David McDaniel: “If I can do it, anybody can”

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by Major Glen DossAs the police handcuffed him and directed him into the back of the squad car, the young man laughed. “God must have a sense of humor,” he thought.

“What’s so funny?” snapped an officer.

David McDaniel, 29, had a reason to laugh–he knew that God was answering his prayer. Three days earlier, sick and tired of his drug and alcohol addiction, yet exasperated with his inability to quit, he had turned to God for help.

“In growing up, I had learned he was the God who gets even, so I wasn’t really anxious to talk to him, but I knew there was a God who was most powerful. At first I was too filled with pride and self-centeredness to turn to him.

“But I knew, from the second those handcuffs were put on me, that this was the answer to my prayer. I thought, ‘Hey, God, couldn’t you, like, introduce me to a counselor or something?’ But God put me where he could talk to me, where I would listen.”

David’s arduous journey to this moment began, it appears, when, as a child he felt a driving passion to “fit in with some crowd.” Because his father was in the military, he observes, “We traveled around a lot. As soon as I would be halfway in with a group we would move again.”

The second of four children and the only boy, David’s behavior changed radically when, at age 11, upon his father’s retirement, the family settled in Oakland. “I began doing things out of character, like smoking marijuana and drinking, in an effort to fit in with the neighborhood group.”

Two years later, upon his parents’ divorce, he was left alone with his father who was “a practicing alcoholic.” The misbehavior escalated now to “home burglaries, petty thefts, and breaking into cars,” leading to incarceration twice before he was fourteen. The severity of his father’s discipline also increased. However, notes David, “it was more important to me to fit in with my friends than to comply with rules in the house.” Consequently, at 14 he left home.

On the streets selling crack out of a crack house, he immediately connected with a group of older youth who were “solely into the business side of the street.” David recalls, “These were crazy times, but I never felt so welcome in my life.”

By age 19, “I was a practicing dope fiend, but deeply in denial.” Eventually addicted to crack cocaine to the extent that “I couldn’t even hold a temp job,” he rotated intermittently in and out of jail for various drug and alcohol related offenses. However, it was when he was “introduced” to methamphetamines, David says, that “I hit the worst bottom I had ever known.” Finally, “after a four-day run, I said I’m not going to get high anymore; but I thought, ‘a couple of beers won’t hurt,’ and that dragon was awakened.”

The devastating cycle continued until he turned to God. Then, in county jail, David signed up for a drug rehab program where he heard a speaker whose message, he says, changed his life. “I said, ‘If that man can stay sober for twelve years by doing the things that he’s just told me he’s done, I can, too.’ ”

Court-referred to the San Jose ARC, David, on October 4, 2000, checked into the program. There, “most of all, I learned through (the administrator) Captain James Sloan’s Bible study, how to pray. I could now communicate with this Higher Power I found through the program of AA. I always knew he existed; now I knew how to talk with him.

“Over the months that followed I started seeing that people like me–who have been socialized in this funky manner–could pull themselves out of the gutter. I came from so far down (and I hate that cliché)–that, if I can do it, anybody can.”

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