Alfonso Pacheco’s sword
“I had a feeling it was a very evil thing–we were all dealing drugs out of our house. Then the devil got a hold of us, and we turned against one another.”
His soft-spoken words thick with regret, Alfonso Pacheco, 48, tells how family members warred with one another. “The drugs ruined my life. My wife left me, and I lost my family of 25 years.”
Abruptly, his face brightens as he retrieves a small Bible from his hip pocket and unfolds a sheet of paper tucked between the pages. “This is the prayer I read each morning,” he says.
Passionately, the Long Beach ARC graduate recites, “Dear God, I’ve been living my life my own way. Now I want to live it your way. I need you, and I am now willing for you to take control of my life. I receive your son Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.” Never glancing at the paper, Alfonso continues until he finishes the whole prayer.
“It’s titled ‘How to Get Right with God.’ When people ask how I stay clean and sober, I tell them you’ve got to get right with God because he is the only one who’s going to do it for you. I show them this prayer, and they ask, ‘Do you carry that with you everywhere?’
“And I say, ‘Yeah, that’s my sword. It reminds me that God will never leave me or forsake me.’ Those are the words a prison guard shared with me some time ago, and today I know it to be true.”
Alfonso tells how he began using cocaine at age 20. After he married, his wife also used drugs. As years went by, the family became entrenched in a culture dominated by substance abuse–cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol were fixtures. “After my wife left, I felt I had lost everything. I just hit bottom.”
The lawless lifestyle caught up with him. “For the first time in my life, at 44, I went to jail.” Desperate for solutions, Alfonso listened when a cellmate witnessed to him. “He said to me, ‘You know, a lot of people pick up the Bible when they come in this place. It’s time for you to grow up, and this book will help you.’ I believed him. I began to read it and felt something real and powerful take hold.”
After he was released, things improved. He was clean for a year when “I started having thoughts again that I could have a couple of beers. Then just as quickly as I had it, I lost everything.”
“On the streets” for six months, one day he was robbed. Not only drugs and money, but even his jacket and shoes were taken. “There I was, on probation, walking the streets, fed up, and so very scared.”
Finally Alfonso’s sister took him in. Flipping through one of her books, he came across the prayer he keeps with him to this day. “As I read it that first time, I knew God was talking to me. I was so fed up with this life! Suddenly I raced to the back of the house, grabbed that (drug) pipe and threw it as far as I could, then listened as it seemed to break into hundreds of pieces.”
Immediately, Alfonso checked into a detox facility. Then, seeking a long-term, structured program, he entered the ARC in September, 1999. He beams now as he talks. “At The Salvation Army, God helped me earn the trust of others. It is so wonderful to be trusted again. I learned that Jesus Christ is my higher power. I thank him so much for bringing me to where I am today. Each morning I begin the day anew by reading my prayer, ‘Dear God, I’ve been living my life my own way. Now I want to live it your way…”