by Glen Doss, Major –
“Have some doughnuts and a cup of coffee,” invites the uniformed gentleman, with his face aglow, after the worship service at the Murrieta, Calif., corps. He is Patrick Rodrigue, 55, the new fellowship sergeant. Pat will talk your ear off if you let him—especially about how God changed his life, freeing him from a vicious prison lifestyle.
“All my life I coped by using drugs—anything to make me feel okay,” he explains. “But after I checked into the Salvation Army ARC and heard people share how God removed their obsession, I began to see glimmers of hope. Perhaps God could take away my desire to get high. I rededicated by life to him at the altar. As I prayed and read the Bible and tried to live the obedient life, God changed my heart and set me free.”
Pat’s journey began in New Orleans where his father was killed in an automobile accident just ten days after he was born. Soon his mother remarried to a heavy drinker. “He was a mean, strict man,” says Pat. “I felt there was nothing I could do to please him.”
By age 13, he was drinking, smoking and using prescription pills. After high school, he tended bar in the French Quarter. His substance abuse led to petty crimes resulting in jail time. At 20, he completed a construction electrician apprenticeship and got married. His life took on a semblance of normalcy. Yet the substance abuse continued. For ten years his wife went along with it. Then she wanted to clean up and settle down, but he wasn’t ready.
He traveled alone to Manhattan to start a new job. “Without her to restrain me,” he remembers, “I went hog wild.” When she eventually joined him, he couldn’t hide his addiction.
Pat was able to keep his job in Manhattan, but when construction work dried up in New York and he drove to Denver to accept a job, he failed the drug test. “By this time,” says Pat, “my addiction had spiraled out of control. All I wanted to do was get high.”
For three weeks he lived out of his truck on skid row, until the police rescued him off the streets and took him to detox.
“When my head cleared up,” he says, “I realized I needed help and checked into the Denver Rescue Mission.”
During this time, his wife and her mother showed up—just long enough to inform him that the marriage was over.
He completed the Denver Rescue Mission’s18-month program and took a job on staff. When an old buddy invited him to join him in a construction job in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pat took him up on it. “When I packed my bags it was as if I forgot to pack my relationship with the Lord.”
After a few weeks on the job, he went on a binge and was fired. This pattern continued as he moved from Albuquerque to New Orleans to Apple Valley, Calif. There he got work as manager of a feed store and tractor supply company. He was also using and dealing crystal meth, and in time he was caught and fired. The home where he was living was raided. Arrested along with several others for manufacturing methamphetamines, Pat went to prison in 1999.
When he was released 18 months later, he wasn’t sober long enough to check in with parole. So began a vicious cycle: prison term followed prison term. By 2007 he had served time in seven California prisons for a series of non-violent drug-related crimes. In 2007, released again, Pat determined not to return to prison. For the first time, he checked in immediately with parole.
He had heard good things about The Salvation Army ARC in Perris, Calif. One night he prayed for the first time in many years. His prayer: “God, please let there be a bed for me at the ARC.” When the next day a bed opened up, he knew God was working in his life.
Pat knew that he now needed a church home. He found this at the Murrieta Corps. “I saw that the answer was service in the name of Jesus,” he says. “Through being of service, I’m trying to make up for all the bad I did.”
Pat graduated from the ARC in 2008. Today he is employed at The Salvation Army thrift store in Temecula, Calif., where he takes every opportunity to share the love of Christ. In December 2008, he was enrolled as a soldier of the Murrieta Corps. In addition to his corps involvement, every Thursday he and two other alumni lead a Narcotics Anonymous meeting at the ARC.
Talk about transformation!