’t see it. He saw it. If I didn’t straighten up, I would lose my place. I thank him for checking me to check myself.
My daughter and my grandkids are what push me to not be that person I was before. I have a home. I enrolled in college at age 50, taking the fire program. I’m the oldest in the class, but I love it.
I appreciate the things in life now. I keep my home clean, I hang my clothes, I do all the things my parents taught me. Everything I went through was a blessing in disguise. One of the blessings is I’m still alive. I put myself in situations that could’ve killed me or been killed. But I could put on my fire program shirt and feel proud of where I am at now. I am a WARRIOR.