MY JOURNEY, by John Alarid
There was a time in my life when I was sure I would not make it to age 30. My life has been repeatedly spared when those around me died. I do not understand this. Why me, God? Is it possible that my journey could somehow be used to bring light into the darkness of others who find themselves in the same place I once was…
Many people do not believe that God is active in the world today. I once felt the same way. However, as I look back over my life I see that God’s hand was involved every step of the way. Sometimes it was hidden but yet He orchestrated events like He did in the book of Esther. In Esther God is not mentioned but through many seeming coincidences and turn of events we see God at work to bring salvation to his people in a hostile environment/ captivity. At other times it was overt when God literally reached into space and time at critical times of my life.
2 Samuel 14.14 “…But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.”
“Pain is God’s megaphone.” –CS Lewis
From a grief observed by CS Lewis:
- God is not committed to our comfort here and now. He is committed to our perfection “then and there,” that is, in the long term.
- God loves us, but he is not going to stop the ache because he can—he is working to accomplish greater things. He is tender, but comfort won’t be givenif his purpose is trying to deepen our commitment to love or to make us realize how much another person means to us.
“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” -Psalm 119:71
This is the story of one man’s journey and how God met him on the way.
We lived in a little house in Costa Rica with fruit trees all around. I remember when my parents were teaching me to walk in that little house. Of course I did not know what they were doing. From my perspective I remember the people I love standing in front of me then pulling away so I would come to them. As soon as I would get close they would pull away again. This was very confusing to me. I would fall down and they would smile and pick me up then pull away again. It did not make sense that they would smile when I fell and then pull away. This was a painful process but necessary to teach me how to walk. Our parents can show us how to walk and encourage us to walk but we must do the walking. It is the same with God. He will guide us and encourage us but at the end of the day we must get up and walk to Him and learn to walk with him. He pulls away at times so we will learn to walk on our own. The hungry are filled. You seek and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. Without faith it is impossible to please God because those who come to him must believe that he is and he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.
My father was a teacher at a Bible College in Costa Rica in order to pay off his student loans. This was the 1970’s. I remember the fruit trees in the yard and riding on horses. As a child I used to fall off my bed sometimes. One night I prayed and asked God not to let me fall off the bed. Several nights later I again awoke as my little body slammed against the floor. I ran into my parents’ bedroom to demand an answer, “Why did God let me fall off my bed?” My parents looked at each other and were speechless. I then said, “Oh I know. He was sleeping too.” (A toddler’s theodicy). This satisfied me and I went back to sleep.
I have always been kind of a loner and rebel. My natural instinct is to do it my own way. (This has of course been the source of much pain throughout my life.) One day as my parents were shopping downtown in the capital of Costa Rica. I followed a dog down the street and got lost. My parents quickly noticed I was lost and went looking for me. They feared the worst but prayed for the best. Thirty minutes later they walked into the local police station and found me laughing and playing with the chief of police.
Another time I took off on my trike down the road in front of our house (in Costa Rica) and just kept on going. I remember seeing familiar sights along the way. I was unable to turn around because of traffic so I kept going. Once again my panic-stricken parents noticed I was gone and scrambled the search parties to find me. I was found several hours later riding my little red trike miles down the road. I had crossed a major highway and kept on going.
I remember sitting around the campus eating watermelon with the students. This was a very happy time in my life. I don’t remember much but I remember being happy.
We had come back to the States so my parents could travel around and raise money for their work in Latin America. My mother is from San Diego, California and her family still lives on the west coast. My mother’s family are descendants of German immigrants who arrived in the United States in the late 1800’s. My father grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. His family is from New Mexico area where they have been for more than 500 years, the offspring of Spanish immigrants and Native Americans (Mestizo/ Chicanos). My forefather, Juan Bautista Alarid, was the last Mexican governor of the land now called New Mexico when it was turned over to the United States in the mid 1800’s. At this time the land grant given to my family was revoked and our land was taken away. Juan was offered a position in Mexico City. Most of the Mexican politicians fled to the south after the United States took over. However, Juan stayed to fight for the rights of his people, who were being taken advantage of because they did not speak English. Grandpa Juan is considered a hero to many (this writer included). My father’s side of the family including the Alarid, Sanchez, and Campos clans still live throughout the southwest of the United States and in Mexico.
As a kid we would often travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico to spend time with my family in the South Valley. My great uncle Ben Vigil owned a roofing company. My brother Brian and I loved to go there because Ben would let us ride his horses and ATV’s. We would ride the four wheelers all over the little trails next to the arroyos in the south valley. It was a labyrinth that spread through the entire area. It was always a great time. I would spend summers there with my great grandmother, Anita Sanchez, who spoke Spanish and broken English with a thick accent. Even when I was strung out on drugs and in and out of jail my great grandmother would stick up for me. She would say, “No es mala gente, tiene problemitas pero no es mala gente.” He is not a bad person, he just has some bad habits. My abuelita (great grandma) lived on 67th street and Central on the west side of Albuquerque. When her house was built it was the further west than any other house at the time. Back then there was a dirt road that led out that way. My great grandfather Senor Sanchez was a bar tender although he never drank himself. He died when I was young and I have no memories of him. My abuelita Sanchez was the funniest woman I have ever met although I don’t think she did it intentionally. She was always laughing and joking. I remember that she was nearly blind in both eyes and only her peripheral vision worked. So she would watch her telenovelas (Spanish soap opera) about an inch from the television with her head turned so it looked like she was wathching the television with her ear. She was nearly deaf too so the the old television was always turned up–full blast. From the front yard one could hear the Spanish soap operas. As time went on her memory was not as keen as it had been at one time. She would always say, “Oooo, I forgot to remember”, in a thick Hispanic accent. She was a devout catholic with her rosary beads and pictures of Christ and the virgin all over the her house. Invariably as anyone was leaving her house she would come to the front window and do the sign of the cross over the loved ones as they left. I miss her.
When I was four years old my family was in California at the headquarters of the missionary organization they were affiliated with. We went to Disneyland for a day. While walking around I spotted an old fashion shooting gallery that was like a saloon. You put in your money and then could shoot the rifles at different targets-knocking over bottles, chairs, and dishes in the little Wild West saloon. Light would come out of the rifle and the idea was to hit the little red targets positioned all over the saloon. It was like a big video game. It was the best part of Disneyland. I played a few times and then my parents were ready to move on but I wanted to continue playing. Being a stubborn kid, I just stayed there… My parents said they were going to leave me if I did not come. Normally this would work but I was determined to shoot some more things. So I just stayed although I did not have any money. I figured I would call their bluff. But they did leave me and went to Tom Sawyer Island while I remained on the stool at the shooting gallery. I soon realized that if you did not put in money you could not shoot anything because no light came out of the rifle.
All one could do is point the rifle. I soon lost interest and went to a little grassy area with a tree across from the shooting gallery to wait on my parents. As I stood there I felt the Presence of God although I don’t know if I would have described it that way. I felt the Presence of a being although I could not see anyone. At any rate, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. This was a very simple prayer and one that I had heard many times as my father was a missionary and speaker. However, this day it was personal. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. (Many years later I would stand at a shooting gallery on Santa Monica pier and hear God say, “Do you remember when we first met?)
Later that night as we were getting ready for bed at my aunt’s home, I decided to tell my parents I had asked Jesus into my heart. I walked into their room and said, “I asked Jesus into my heart.” They responded, “Ok John now go to bed.” I stood there in shock that this the most important day of my life and they seemed not to care. I stood there and began crying and said, “Its for real Dad.” My parents realized that this was a serious moment. My father called me over onto the bed and began to talk to me about my experience and I told him that when they were at Tom Sawyer Island I had asked the Lord to come into my life. Years later my father told me in a joking way that at the time he wondered how God could meet such a little rebel– since I had refused to obey my parents and remained at the shooting gallery.
I never forgot that experience. It is the most vivid memory of my childhood. However, as I grew older I came to believe it was just the delusion of a child or possibly brought about by the need to fit into my Christian environment. At any rate, at four years of age I asked the God of the universe to come into my life and He did. Thirty six years later I sit here and write this story and I can say that although I left God and rebelled against Him-He never left me.
When I was about six years old, my parents, my brother and I were visiting Lakewood Church in Houston Texas. Pastor John Osteen supported my parents financially at times. We were near the front row. I remember the stage was elevated with a series of steps to reach the top of the stage. The stage was shaped like a half moon. My parents were missionaries in from the field so we attended every service. Much of my childhood was spent in church services (Most of the time asleep under the front pew). However, this night was different. The speaking that night caught my attention. I do not know why. As John Osteen was preaching like a house on fire, I sensed the presence of God and a thought (like a voice) that did not originate with me said, “One day you are going to do this.” This thought ran through my mind the remainder of the service. I remember the atmosphere was electrified with the presence of God. I was only five years old but after the Disneyland experience and the learning to walk in Costa Rica memories; this is the third most vivid memory of my younger years.
The backdrop of the stage of my life has been the faithfulness of God. [2 Timothy 2.13-“If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.] The nature of God is to be faithful. He cannot contradict his character. His loving-kindness and faithfulness leads us to repentance.
In my infancy I was strangely moved upon by the Spirit of God. It is God’s will that all be saved. This God of love, compassion and grace does not wish the death of even one sinner. Humanity is broken and in need of a Savior. We need the grace of God to live pure lives. I am no more sure now than I was during the worst years of my addiction that in me dwells no good thing save Christ. I believe that each one of us if we were honest would admit that we are aware of our depravity. Along with Paul we find that the things we want to do, we do not do and the things we do not want to do, we do. There is something inside of us pushing us to do things we know are contrary to our moral law and standard. In spite of our condition, God reaches down into space and time to draw us to Himself. How could a holy and good God want anything to do with me. Oh the wondrous mystery of the goodness of God. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The righteous for the unrighteous. He took the punishment that we deserve.
We stand before God based on the sacrifice of Christ. These Christian tenets and Biblical truth make sense after we have an encounter with God. An encounter with God changes everything.
When I was in third grade, we moved to Houston, Texas from Latin America. I remember getting into a fight with one of the neighbor kids (I was constantly in fist fights). The kid’s father came out and started pushing me. My mom came out of the house and said, “Dejaolo. Vete!” (Leave him alone get out of here). He looked at her and said, “Go back to Mexico you %*** Spick lover.” His words carried such a contempt and hatred. That hurt me. My father is Hispanic and I grew up around that side of my family. This was my first experience with racist people. We left Houston when an uncle was arrested for organized crime and the story was broadcast on the evening news. As a kid, I remember admiring my uncles that had the big housed and fancy cars. Later in life I would follow in their footsteps of criminal and lucrative activity.
NMMI– New Mexico Military Institute:
In 1988 my parents remarried for a couple years and we moved to Detroit, Michigan. Before that my brother and I were living with my father in Albuquerque, NM. Prior to that we lived in Monterrey, Mexico where I was i attended 8th and 9th grade or primera de secundaria as they call it in Mexico. My father grew up in Monterey, Mexico. After our return to the states, to Albuquerque, I was not getting along with my father. I was already a very rebellious teenager and wanted to do my own thing. I decided to move out to where my mother lived in Dayton, Tennessee where she was attending Bryan University. I attended the local high school for a few months and even went through pre-season football practice. Before the end of the year my father and mother decided to get remarried and all four of us moved to Sterling Heights, Michigan. In Michigan I was kicked out of one school for arguing with a teacher. In Detroit, I began skipping school to go hang out with friends and smoke marijuana. I was kicked out of school for disrespecting the a teacher. At the next high school, I missed over one month of school until finally the school called my parents. A few days later I got arrested for shoplifting at a local department store, where my mother happened to work. The school made a deal with me that if I came back to school I would not have to make up the work just pick up with the rest of the class. I did graduated the tenth grad.
On my 16 birthday I came home so drunk that my friends had to carry me to the door and hand me over to my parents. I told them I was not feeling well and someone gave me what I thought was an aspirin and now I was sick. My mom believed me. My father came up to my room and said you need to go puke up that alcohol it will make you feel better. “What?” I asked with a look of confusion on my face. “You heard me,” my father said. It was obvious that he was not buying the aspirin story so I did as he said and proceeded to the bathroom where I spent the next half an hour puking. He was right. I felt much better. During this time I still had a fake id that said I was over 21 from Mexico so I would go buy alcohol for everybody and was drinking quite often. I had a part time job at Hardees. We had a hustle going and we would all make an extra forty to sixty dollars a night when there I did the drive through and my friend was the cook. We would just add up the customers food on the register and zero it out. Then when they came to the window to pay I would give them their change from a cup next to the register. My life was going nowhere fast. My parents sent me to New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell New Mexico for my junior. They separated shortly after and were divorced for the second time a few years later. We have had many relatives graduate from this reputable school. It is an academy prep and college prep school.
August of 1989 I moved into my new home in Echo troop at NMMI. I was seventeen years old which was old for my class because I was held back in the third grade when my family moved back to the states from Central America. At the military school the new cadets are called rat’s and have zero privileges. We must march in the gutter next to the sidewalk wherever we go. When we come out of our rooms we must stand at attention and say, “Cadet Alarid, JC request permission to rest.” And then one of the senior cadets will say rest and then we can move to our destination without looking around at all. Each night we had a mandatory study hall from 6 pm to 10 pm. We had to be at our desks which were right next to the window. Staff would walk around and check on us. If we were not at our desks we would be written up. This environment worked very well for me.
I learned how to study and I held a 4.0 average. This did not mean that I was not getting into trouble. I still had my fake ID from Mexico so I would rent hotel rooms on weekends and pick up some beer so we could go get drunk on the weekends. We had to wear our uniforms every where we went but of course we would be easily spotted if we did not change. So we rented a room at a hotel and went in to change our clothes. We drank a few beers and put the rest on ice. Along with three other cadets, we went for a walk around Roswell. After our short excursion, I decided to head back to the hotel. Shortly after I arrived the police knocked at the door. They asked if I had rented the room and I said yes. They said management had called them because they saw cadets with beer. He asked if I went to NMMI. I assured him that I did not. He then noticed all the uniforms hanging over chairs in the room. I told him those belonged to some of my friends. The problem is these uniforms all have name tags. The officer proceeds to take the uniforms. I notice that mine is on top so I try to pull my name tag off but was unable to.
The officer said he was going to take the uniforms and turn them into the NMMI police. My heart sunk. I knew I was busted. After he left the others returned and we headed back to campus where we had to sneak into our rooms. We felt like commandos using our very limited training to get back to our rooms without being detected by the staff. The fellow students did not care but the staff would. We made it but several hours later we called down to the guard shack where our urine was tested for alcohol. Needless to say we were busted. Our uniforms were returned to us as the staff laughed and said next time don’t leave your name tags on . I received 100 tours for this infraction. One tour is equivalent to marching for one hour around the squares in the middle of the barracks. They were to be done on weekends as not to interfere with studies. Saturday and Sunday I spent marching around in circles for the rest of my first semester.
Then when Christmas break came I spent two weeks marching around in circles 8 hours a day until I finished. Everyone else went home and I remained marching in the snow. It was a lonely experience. Finally I finished and my dad arrived to pick me up to celebrate Christmas. I felt bad because I had let my father down.
One of my best friends and fellow RAT was a guy Muslim guy from Michigan. His family was from Bangladesh. His name was Shakir. He had a prayer rug that he would pull out and pray several times a day. Many people would harass him for his beliefs. After 90 days we were allowed to get a red blanket to put on our walls. We could put up pictures of family or whatever on it. Well most of us wanted to put up pictures of woman in bathing suits. Sports illustrated swimsuit issue was a favorite. However, Shakir refused saying, “I can’t have half naked woman on my wall because I have to pray in here.” Everyone laughed and joked with him about this but it pierced my heart. He believed and took a stand for his faith. At this time, was far from God. The God I had known as a child was a million miles away if He existed at all. Then I see this Muslim guy being more devout and bold than any Christians my age.
From that day forward I had a renewed respect for my friend Shakir. We became close friends. I would joke with him about his faith as well but inside I wished I had the courage to take a stand for something I believed in. Also, I began to wonder how it is that only Christianity could be true. Was this guy not being sincere. He was brought up as a Muslim and it is part of his culture. Surely it must be real. This was the beginning of my belief in relative truth. I believed that since he believed it was true it was true for him. Likewise, my parents believed in their Christian religion and God and therefore it was true to them. We can all believe what we want and as long as we are sincere and true to ourselves our version of reality is actual reality. This also worked as a salve for my conscience as I could now do all the things that I was taught not to with impunity. I could do my own thing and ride my little red trike wherever I wanted to.
I came back and finished the year with a 4.0 average. I also took my ACT with a score of 27. The following year was the 100 year anniversary of the school. Now I was an upperclassman. I now was responsible for training the new cadets (RATS). However, I did not haze nor talk down to the new guys as most others did. I felt like it was abuse of power. As long as they did what they were supposed to do, I left them alone. Shakir and I planned on attending the Air Force Academy. The superintendent of NMMI –General Stewart was the former superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Shakir and I were voted into class officers and our future looked bright.
However, near the end of the first semester of our senior year we ran into some trouble. There is an ongoing feud between the students at NMMI and the local high schools in Roswell-Goddard High School and Rosewll High. One day as I drove to the bank with Shakir and Dan, we noticed some local boys in a car glaring at us. We had our uniforms on so they knew who we were. We proceeded to exchange words and they took off.
Later that day as we were pulling down the street behind NMMI we noticed some guys hanging out on the porch of the house with what appeared to be a keg on the porch. They signaled for us to turn into the driveway so we did assuming we may be able to drink some beer and maybe meet some local girls. When we pulled in I recognized one of the guys as the driver of the vehicle we had an altercation with earlier. More guys came out of the house and there wer e about 25 guys around my Monte Carlo. The guy said, “get out of the car.” I said, “no thanks”. Then they surrounded my car. It looked bleak for yours truly. My friend Dan had left his pistol under the front seat and we had gone out shooting earlier. Shakir who was in the passenger seat pulled out the pistol and pointe at the guy at my window. He said, “They got a gun.” And they all pulled away from the vehicle and we pulled out and went back to campus. Later that night we decided to head across the street and settle the score with those guys. The party was still going on and there were many people at the house. It was directly across the street from the campus. So about 10 pm someone yells “toot fight”. The locals called the cadets “toots” for many decades. Eventually it was adopted by the cadets. A “toot fight” was the call to come to help your brothers in fight. The cadets were very close. Like brothers who fight among themselves but then if anyone else comes and attacks one of us, they will have to deal with all of us. Anyway, about 20 of us head to go across the street but by the time we got there it was more like sixty. It must have looked intimidating to the guys at the party. One guy even had the color guard pole with the troop name on it. As we were crossing the street “taps” began to play over the loud speaker. It did this every night at 10 PM. If anyone was outside when it played you must stand at attention until it finishes playing. So there we are about to go get rowdy with these guys and as the mob is crossing the street “taps” starts over the loud speaker. We all stopped and stood at attention until it was over. Then we proceeded to talk yell at the guys on the yard. Just then up came the NMMI police and stopped us. We were told to go back to campus and we did. 2 Hours later they came to my room and asked if they could search my vehicle. They searched and found the handgun under the front seat and a shotgun in the trunk.
We were written up and it took several weeks and an investigation but all three of us were eventually suspended. Shakir and I were class officers and at the top of our class. We were academy prep students on our way to the Air Force Academy. Dan, my other friend, was the son of prominent attorney in Albuquerque. He was an alumni and had attended NMMI with the Commandant of Cadets. This was a serious issue since we were not supposed to have firearms on campus. If we did bring firearms they were to be checked in upon arrival. Also, the owner of the house where we had the altercation was an employee of NMMI. The kids mom was a barber at the school. We were all suspended for one semester. Shakir and I were told by the Superintendent that he regretted this decision because he did not want our careers to be hindered because of one mistake in high school. He promised if we came back after our semester of suspension he would write a personal recommendation to the Air Force Academy and guaranteed we would get in.
With a heavy heart I called my dad to tell him I had been kicked out of NMMI. He had been so proud of me. My father and grandfather came to see me often and I could see that they were very proud of me. They even treated me like a man worthy of respect. My dad just remained silent on the other end and then I could tell he was crying and then said, “Why do you keep doing this to me?” My heart broke. I had no answer. I apologized. My father had wanted to attend West Point and was even accepted but he met my mother in bible school, got married and I was born less than a year later. Shakir came back to NMMI the next semester and went on to graduate from the Air Force Academy.
Shakir and I drove back to Albuquerque and I dropped him off at the airport and then went to my father’s house. My father enrolled me in Menaul School in Albuquerque. Many of the Campos side of my family had graduated from this school.
It was hard for several months because I felt like once again I had blown it. I missed NMMI. Even the early wake ups and inspections. Most of all I missed my friends. When you live with people you either end up hating each other or loving each other. I made some great friends at the military school- Ty, Tristan, Shakir, and Dan. So I went to Menal School and attended honors classes and my last semester of high school I pulled a 4.1 GPA. Shakir came back into town on his way to NMMI and tried to convince me to go to and then we were guaranteed to get in to the AFA. I declined. I had met a girl at Menaul School and we believed we were the most in love couple that ever lived on the planet. My father did not approve. He had hopes of me going back to NMMI and on to the AFA.
I moved out of my dad’s during my second semester of my senior year. I moved to my dad’s brother’s house. Uncle Ronny owned a Pest Control Company and was recently divorced so it was just the two bachelors in the house. He gave me a job and even let my girlfriend stay the night whenever she wanted. My girlfriend Michelle drove a brand new white convertible corvette. I left my Monte Carlo at my dad’s when I moved out because he had bought it. This was a very hard time in my life. I thought my dad was being unreasonable about my girlfriend and I felt like he was still mad at me for getting kicked out of NMMI. The truth is he just wanted the best for me but I was almost a high school graduate and thought I knew more than anybody. I drove the corvette home after dropping Michelle off at her house on school nights since I had no car and lived on the other side of town, My future looked bright. I was accepted to UNM with a full ride NM Scholars Scholarship for my 3.85 cumulative avg. and 27 ACT score.
In fact my high school counselor asked me,” You could get into any school you want. Are you sure you want to go to UNM?”
But I was sure. I was in love. I moved in with my high school sweet heart shortly after graduation. Her father actually paid for our apartment and I worked for my uncles company Bug Busters to pay the rest, and to have money for alcohol and marijuana of course.
UNM—University of New Mexico:
After my senior year in high school. I went by my middle name Caleb. The South-siders, my gang, called me Coyote. A coyote is half wolf and half dog. Likewise I was half Hispanic on my father’s side and half Norwegian on my mothers side. I was able to flow in different scenes quite easily. I was at home in the hood, college classroom or Five star restaurant. I was a chameleon of sorts. This was an advantage to me in the dope game. Everyone felt as though I was one of them. I was just a big phony. UNM is a school of more than 20k students. The grateful dead (the band) ranked it the best college to attend along with University of California at Santa Cruz. Drugs are rampant. My first semester I met a guy named Pedro Nieto. (Pedro has been prison since 1999 in Nevada.) He was was from the west side. My family is mostly from the South-valley of Albuquerque and that was my affiliation. But we hit it off!. We met in Spanish class. We both spoke Spanish but more of a street Chicano/ Spanish. Both of our families were native new Mexicans. We were the local boys. Many students were from out of town.Through family connections and being fluent in Spanish I would later get connected with the Sinaloa cartel.
My girlfriend and I ended up having problems and I ended up moving out during my first semester at college. I moved into an apartment at Oak Tree Park Apartments with our neighbor, George. He had graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and had moved to Albuquerque after his mother died the year before. They were very close and it was too hard for him to remain in Austin. We got along great at first but eventually he got sick of my all night parties. During this time my friend from NMMI, Tristan Fernandez, another local Albuquerque guy, moved in to stay on the couch. We were great friends and to this day I remember him as one of my best friends although I have not spoken to him for years. Tristan had seen me go into cocaine induced seizures many times. He saw me go from a 4.0 high school student to a hopeless junkie in a very short time. Years later,when Tristan graduated from the University of Texas at Austin he called my dad’s house and asked, “Is John still alive?” My dad told him that I was alive and doing better.
I began to use more and more drugs. I was smoking pot daily (all day), dropping liquid LSD 25, blodder acid and mushrooms. I began buying sheets of acid and pounds of pot and supplying the UNM students with drugs. My friend Mike H. lived in the dorms where hundreds of students were always looking for drugs. I soon realized that there was much money to be made at the dorms because I could get the drugs in bulk for very cheap. Simple economics.
One time while on acid I was driving down east on the one-way street , Lead, and if you went the speed limit you could hit all the lights green. I figured if I doubled my speed I would hit all the lights green as well. This made sense while under the influence of LSD. I made it through a few green lights at 100 mph but then a light turned red. For some reason I thought I could keep going and drive right through the other cars like the guy from the Terminator movie. I could just melt right through the other cars. I was going to give it a try but then decided just to stop. I think if I had been a little more inebriated I would have done it and would not be here today. Tristan and I would trip for days on end. We would take a few hits the first day and double it or triple it to continue going for days. During this time the way I thought began to change. I don’t know how to explain it but my world view was drastically changing.
One night at Oak Tree Park apartments my friend Tristan and I got a gallon of Tequila Gold. We started drinking about 11 am. We played quarter for several hours and were drinking like fish. I always would drink to get drunk. I never was nor have been a social drinker or a social drug user. I am an all or nothing type person. This has been the source of much pain in my life. Later that night, completely inebriated I went into my room in the apartment and started talking to God. I said,” God you have made yourself real to my father and mother. Some people talk as if they have met you. If you will show up and talk to me I will believe in you, if not I am going to go my own way. It is up to you.” I gave God an ultimatum. Surely if He were God and he loved me he would meet my demand. I must admit a part of me was afraid God would show up and then I would have to give up all the fun I was having. But God did not show up. I heard and saw nothing. In fact I had never felt more all alone than I did then. After several minutes of silence I began to beat the wall with my fists shouting,”Show yourself to me!” I guess I hit it for a while because blood was flowing from my knuckles. God had not shown up. I was free to live life my own way.
Like the Israelites in the book of Judges, I went on to do whatever was right in my own eyes. The Israelites who fell into shocking depravity in the book of Judges did so because they were the generation after Moses and Joshua. They had not been at the foot of Mt. Sinai when God came down nor had they seen the Red Sea split in two. They said, “If God is God where are all the wonders that our forefathers told us about.” God does not have grandchildren only children. We cannot live on the faith of our parents or a former generation. Being a Christ-follower is about having a personal encounter with Jesus. It is an intimate relationship more real and satisfying than any other on this planet. After that night, I did in fact go my own way. My demands were not met so God must not care about me. Several months later I mentioned to my mom that I had asked God to reveal himself to me but he did not. She said, “I am so glad you prayed that because that is a prayer that God will answer.” At the time, I did not realize how right she was.
After our six month lease, the lease was up and George and I moved out. I moved to a house several blocks from the school. My friend Tristan moved in with me. He was still a senior in high school at La Cueva High School but emancipated. I was a freshman at UNM. Pete introduced me to a friend of his by the name of Alex Stowell. Alex was a big white boy from Los Angeles. He was a full back for the University of New Mexico Lobos football team. We hit it off. At the time I was moving a lot of marijuana and acid. Another friend of ours was Eric (Big-E), an African American guy from Los Angeles who had also played football for the Lobos. Alex and Big-E were bringing in about seven kilos a month from California and cooking up rock cocaine. I saw that there was money in it so I began picking up ounces of cocaine from my connections in the south valley. Eventually through family connections and because I speak Spanish I became connected with a major Mexican cartel. At nineteen years old I was buying about a kilo of cocaine and five to ten pounds of weed a week. We sold crack to street dealers. A rock usually costs 20$ but a dub is double up,two for $20. We would sell ten for a c note ($100). There was a lot of money in purchasing weight and selling in small quantities, but there was a greater risk because of the amount of people one would have to deal with. More people equals greater chance of getting busted. However, at the time I thought I was invincible.
Initially, I sold only powder cocaine to college students, athletes, and the bar scene. I was very careless in the early days before I got busted. I would go to downtown bars with a bag of papers (a paper is $20 worth in a paper foldy) and sell to many people. I loved being the guy with the dope. I had my entourage with me and I would buy drinks for everyone all night. They would make deals for me all night. When we came to a bar we were quickly escorted to the front of the line and given the best seat in the bar. I would make so much money that it did not fit in our pockets. I would have to go to the car to drop off money and pick up more papers. Most of the bouncers were UNM football players and they knew I was a drug dealer. At many places, the drinks were free. I began using more cocaine. I remember wondering, “Will I ever get addicted to this stuff like they say.” I thought I would be fine I was just having fun and making lots of money. I was not like the clucks, slang for the crack heads that came to buy rock with their kids in a stroller, teeth missing, looking like bums and usually looking for a front (to advance someone drugs). I was driving a brand new red sports car and my clothes were at the height of fashion. I was making more than a thousand dollars per day. Big deals went down once or twice a week and I would make thousands of dollars for a few minutes of work. I was on top of the world. What could go wrong?
Gangsta rap was very popular at the time. NWA, Too Short, 2pac, SNOOP DOG, Dr.Dre were all rapping about the life we were actually living. Other people were the ones who used needles. They were very sketchy people. I was sure I was better than those dregs of humanity. I was not an addict, I was a pusher. I was just the supplier who liked to party a little. I quickly gained respect on the street. The homies from the south valley looked up me to me. Everywhere I went people were overly nice to me and very respectful. I was invited to all the parties. Frat parties, Lobos football parties, the bar scene after parties, gang parties. I was quite popular. It felt like I was in a movie. I was watching this character on a screen. It did not seem to be real life. This was the early 90’s and pagers were the thing. Everyone had their own code so I knew who was calling and then after their code they would plug in how much money they wanted to spend- 20 for a quarter gram, 60 for a gram, 90 for a teenth (1.75grams), 150 for an 8-ball (3.5 grams) etc. I started to the marijuana by the pound or pounds. It was just too bulky and there was not as much money in selling it in small amounts. These were the glory days of the game. I was sending marijuana up the east coast and to Illinois, Wisconsin and New York. I was paying about $200 for a pound of marijuana and people would pay $500 to $ 800 per pound in town and twice that much up north. Weed went for at the least 60 buck a quarter ounce up north so these guys pushing up north were making a killing. People would buy up to 50 pounds at a time. It was easy money.
I was making more money than college graduates and business owners were making. I began to think I was too good to attend college. The life I was living brought delusions of grandeur. I began to believe I was this extremely cool and tough guy. I played the part. I got a hand gun and began treating people with contempt. I became aloof and arrogant. I treated everyone as if they worked for me. People would come detail my car for drugs. Girls would clean my house for drugs. I was the man. Everything revolved around me.
Then I learned to cook up rock cocaine with baking soda. Alex and Big-E would cook up rock by the kilo in mayonnaise jars. My friend Pedro who was my right hand man at this time. He introduced me to the major players in the dope game and was my body guard and collections guy. One day he brought me a glass pipe as a gift. I still remember the day he walked up to my door at my house on Sycamore Street which was a couple blocks from UNM. He walked up with his back pack in one hand and said, “I have a gift for you.” We went inside and he pulled out a glass pipe. It had the bowl and with a glass stem coming out of it. I was like, “Cool, I will get some weed to put in it.” He laughed and said, “It’s not for weed holmes, its for rock (crack or freebase cocaine).” The crazy thing is I had cooked up much rock and sold it in my short dope dealing career. However, I had only smoked it on top of marijuana as a “white cap”. I snorted cocaine all day and sometimes all night long but had not sat down and smoked rock. I thought that was only for the clucks.
That afternoon I cooked up a half ounce. Me, Pedro, and few other sat down to smoke rock out of my new gift. I had never felt anything like that. It was much better than snorting lines. Pete took about a half gram rock and put on the pipe and handed it to me. He held the lighter for me because there is a technique to smoking crack, that I was soon to master. You do not want to just put the flame directly on it and hold it there. At any rate, he lit it and I took in a big hit like it was bong hit of marijuana then held it in. My ears began to ring like a freight train was coming and my entire body pulsated. I had never felt anything like this (later I would move on to using cocaine intravenously). We continued to smoke all day. For the next few weeks I smoked rock. I began to get very paranoid and eventually taped up all the windows so that no one could see in or out.
One time there were some people over doing drugs at my house. I was very generous with drugs but I used it to manipulate people. I thought I was missing a couple ounces of cocaine out of my room. There were probably fifteen people at my house guys and girls partying. Some were Tristan’s friends who only smoked weed and stayed away from the harder stuff. I locked the doors and said no one is leaving until I get my two ounces of cocaine back. I brandished my 357 Smith and Wesson and slammed it down on the table. I said, “Someone took my dope. Nobody’s leaving. Take off your clothes.” I told Pedro to search everybody. I told them it was for their own good to prove their innocence. It was a crazy scene. Everyone was searched and my dope was not found. Later that morning I found the missing ounces stuffed behind one of my dressers. I never told anyone that I found that missing dope.
I had several people that would go around and drop off drugs for me. Tristan worked for me for a time too. I began increasingly paranoid and arrogant. My old friends became alienated as I began to hang out with a rough crowd. I was nineteen years old and most of my new friends were older. I started thinking the cops (whom I believed to be the enemy) were watching me. There were times when I would walk outside my house and see cars lined up outside the house with people in them. People would come to pick up drugs and leave their friends in the car. I repeatedly told these people not to bring anyone I did not know to my house and NEVER leave people in the car. I would yell and degrade people for breaking my rules. I was turning into a monster.
One day we were up for several days smoking rock. We had broken down a big mirror and placed it on the coffee table to make chocolate rocks. Chocolate rocks are made my taking alcohol and rinsing the pipe that is black with resin. You then pour it out on the mirror and light it on fire. The alcohol burns up and what is left is pure free base cocaine. That night a friend of mine from the NMMI days dropped by. He came to the door and could hear people inside but all the window s were taped up so no light could be seen. The window in the door had a cardboard box taped over it and when someone came to the door a little piece was moved to the side to peek out. My friend, Steve, was at the door. Unaware of how crazy the scene was, I allowed my old military school buddy to come in. What he saw was a living room full of cracked out people with glass pipes and lighters everywhere. There were shotguns and handguns in plain view. On the coffee table was the huge piece of broken mirror. As he came in one of the glass pipes was shaken with alcohol and then thrown on the mirror and lit on fire until the alcohol burned up. The “chocolate rocks” were scraped into a pile by a young lady with eyes big as melons and with a far away gaze. Then I took a pistol out of my pants and put it on the table next to my chair and offered my friend a seat. Everyone paused for a moment but when they realized that he was a friend they picked up where they had left off. No one acknowledged that he was even there except for yours truly. A pager went off and I looked at it. I handed the pager to Pedro and asked him to call them back and tell them come to the Circle K (convenience store) on Central and University street and text back when they arrive. This was standard operating procedure.
Steve just remained standing and silent throughout. I had known this guy in high school and at one time we were close friends. He was at UNM now. I saw him occasionally on campus and at the bars. The girl that had scraped up the chocolate rock s filled a pipe and handed it to me and then held the fire to the bowl for me. I took a monster hit and then blew the smoke into the girls mouth directly. She held it in then blew out a mushroom cloud right to where Steve was standing. He was consumed by cloud of freebase cocaine smoke. Then Jack, the debate champ, took a huge hit while standing by the fire place. As he exhaled he fell to the ground and appeared to be unconscious. I thought he was dead but he eventually got up. All this was completely normal for me at that time.
Steve politely insisted that he had to go. He just wanted to drop by and say hi. He left abruptly and I did not think anything of it. The next day someone told me that Steve had been at the bars the night before saying, “Stay away from Caleb because I went by his house and they are smoking crack, selling drugs and there are guns all over the house. The windows are all taped up and everyone is paranoid.” When I heard this I was enraged. I did not appreciate Steve telling my business to who knows all down at the bars. I got his number and called him. I said,” What up steve!? I heard you were talking smack at the bars.” He had broken the rules. He apologized profusely and said it would not happen again. I did not speak to Steve until many years later.
I was not cognizant of just how crazy my life had become in a short time. The only people I had contact with were customers and suppliers. The Albuquerque underworld was my new home. I was only 20 years old but I was a major player in the dope scene in Albuquerque. I also sent large amounts up the east coast. People that attended UNM found they could get drugs from me and make money back home (up north). Drugs are more expensive as you get further from the border. My friends from the neighborhood were much more hard core than the college students at UNM. Their lives revolved around drugs and violence.
My friends at college were trying to finish college and do something with their lives. They just wanted to party along the way. With the backing of my crew from Southside, these college students were no match for me. I quickly noticed that they were intimidated by me so I played the part. We even decided that if people wanted to sell drugs on campus it had to come through us. The street mentality is that we were from Albuquerque so all these rich students from out of town needed to respect us. Burque (what the locals called Albuquerque) was our town. They were on our turf so that’s the way it is. It seems ludicrous now but at the time it made complete sense.
I ended up not attending my classes because there was just no time for something as trivial as college courses. I was caught up and did not even know it. I started getting very paranoid. My neighbor, Jason, sold drugs for me. He told me several time, “Your getting very skinny and your house is drawing a lot of attention. You should slow it down a bit.” I did not appreciate him getting into my business at the time. Later I realized he was one of my few true friends.
I had noticed that things were getting out of control. I personally sold to fifty plus people a day and other people who sold dope for me. I was drawing way to much heat. All it would take is for one of these kids to get caught and they would probably “snitch” me out.
At times throughout this drug induced madness I would have moments of lucidity and ask myself where was God in all this. I was just an actor on stage playing the part of a cool drug dealer but deep inside I felt like a scared little boy who just wanted people to like me and maybe even love him.
As a child I was insecure around girls. I had been a fat kid until I got the mumps my freshman year in high school in Monterrey, Mexico. I lost about thirty pounds while I had the mumps and it just stayed off. Now I had plenty of women (seemingly) interested in me and even throwing themselves at me.
When I was young we moved around a lot-over ten times. I never had time to build those life-long relationships where you have friends that you have known all your life. I guess I was looking for friends and family and found it in the drug culture. However, I soon found out that these people did not care about me. They only cared about themselves. Even worse I found out that I only cared about myself. Everyone I knew was out for themselves. I was just the guy that had the party favors, nothing more or less.
The culture on campus was extremely anti –God and more specifically anti-Christ. It was cool to be a Buddhist, Muslim or Atheist but Christianity was not fashionable. The professors spoke openly against Christianity. During this time the little faith I did have from my younger days was dried up in the desert of intellectualism. How could it be that I just happened to be born into a family that believed the only truth on the planet? What about people who lived in other countries that had not ever heard of Jesus. This did not seem fair to me. Surely, an all-powerful and loving God would not condemn people to hell that had never heard of him. What about my friend Shakir at NMMI who was a follower of Islam. He who would not put a woman in a bathing suit on his dorm room wall because he had to pray in there. He grew up in a culture that had a different religion.
However, my parents were adamant believers in Christ and were sincere in their beliefs. They believed as much as Shakir believed. If there were absolute truth then one of them was right and the other wrong. How do we reconcile this- there lies the tension. I decided to adhere to the belief in relative truth. Whatever you truly believe and follow is your reality and true to you. In essence I was making the humans into God—the making of God in our own likeness. Whatever you want to believe is cool as long as you are sincere. You can be your own god. This was a common belief among the people I hung out with. Many of my cousins were Catholic and yet they lived their lives just like anyone else out there. Most were nominal Catholics who attended church on Easter or for a funeral. My father was one of the few Protestants in the family. This whole God thing was a bit confusing but somewhere deep inside I knew that God existed although He was not active in my life.
The proverbial downward spiral: my addiction was progressing very fast from 1991 to 1993. I would do cocaine non-stop until I finally passed out because my body could not take it anymore. I would awake and start the process again. I would go through a fifth a day and many Valium to take the edge of the cocaine. I started out drinking Jagermeister and ended up on whiskey, Jack Daniels. I had bottles stacked from the floor to the ceiling in my house. A makeshift altar to the god of hedonism.
My philosophy was “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” If God were not real then life really had no meaning. We live only once so we should do what ever our hearts desire. I felt that I was a kind of Revolutionary- breaking the law like Robin Hood to give people what they wanted. Who was the government to tell people they could not use street drugs and then allow pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs that have the same effect and make billions of dollars each year. They were one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington. That is how they did it. It was all about money and control but I was not buying into it. After all I was not hurting anyone. I only sold to adults who had the right to do a little dope if they wanted.
I stopped going to classes. Paranoia! I would leave my house because of paranoia and go stay in hotels because I thought the cops were going to bust in at any time. Then at the hotel I would get paranoid and we would move to another hotel the same night. I began selling cocaine to many people without really even knowing them. My little kingdom was about to be shaken. We were selling a lot of rock. We sold in the student Ghetto , the war zone , the sticks and the Kirk [neighborhoods in ABQ]. We (My crew, Big E, and Alex) had opened up several crack houses around the area. Alex and I would hang out a lot. He was the only person I could relate to because he was in the game too. I looked at most people as “clucks” that just wanted to get drugs from me. This was not always the truth but it was my delusional perception.
Alex and I would go to the bars and parties and throw money and drugs around like we were “shot callers”. One night Alex, Big E, myself and Jack went out to the bars. Jack was a the debate champ at UNM and the debate coach at Academy High School, the most exclusive private school in town and the state for that matter. We were a strange looking crew. Alex was a huge white boy with short hair. Big E was an even bigger black guy who weighted around 300 pounds. Then there was Jack who had that neo-hippie look going–tie dyed shirt and sandals. Then there was me. I had long hair braided into a pony tail and a long goatee with baggy pants and a Pendleton shirt. I had been up on cocaine and alcohol for several days. We went into the bathroom and I pulled the sock out of my pants with about 40 papers and a quarter ounce in plastic bag. I would stuff the dope into the sock and then stick the sock down my pants and tie the sock to my belt. This prevented it from falling out and made it difficult to find if I was patted down.
We got high in the bathroom and then walked out with white powder all over our hands and faces. As we walked across the dance floor, like we owned the place, some girl came up and said hi to me. That is the last thing I remember. I went into a drug induced seizure and did the “fish” right there on the dance floor. When I regained consciousness I was surrounded by a crowd of people. Alex was in the crowd and got my attention and signaled to remind me I had the drugs in my pants. Shortly the paramedics arrived and talked with me for a bit. I told them I suffered from seizures but that was a lie. This was my first one, but not the last. Later I found out that the girl who had come up to talk to me had wanted to party that night but since she saw me flopping like a fish on the dance floor that night she had stopped doing drugs.
The music we listened to glorified the life we were living. We were living the life these guys were rapping about. The music influenced me in a stronger way than I realized. I am not saying it is the musics fault but it did play a part. Listening to these lyrics over and over has an effect. There is power in the tongue to bring life or death. This music is all about pride, violence, drugs, disrespecting women and street respect. Soon I began to believe what the music was saying. I was a pawn on someone else’s chess board. I believe Satan anoints musicians to promote wickedness in the same way the Holy Spirit anoints musicians to promote holiness.
It seemed as I had arrived at my destination. I had attained a measure of success and respect on the streets. I was popular. Girls liked me. Guys feared me. But I was incredibly lonely and cocaine had made me so anti-social. I could not even be around people I did not know unless I was completely drunk. Many times I wished it would all end. Big-E ended up getting pulled over with $30,000 in cash and some rock. The police took the pagers, the money, and the phones.The narcotics officers began trying to bust by answering the phones and pagers. Big-E got out of jail and told us to turn off our pagers and stop dealing drugs because the cops were on to us.
Alex ended up moving into my house because his apartment was hot (cops were watching it). Rather than stop, Alex started getting cocaine from me and we started serving Big-E’s clients. We would drive by the crack houses and drop off product. With Big E out of the picture we were the suppliers for several other neighborhoods (The Kirk and The Sticks). We were always “strapped” (carrying a gun) for protection. When Alex moved in things got even more crazy. More traffic, more drugs. Like I said before, it got so crazy I would leave my own house to stay in hotels. I had no peace. I was continually nervous and high. I could not even enjoy the “success”. I felt like I was going crazy. Its like I was in a movie that would not end.
My life was out of control. Paranoia was devastating. It stole all my peace and joy and left me a wreck. I did not want this life anymore but I felt like I was trapped. There were walls around me that had become so strong that I could felt like I was in a literal prison. I was a shell of a man–skinny!
Since Alex had moved in with me, we now had twice the traffic and he was a jerk. By watching how he treated people I realized that I did the same thing. I did not realize how horrible it I saw it through another person. He had played for the LOBOS, the University of New Mexico football team until the coach kicked him off for using steroids and selling drugs to the team. His name was Alex Stowel and the football team called him by his last name Stowel. One day as we were leaving to handle business my debate-champ friend Jack who watched the house while I was gone said, “Later Stowell” to Alex. Alex turned and said, “Don’t ever call me that! Only friends call me Stowell.” Jack just sat there with a scared look on his face. Alex could be very intimidating. He treated everyone like they were the valet parking attendants looking for a tip. I saw this and realized I did the same thing. When everyone is continually fawning to you it just becomes natural. Again it became like a roll that one would play but there was soon to be some tension in this drama.
There was this one older guy who was introduced to me by one of Tristan’s friends. My connection had not come in from Mexico and I needed a couple of pounds of marijuana immediately so I met this guys father. I picked up the weed and I used to carry a bullet filled with cocaine. A bullet is a vile with a cap that looks like a bullet and you can turn it over load up a hit in the reservoir and then put it to your nose and snort. I always had a full vile and I had it when the deal went down. I asked the guy if he wanted a rail but he said no that he had a problem with the stuff. Once he started doing it he would not stop. I told him, “My weed connect will be back soon so I wont need to see you for this again (he was charging too much anyway and this was intimated in my tone) but if he ever needed anything, he could just page me. “He soon started calling every weekend and then it was every few days. This went on for a while.
One afternoon I had had picked up a book of acid (10 sheets / 1000 hits). I decided to take a few hits and go to the Sandia Mountains and relax for a while. I had even given Alex my pager and cell phone and drugs so he could handle business for me. Things got busy and I ended up not leaving right away. I had several deliveries to make. Then John Reed paged me with a code that said he needed an ounce. When I called him back, he actually said over the phone, “I need eight 8 balls.” (an ounce has 8 eighths which weigh 3.5 grams each) This was a violation of rules. I had told everyone not to talk on the phone. However, at this point the acid was totally kicking in. I was tripping so hard that I did not catch on at what he had done until later. I did notice it and it seemed weird but I thought maybe I was just paranoid and “tripping” because I was really tripping (on acid). That night as I saw all the madness under the influence of psychedelics it really did seem like a bad drug movie. Piles of cocaine and marijuana on my coffee table with a triple beam and a HK 9MM next to the scale. What was going on with my life? I decided to meet John Reed at the 66 Diner, which was right down my street from my house, at Sycamore and Central, to give him the ounce and get the money he owed.
I told Alex to drive me to do this deal. I grabbed the gun and a briefcase with about a quarter kilo of cocaine. Alex said, “Leave the gat and product here.” He was right so I left it and he drove me to the diner because I was tripping to hard to drive. We circled it once to check it out then he dropped me off and I went over to the Camaro that John drove. I got in the passenger seat. John seemed to have a scared look on his face and was acting weird. Again, I thought it was just the acid I was on. I handed him the cocaine and he handed me the money. John said, “That extra five hundred I owe you is there too.” I said. “Ok good.” (Acting like I remembered what he owed me. I had debt book in my brief case with over a hundred names of people who owed me money but could not remember who owed what without checking the books.)
After handing me the money he pumped his brakes several times and then six cars came from all over and surrounded the vehicle. It was the undercover narcotics division. I was busted. They pulled me out of the car and began to quiz me. They even tried the good cop/ bad cop routine with me. It was almost funny because I was tripping out on how each played their role. At this point I was peeking on acid and did not know if this was really happening. They told me if I hooked up a deal for a quarter kilo right then I would not go to jail. I responded with an attitude, “Im no snitch. Take me to jail. The sooner I get there the sooner I get out.” They confiscated my brand new red Mitsubishi eclipse (and ended up keeping it by saying it was purchased with drug money).
They let Alex go since he did not have any dope on him and they had no information about him. He played the dumb jock and it worked. Everyone loved the UNM football players. A black and white cop car was called and I was taken downtown tripping hard on acid. I was booked for trafficking cocaine and possession of LSD. To add insult to injury I was taken in a room and strip searched. The whole nine-they checked every crevice of my body and even had me bend over and cough. This would have been horrible for anyone but it was accentuated by the fact that I was on LSD. They had taken all my money so I could not bail out. I would have to stay in jail until Monday morning to see a judge. I was taken to my cell at BCDC –Bernalillo County Detention Center.
The jail was over-crowded and the cells were small. I slept on the floor next to the toilet. Although I did not sleep all night because I was tripping . I was with two older guys – a black guy who got busted with a couple rocks in the War Zone and a Hispanic guy who had got busted carrying a stolen television down the street. He was on his way to get some heroin. He was what we call a Tecato (male heroin junkie). We talked for a while in Spanish. They asked me what my charges were and I said cocaine trafficking. When I mentioned it was for an ounce of cocaine, they were both in shock. “That’s a lot of dope, man!” To me that was not a lot of product because I was moving so much weight. imes These guys were street junkies who lived from fix to fix. I remember thinking these guys are a bunch of losers. Walking down the street with a stolen television- how stupid can you be. (What I did not know is that one day I would be in the same condition they were). I did not eat all weekend and actually got some sleep on Sunday. I had called my father and he said he would come to court on Monday.
I then called my house to tell them to clean up the house. Chris answered my phone and I told him to get Jason who was my next door neighbor. He left and came right back to the phone saying undercover cops were at Jason’s house but they had not come to my house. I told him to get the drugs and guns out of my house. He was very scared and said he was taking off. I called back about an hour later and Tristan my roommate answered. He said Jason’s house got raided and they took his marijuana plants. They had come to the door asking for me. For some reason they had been told that was my house. Later I found out that Alex had told them that Jason’s house was my house so they would not go to my house and find the kilo and firearms. Jason later told me he thought I had “snitched him out” at first but then realized that they thought it was my house and he just kept his mouth shut. (Which is what you are supposed to do. He obeyed the rules).
Tristan told me that Alex came back and had cleaned out the house and had my drugs and guns and he was going to raise my 30 k bond and get me out. He did not come up with all the money and I stayed in jail. Tristan said he had paged me with his code and a 911 to tell me that John Reeds house had been raided. John had snitched on three people. He set us all up. I thought what hat happened to “you do the crime you do the time?” I have always had an aversion to people who sell other people out to save their own hides. It was his own fault. He would let his son, who was a senior in high school have parties over at his house with under-aged kids drinking, using and buying drugs. Eventually someone’s parents called the cops and for good reason. I did not sell drugs to kids and I did not tell on people. I figured I was a saint compared to this lowlife. (However, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God- Romans 3:23).
When Monday morning arrived I went into the court room and my father was brought in when it was my turn to stand before the judge. This was my first adult charge. When the judge saw my father she granted me a third party release. The judge had known my father and our family for many years and trusted him to make sure I showed up in court. My father picked me up when I was released and I asked to go to my house. He said he was responsible for me going to court. I said I would go to court but wanted to go home. He refused to go to my house so I told him to let me out of the car. He stopped at gas station and I thanked him and got out and called for a ride home.
The police had seized my Mitsubishi but I still had a pimped out 1968 Volkswagen van. Luckily the narcs had gone to the wrong house or I would have been in worse trouble. This was a crossroads in my life. I could have sought treatment for my addiction and continued my college career. However, I did not. I withdrew from my third semester of classes without contacting the professors, so I got a failing grade in all my classes. After the bust my landowner kicked me out of the house. I went back to military school (NMMI) for one semester and my father helped me one of the best attorneys in town.
I was so apathetic and jaded. The darkness around me grew deeper. I was so delusional from the cocaine, alcohol and Valiums that I could not even talk straight. I would mumble so bad that people could not understand me. It would have been funny if not so pathetic. A friend of mine, Mike Holenbaek, would drive me around to deliver drugs. He was one of the few who could understand me because of my mumbling. It became a joke that he was my translator.
I just wanted the madness to end.. I understand what Paul meant when he says the things I want to do, I don’t do, but the things I hate are the things I do. I wanted to stop but there was some desire deep within me driving me to do drugs and live the street life. It was obvious that there was no future in it. I was facing prison time and still could not get out. Insanity!
Back to New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI):
It was the early 90’s and I spent several years fighting the cocaine trafficking charges. My dad convinced me to go back to NMMI because it would look good to the judge. I can’t imagine what my father must have gone through during these years. He thought if I went back to military school, I would get better. That was not the case. I went back for a semester of junior college but I continued in my addiction. I would drive to Albuquerque on weekends and supply the people who sold dope for me with enough drugs to last the week then take a stash back to NMMI to party. At school I became friends with Al Demeo. We talked and I told him that I was a dope dealer that had gotten busted and came back to NMMI to make a good impression on the judge. Later, he moved to Albuquerque to be my right hand man. When he came to town and saw my operation, he admitted that he had doubted my story was true. He said, “Caleb your one of the few people I’ve met that talks the talk and walks the walk.” At the time I took that as a compliment. Today I hope I am a Christ-follower who walks the walk. I failed most of my classes at military school. I would stay up all night doing cocaine in the dark in my room. After classes me and a friend, Lee, would go pick up beer and drive around while we got drunk. I was so glad when that semester came to an end.
Campus street house with Jason:
I moved back to Albuquerque and got a house with Jason, the guy who used to live next door to me when I got busted. The guy who the cops had raided his house by accident. I started selling major amounts of drugs again.
Pedro started coming around again and gave me some big customers. One guy he brought by the house was Richard Besgrove. He wanted a quarter kilo but this was the first time I had met him. I asked him if he had the money and he showed me five thousand dollars cash. I did not deal with him that day but eventually we did a lot of business. Richard owned several houses and an apartment complex that were left to him by his parents. He had a speed boat and his house was decked out. He was busted several times with large amounts of cocaine but always got off with high powered attorneys. He ended up being one of my financial backers in the dope game for a season. Years later he lost everything and went crazy. He received government assistance and lived on the streets as a meth head. Very sad story.
Jason had some girls who would come and clean the house for a little dope. One of these girls was Heather, the mother of my daughter. We ended up getting together and she moved in for several months. Her father was a local architect and her parents were strict Mormons. She moved in with me and started doing lots of cocaine. She loved to do cocaine and would not want to stop. I would get scared because she would do so much that she would shake uncontrollably but still wanted to do more. One night after a 72 hour binge, I told her we needed to get some sleep because we were starting to hallucinate from sleep deprivation. I took my usual 50 milligrams of Valium- 5 blues, a drink of Jack and Coke, and a fat doobie. I talked her into taking a couple of blues and gave her some Jack and Coke so she would stop jonesing and pass out. We eventually fell asleep. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and she had fallen asleep with a cigarette in the bed. I said, “Put that out, Heather.” And went back to sleep.
Later that night or actually early in the morning I got up and stumbled into the back yard and laid down on one of the couches surrounding a little fire pit dug out of the desert. When I woke up again I saw flames coming out my windows that faced the back yard. I ran inside and could not get to my room because the heat coming down the hallway. My friend Al was asleep on the couch in the living room. I told him to get up because the house was on fire. He opened his eyes and looked at me. then turned over to go back to sleep. I went over and slapped him and said, “Fire!”.
Again I tried to get to my room thinking Heather was still in the room. I needed to save her. I was unable so I went around the front of the house to go around to my second bedroom window and lo and behold there was Heather with the water faucet spraying flames that were coming out of the window. It was rather comical because there was no pressure in that water hose so she had put her thumb over the head to increase the pressure, to no avail- it was barely a trickle. Like pouring a cup of water in the ocean- making no difference. I grabbed her and brought her to the front of the house where a passerby stopped and said he had called the fire department. The fire department showed up and put out the fire. While the local news stations cameras were shooting footage of the house fire, gunshots were heard from the handguns in the fire. After the fire was put out I asked to go in to get cash that was in my room. I went to the foot of my bed where I kept my money and all that was left of the nearly $20,000 was some burnt one hundred dollar bills. I owed most of the money because I had gotten a front on some cocaine. I went to the guys house and said sorry I don’t have your money but my house burnt down. He looked at me like “really?” I showed him a plastic bag filled with partly burnt bills. I then to the bank where I was able to turn in burnt bills if it had part of the serial number. I was able to salvage about $2000 dollars. This was devastating because I lost everything I owned in the world. The last letter my grandma wrote me before passing away. Everything gone!
The only time I would see my college friends was when they came to buy drugs and everything was now out in the open. My family knew for certain about my secret life. Instead of getting better, I got worse. I would do cocaine nonstop and was drinking heavily to balance out the paranoia from the cocaine. The paranoia was now accentuated by the recent bust. I thought there were police behind every bush. The cocaine was driving me mad. I would have people drive me around to drop off drugs and we would do more dope at every stop. I carried a fifth of Jack Daniels with me everywhere.
I was mixing Valium with the alcohol to try and level me out. I would take the blues like they were candy–ten milligrams every few hours mixed with the alcohol. Sometimes I would over do it and wake up after being passed out at a customers house or in the car. My life was out of control. I had always stayed away from heroin because I had some family members that had struggled with that addiction and thought people who used needles were losers. A girl I sold dope to was a Pharmacist at the local hospital. She was also a heroin addict. She would pick up cocaine from me and mix it with the heroin and shoot it. She gave me some and I tried to snort it but did not really feel it.
Another friend of mine Nathan Gurule had been doing heroin for some time. He was the son of the Pastor at Temple Baptist church in Albuquerque. One night I dropped off some cocaine to him and some of his friends. I asked him if he had any clean needles and some heroin. He said, “Of course Caleb, do you want some.”
“Yea I think I want to try it so it will mellow out the coke, but I don’t know how to shoot up. Can you hit me?”
“You got it bro!”
He went through the little ritual of cooking the dope and pulling it into the syringe. He then hit shot me up for the first time. I had him shoot me up for the next few days but then I quickly caught on and began shooting up myself. Speed-balls (cocaine and heroin intravenously) became my new best friend and even my god. I could now use cocaine without getting paranoid when I mixed it with heroin. It was a “miracle” drug.
Nathan had been strung out on heroin for several years. One day he dropped by my house down by UNM and asked if he could use my 45 caliber handgun.
“What do you want it for?,” I asked,
“Just to use for a few hours”
“No, your just going to get yourself in trouble and if you do something stupid your going to get me in trouble if I ever get caught with this gun.”
It just did not feel right. Nathan was a great guy but he was not hard core. He was not the type to carry a gun or make enemies. He was a fun loving guy. He went to every rave and loved to dance all night. He was the life of the party but just not a thug. He left and later that week we saw on the news that Nathan had been shot by the police with a shotgun in the back while robbing the Subway restaurant across from UNM and a few blocks from my house. He had robbed it twice in the same week and went back a third time but when he did the police were waiting. The gun he was using was a plastic gun.
Nathan was paralyzed from the waist down. When he got out of the hospital he stayed at his parents house but was eventually kicked out for throwing parties there. He got money from the government for being paralyzed and all kinds of pills. He would sell his pills to support his heroin addiction. He was very unhappy and who wouldn’t be. I lost contact with him. About a year later we saw in the news that Nathan had overdosed at cheap hotel on Central with a prostitute in the room. Another victim of the streets.
I continued to do heroin and my habit increased. I was eventually put on probation for cocaine trafficking. I was given a conditional discharge which means if I finished the three years of probation successfully, then the felony would fall off my record. My life continued to spiral out of control. I would give a dirty urine to probation officer almost every time he gave me a urine analysis (UA). To satisfy my probation requirements, I enrolled back at UNM.
The Meadows in Wickenburg Arizona:
I continued to drop dirty UA’s to my probation officer. He mandated out-patient drug counseling to no avail. Then he and my drug counselor had an intervention required me to go through a inpatient drug rehab. My insurance through my father was with Blue Cross / Blue Shield and they covered most of the thirty thousand dollars for the month stay at the Meadows owned by Pia Melody. This is one of the best rehabs in the nation. I flew out there and had a few drinks at the airport and did the month long program and when they dropped me off at the Phoenix airport, I started drinking before I even boarded the plane. When I got to Albuquerque, my friends picked me up and we went to get high.I was a hopeless junkie.
Teen Challenge Pig Farm in Spokane:
One night I was driving back to my apartment from a downtown bar and I had a 8-ball of cocaine on me. I was driving drunk and in a hurry to get back to my pad to get high. I did not notice that I was speeding. I got pulled over and arrested after failing the drunk driving road test. The officer searched my car and found the bag of coke in my NIKE jacket but threw it back into the car. I guess she felt like a DWI was enough for that night. I went to jail and they impounded my car. Upon my release the coke was still there in my back seat. When my PO found out he was not happy, to say the least.
I was now required to enter a long term rehab and ended up going to a Teen Challenge rehab in Spokane Washington. My dad had called them and set it up. I think he thought the only way I could make it was to get me as far away from Albuquerque as possible. I was sent to jail for a few days for violating probation with the DWI and agreed to go to the inpatient rehab at Teen Challenge in Spokane, Washington to get out of jail. My dad drove me up there. I smoked cigarettes at every stop because I knew I would have to quit once I arrived. After days of driving we pulled into the rehab. It was in the country and it was literally a pig farm. We worked all day long with pigs, like the prodigal son. We attended chapel daily and church on Sundays. I hated it. I was just there because I had to be. I thought about getting high every day. I did not have a burning bush experience at this time but I did start to have moments of clarity. I spent several months there before me and another guy got kicked out.
We were dropped off at the airport. I was headed back to Phoenix with the other guy. We had plans of getting wasted upon arrival and then make some money selling drugs. However, the teen challenge had notified my probation officer that I was kicked out of the program and had been dropped off at the airport. I was arrested at the airport and spent the next few months in the Spokane county jail.
Finally my parole officer allowed me to get out because teen challenge agreed to take me back. When I arrived they informed me that I would be on a no- contact contract which means that I could not talk to anyone for thirty days. I agreed but could not handle it. I finally went to the director and told him I wanted to leave. I called my po and he said I could come back to New Mexico. When I got back I decided I would not do hard drugs but would not give up drinking socially.
When I first got back I was driving around town and everywhere I went that day I overheard people talking about Jesus or God. I felt like God was after me. My heart was literally hurting. The conviction of the Holy Spirit upon me. It was like God was saying I am here and I want you to stay with me. But my mind was made up. I still wanted to party and have “fun” but I would stay away from hard stuff. I was driving east on the one way street Lead from I-25 towards the student ghetto which was my old stomping grounds. I passed the community college (CMN) on my right heading towards Yale street. I felt like God was literally in the car asking me to not leave Him. I tried to ignore it but it was overwhelming. The cars in front of me and next to me all had Christian bumper stickers and they stood out as if highlighted by the universe. There is no way this is a coincidence – I thought.
Then I came to the light at Yale and Lead. I looked up and there was a huge billboard right there on the corner and it was a picture of Jesus with his arms open. It had been put there by the catholic church and had been there for years but today it was if Jesus Himself were standing before me with open arms saying. “Come to me John Caleb and I will give you rest for your soul.”
That was too much! I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. I could barely drive. I pulled over at the next street and prayed, “God, if this is you please leave me alone. I don’t want you right now.” I calmed down and then drove off. Slowly the intensity of Hound of Heaven began to subside. Eventually the presence left and things were back to normal. However, I know that God had tried to prevent me from going back to all the madness and sin. The Lord is gracious. He was revealing himself to me like I had prayed for him to do many years before. Lamentably, despite the conviction of the Holy Spirit i continued down the path of my choosing.
My life could have been changed forever at that time if I would have surrendered. I was in my early 20’s and still loved the world. A devout hedonist! I had only about a year left on probation. To satisfy my probation officer, I got at job at MCI as a Spanish speaking representative. About six months later my probation officer released me from probation but I had lost my conditional discharge because of the DWI. The felony trafficking charges would remain on my permanent record. As soon as I found I did not have to report anymore to my parole officer anymore, I started doing cocaine, heroin and weed again. I ended up getting fired from work for missing to many days and started back with my full time criminal lifestyle.
I started drinking heavily and doing heroin and cocaine again. My life quickly got out of control. I started selling drugs and was involved with people who were doing identity theft. My friend Mike Austin was the identity theft king in New Mexico. We would spend a lot of time together because we were both heroin addicts. We quickly developed a close friendship. I moved in with a girl, Tara from Kentucky. She wanted to shoot drugs with me. I told her it would destroy her life and would not let her. I finally gave in and she started doing heroin and coke intravenously from day one. One weekend we were planning on going to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is an eight hour drive or forty-five minute flight from Albuquerque. Throughout the years I would go to the sin city often. I loved to gamble and live it up in Las Vegas. Although I was never very good at gambling, I kept trying. Pedro and I were actually in Las Vegas at Bally’s when the Dunes hotel was imploded. Bally’s is across the street from the Dunes. We watched it fall from our window at Ballys on October 27, 1993. My life continued implode as I continued my destructive lifestyle.
At any rate, we made plane and hotel reservations. We then went on a binge for the last 12 hours before our flight left. I ended up overdosing in our apartment on heroin. The paramedics were called and I awoke in the hospital. I remember being angry at Tara for calling the paramedics because I did not want them to busting me. When I awoke she was there with me at the hospital. She said, “I am going to cancel our trip because our plane leaves in one hour.”
I said, “What are you talking about?!”
It took some convincing but they let me leave the hospital . We made it to the airport just in time. We took first class so we started taking advantage of the free drinks. I decided it would be a Bloody Mary’ weekend and I drank non-stop on the flight.
We arrived at our hotel in Las Vegas and called for a limo. We went out to an expensive restaurant where the bill including alcohol was over $500. We then went to the Casino and got tickets to watch the Evening at the Improv.. I was drunk. Tara and I got into an argument and she took off with my wallet and room key in her purse. I walked down the strip to our hotel and got into our room and passed out. When she got back to the room she asked why I had left. She said, “I told you I was going to the bathroom!” We ended up arguing again and I threw the televison, smashing the window. Security came and arrested me. I told her to take off and that I did not ever want to see her again. I was put in las vegas jail and still did not have my wallet. She went back to Albuquerque. The following day I called her- now sober. I said “what are you doing?”
She said,”You told me to leave.”
I responded, “Well I’m in jail and you have my wallet, money, and credit cards. Come back and get me out of jail.”
She got on the next flight and came and bailed me out. We paid the hotel for the damages and they dropped the charges. We went to a different hotel because they banned us from that hotel. The following day we got married at the infamous Little White Chapel. When we got back to New Mexico she said she did not want me hanging out with my friends anymore. We broke up in a few weeks and she went back to Kentucky and filed for divorce.
I was spending a lot of time with Mike Austin. We sold drugs and did identity theft to support our thousands of dollars per week habit of heroin and cocaine (speed balls). We started getting pounds of meth from my Mexican connections- the meth was called shards, ice, or glass. This was the mid 1990’s. They were staring putting limitations the materials to cook meth. However, this did not limit the amount of meth on the streets. At this time the Mexican super labs started producing an enormous amount of the product. Meth was becoming more popular than cocaine and heroin. My life was out of control. I wanted it to end but did not know how to stop. The pain from withdrawals of heroin was horrendous. I would rather be dead than experience that. I was dead though. Walking dead!
(Mike died my first year in prison in 2007. He was shooting up heroin in a hot bath. Junkies use hot baths to get their veins up. After shooting up he “nodded out” and sunk under the water and drowned. Very sad.)
Angel in the back seat:
At one point the girl I was dating went back to the Twin Cities to visit her parents for few weeks. The heroin she took with her quickly ran out and I had Fed Ex her some more. One day while she was gone, I was driving around making deliveries and pulled over at the gas station on Coal Street and I-25. I got out the bottom of a coke can and cooked up a chunk of black tar heroin. I filled up a 1 cc syringe to the top. It took me a while to find a vein but I finally did and then got on the freeway headed north.
I quickly realized I had done too much. I began to ‘nod out’ (pass out from heroin) on the freeway. I almost went off the freeway before I woke up and pulled back on the highway. There was a lot of traffic. I quickly snapped out of it because I feared I would die if I did not stay awake. I thought surely I will not pass out now because the adrenaline was pumping. But a few minutes later I nodded out again. I began to pull off the freeway and off an overpass when a voice from the back seat called my name-“John!”
I woke up and thought it was my girlfriend but she was in Minneapolis and I was alone in the car. In my minds eye I thought I saw an angel in the back seat. This was very strange and I became a little scared. I made the next exit at Lomas street and pulled off the freeway. Once I got on Lomas street I again nodded out and ran into the back of a truck going 40 miles per hour. They were fine but my hood was smashed almost to the windshield. Luckily the car I was driving had an automatic seat belt that pulled over you when the door was shut. I got out of the car and fell to the ground.
The belt left a bruise across my chest for a month but I lived. Luckily I had gotten off the freeway before crashing. I could have killed myself or even worse, someone else even an innocent child. During this time period I totaled four cars high on dope. My life continued the same way for years but I never forgot that strange voice that saved my life on the freeway that day.
(Years later prison at the facility in Los Lunas, I was watching God TV. There was a show by Cindy Jacobs thirty minute show “God Knows”. It was a program about angels. Before the show started that day I thought, “I wonder if that was an angel that called my name on the freeway saving my life.” As soon as that thought left my mind, Cindy turned to the camera and said, “Just now someone is wondering if that was an angel that saved your life from an accident on the freeway many years ago and God says, ‘yes, yes it was.’” Wow!! I felt goose bumps over my entire body and thanked God for his grace and mercy upon my life…)
Throughout the years I had a great friend named Joe Padilla. He sold high grade marijuana that he grew down in the South Valley. He drank a lot and smoked weed but did not do hard drugs. A few times throughout the years, he would call me up for a few grams of coke to “party” with a girl but not often. One evening we were partying and he had some cocaine with him. He asked if I would do some with him. I said, “I only shoot it. I don’t snort it.” He said, “Come on just snort some with an old friend.”
So I did. We did a lot of coke that night. Toward the morning we wanted to come down and head home. I had some bars of Xanax and some Valium. I gave him several bars and some Valium but instructed him to only take one pill. About 7AM we left the north valley where we were partying. I left and went home to go to sleep. He had invited me to come to his parent’s house in the south valley (Los Padillas). I was too out of it to go. He went to his parent’s house for breakfast that morning. I had taken several pills and slept all day Sunday until around 3 am on Monday.
On Monday at 8AM I went back to my job at MCI. Someone called my job to tell me that Joe had flipped his car coming back from his parents house and had died. I was heartbroken. I knew he had taken more pills than he should have and passed out from the pills. I left work and picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels. I was on my way to the west side to see my friend Jeff. On I -40, some little punks were throwing up signs. I threw up a sign and kept going. They kept on so I followed them to the Walgreens where they parked. I took a bottle out of the back seat and broke it to use as a weapon and went after the car load of guys. They got in the car and called the police. They showed up quick and I was arrested for a DWI. Throughout the years, I lost 16 friends to the streets. Most were overdoses to heroin, three were shootings, and one was a car accident.
Victory Outreach in Denver:
The early part of 1998 I was convicted of commercial burglary. I was given a deal by the judge to enter a program for at least one year. I did not report because I was so strung out on heroin and did not want to go through the withdrawals. I finally consented to let my dad I drive me to a rehab called Cynicore in Denver, Colorado. On the drive I began to go through horrible withdrawals- cold sweats, shakes and body pains so horrible that death would seem a relief. When we arrived in Denver I was taken to the emergency room where they said I was dehydrated. They hooked me up to an iv. I was then taken to Denver Cares detox to kick heroin. I spent another week there in pain and sleepless nights. When I was finally feeling better I called my girlfriend back in Albuquerque and had her bring a quarter ounce of heroin and a half ounce of cocaine. She picked me up at the rehab and we went to a hotel and did drugs for a week. I overdosed several times… When the dope was gone she went back to Albqueurque and I stayed.
When the drugs were gone she took off quickly because within hours she would be kicking heroin and we did not have a connection in Denver. I remember when she left she did not even look back. I believe she cared about me but cared about heroin much, much more. I was more worried about kicking then I was about her. I sat there in that lonely hotel room and had to be out by noon that day. What had become of my life. I was so lonely and scared. I felt like my life was over. At the suggestion of my dad, I decided to got to a Christian rehab by the name of Victory Outreach there in Denver instead of Cynicore.
They came and picked me up from the hotel and I went to the rehab. A bunch of guys lived and ate together in this huge house. At that rehab home I met guys who had lived a life of crime and drugs but had found freedom in Jesus Christ. I had known about Jesus having been born into a Christian family. I knew a lot about Jesus and religion but did not know Jesus. Each morning we would wake up at 5 am and go to an outside room where we stayed for an hour to pray. I remember thinking I will give it a try since I have to be in this room for an hour. I prayed for everything I could think of –family, friends, world peace, starving children in third world countries. At the end of all my praying, I looked at my watch and only five minutes had passed. “How do these guys do this?” It was a struggle. I spent several months there.
We went to the church that was across the street three times a week. During the days we did chores around the church and home. It was an interesting environment but I still was holding back because I wanted to be back on the streets with my girlfriend , doing drugs. One day I got in an argument with one of the staff and packed my bags and took a bus back to Albuquerque. My girlfriend picked me up and we went back to her apartment and we got high. She was staying at the apartment of a couple that owed me a lot of money. They refused to pay so I told Heather to take some of their things to a pawn shop to pay their debt. Later that night Joe, the Pilipino guy, who owed me money, drove by Heather and I as we were waiting for the connection outside of a 7-11 convenience store on Montgomery and Carlisle. Joe drove by and looked over at us. He then turned around and drove into the 7-11. He was with a stripper friend of ours who was also living at his apartment also. She and Heather did not get along.
They pulled up and she said, “Joe is going to kill you Caleb.” He got out of the car and I told him to get in his car and drive away but the stripper kept instigating so he rushed at me. Twice I told him to step back. When he continued to rush me I stabbed in the chest and he fell to the ground. My girlfriend and I ran out into an alley and threw the knife out and went to another gas station to meet the connection. By the grace of God, Joe did not die. He was released later that night from the hospital.
Phoenix Victory Outreach:
Now not only had I left a court appointed rehab and violated probation but also had been involved in a stabbing. Albuquerque was not a good place for me. Drugs were rampant and there were some enemies in the town that would just assume shoot me as look at me. My girlfriend and I drove to Phoenix and entered the Phoenix Victory Outreach. I knew the madness had to end. I could not continue the same. My girlfriend went into the women’s home and I went into the men’s home under an alias. This was Monday. I spent a week in bed once again kicking heroin. It was not as bad because I had only been back on the street for few a month or so…
That Thursday was Thanksgiving Day of 1998 and there was a service and dinner for the men’s and women’s homes at the church. At church I did not see my girlfriend and found out she had left that same night. She could not handle the withdrawals from the heroin. She went back home and ended up being with my best friend, Mike Austin. He was a meth dealer and thief and always had a lot of money. I felt betrayed but I had left because of my own problems and had to deal with my issues. They tried to hide it from me but I just knew and some friends told me. Even though I was on black out and unable to have outside contact, I would occasionally make unapproved phone calls from a nearby pay phone.
My first few months in the rehab God began to reveal Himself to me. His presence was so tangible even though I could not see him with my natural eyes I could see and sense him with eyes of my spirit. No one can see the kingdom unless He is born again. When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and trusted in Him, my spiritual eyes were opened. I saw a whole other world that had always been there but I was blinded to it. I could not believe that it took me this long to find out that God was real. Looking back I could see that God had always been there knocking at the door of my heart but I had closed him out. My life of sin had separated me from God consciousness. But that had changed… I felt like I was actually inhabited by another being. I could hear a voice behind my voice and felt and knew that the Spirit of the Living God was in me. It is hard to speak of spiritual things in natural words… I knew that I knew that God was real and He not only loved me but he liked me. The God of the universe stooped down very low to meet a heroin junkie that the whole world had counted out. The Lord is gracious.
We would get up early and pray for an hour then have chapel service. After that we would eat. Some would stay and do chores around the home while others went out to work for the day. We were busy all day and at the end of the day we were tired. This was ideal for me. I did not have time to think about getting high. Boredom is a trigger for me. I have to be active. Another thing I had was purpose and a higher law. I was never afraid of the law. If I wanted something I would take it. If I wanted to do something, I would do it. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
However, when Christ came in and became Lord of my life, I had to answer to Him. My world view changed overnight. My sin nature was replaced by the divine nature. I now would not steal or use drugs because that displeased my creator. The factory settings had been reset- I was a new creation. I was the person God had created me to be. I spent all my free time reading my bible. I was hooked on the bible and could read it for hours. It was food to my spirit. Jesus said, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. (Jn 6.51) I could feel my spirit man getting stronger each day.
Not only would I not commit crime or do drugs because it would offend my God but I did not even want that stuff anymore. I was a new creation. The old was gone and something brand new came.
Call of God:
At the beginning of 1999 all the men in the home went to a Southwest regional Victory Outreach rehab conference in Glorietta, New Mexico for the weekend. It was called the “Men of Conviction” conference. Men’s recovery homes from all over the Southwest were there- around 500 men.
On the first night of the conference an evangelist by the name of Phillip LaCrue Senior spoke. The title of the message was “The God of Second Chances”. I do not remember the details of the message but I do remember that at the end of the message he did an altar call. He asked for all those who felt that God had called them to full time ministry should answer that call by coming forward to the altar. Well this was a rehab conference and everybody thinks they are the next Billy Graham because they have been clean a few months and pray in the mornings. So almost everyone from Phoenix men’s home went forward. I stayed in my seat and told God, “I am not going forward unless you speak to me”. What happened next I will never forget. I felt the Presence of God come over me from my head to my feet. I then began to weep like a little baby. I had not cried as long as I can remember. Even as a child when my parents divorced I did not cry. My little brother cried often but I pushed everything inside. It was an uncontrollable weeping from deep within. I said, “OK Lord”, got out of my seat and started walking down to the front. As I looked at the altar I saw what appeared to be a cloud or mist at the altar. I walked forward, still weeping, and as I arrived at the front I began to speak in a language I had never learned before (a personal prayer language/ speaking in tongues according to the model in the book of Acts).
I was consumed with love for everyone around me. There were some knuckle heads at that conference (author included) but I felt the love of God flowing in and out of me. I would say, “I love you guys.” Often. If you knew me, this was not my norm. I am naturally a critic and easily annoyed by those around me. When I had this experience I was changed. The reality of the Kingdom of God was so tangible to me. I had no doubt that God was with me and that He had called me into ministry.
That same weekend my dad drove up from Albuquerque to visit me. He was so happy to see this son of his which had been so lost was now found. I asked my dad’s forgiveness for the years of pain I had caused him and he tearfully accepted my apology and said, “It was all worth it to see you now.” My dad had seen the worst of my addiction. I went back to Phoenix Sunday afternoon with the motley crew of the men’s home in our beaten up old van and I felt like I was the happiest person on the earth. God was not only real but he stooped down so low as to meet me and call me into His service. I heard a preacher say, “I was born-again when I believed in God, but I was transformed when I found that He believes in me.” That was my experience that weekend at Glorietta convention center.
I went back to Phoenix a transformed man. One of my jobs was to clean the bathrooms at the church. I would scrub those toilets and leave them sparkling. The guy on staff even told me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. “ But yes it did. This was Gods house and his toilets would shine if I had anything to do with it. No job was too low for me to do and I did it all with so much joy. God was alive and living in me. I had purpose now. God not only loved me, but he actually liked me. I could feel his favor all day long. My thoughts would continually go up to God and we communed constantly.
After I completed the year long Victory Outreach men’s home program, I served as staff at the youth home and men’s home in Phoenix for a season.
Do You Remember When We First Met?
Then I went to the Victory Outreach School of Ministry (Urban Training Center) in Los Angeles, California. While at the school of ministry, we would often go street witnessing on Skid Row and Santa Monica Pier. One night we were out after midnight street witnessing. We went to the Santa Monica pier and I got separated from the group. I looked over and saw a little “shooting gallery” game like the one at Disney Land when I was four years old. As I stated at the game the Lord spoke clearly to me, “Do you remember when we first met?” I broke down and began weeping. I said, “Yes, Lord, I remember.” Although I left the Lord and forgot about Him, he never forgot about me. His mercy endures forever.
Missionary to the Philippines:
After I completed the school of ministry, I was asked to join a missionary team to Manila, Philippines. I agreed and we left to Manila several months later. I realized I may still have charges pending. However, I left on my own passport and nothing happened. I assumed that the Lord had worked on my behalf removing all the charges that were pending. In Manila I was the assistant director of the School of Ministry (UTC). I also preached our local churches. I also planted a church, with a team of students from the UTC, in the worst neighborhood of metro-Manila, Tondo. God moved and within 6 months, we had over 100 people attending. We did street evangelism and outreaches to barangays (neighborhoods) throughout Manila. We worked among the very poor and addicts. There was much spiritual opposition and demonized people were set free by the power of God.
After two years, our team headed back to the United States. When I arrived at LAX, there was a long customs line. However, at the front of the line, I saw several customs agents with a picture in hand looking at everyone entering the country. I knew it was me they were looking for. When they got to me, I was looking the other way. They asked me to look at them and when I did, I saw the look of surprise in their eyes. They said, “Sir, could you come with us?””
I said, “What seems to be the problem officers?”
The said, “No problem. We will take you to the short line.”
I said, “The short line, eh?”
It was a short line indeed. Just me. They arrested me for a fugitive warrant out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was taken to the Los Angeles jail. After about five months I was extradited to Albuquerque to face charges. After being in the county jail in Albuquerque for several months, I was released to fight the charges. During this season, I became discouraged. I was looking at a over 20 years in prison for the stabbing, absconding, receiving stolen property, and identity theft. I started working for an insurance company and attended the local university, UNM. Slowly my daily time with the Lord dwindled to nothing. I began hanging out with my cousins and old friends. Lamentably, I eventually started shooting heroin again. I was convicted of identity theft and receiving stolen property. When it came time for sentencing, I decided to go on the lamb. For the next year and a half I was on the run from the law. Selling rock cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin to support my addiction. I was living in cheap hotels. Many times I put a pistol to my head and thought about ending my life. I had failed everyone- my family, my God, myself. During this season I was tormented by spiritual forces of evil. I would see and hear demons. Whether this was drug induced or reality, I am not sure. What is for sure is that the enemy of my soul was working overtime.
In 2007, I was arrested and my face was on the evening news. I was sent to prison to serve 8 years. Although, I had at one time been an on fire for God—church planting, street witnessing, and a successful evangelists—I was now far from God, without hope in the world. I knew God was real because of the experiences I remembered. However, he seemed to be non-existent in my present reality.
At the first facility I was at in Hobbs, New Mexico my crew had an ongoing beef with some other guys there. One day a guy walks into my cell to talk to my cell mate. I turn around for a second and then he hits me with a sock that had a combination lock in it (a common weapon in prison). I awoke in my cell in a pool of blood after some time. I stumbled out of my cell and the homies (freinds) quickly called for the corrections officer. who called medical. I was taken to the prison doctor and stitched up. My friends later retaliated against the people we suspected of being the culprits. We were all separated and sent to different facilities.
I began getting narcotics into the prison. I would sell and use drugs. I would have my people on the streets give drugs to girlfriends of convicts and then they would bring it into their boyfriend/ husband during visitation. They would wrap the drugs in balloons so it could be swallowed. This worked for some time until I was busted for a dirty urine, a fresh tattoo and suspected of bringing narcotics into the facility. By the grace of God, I was not caught with any drugs. This would have led to possibly 20 extra years in prison (8 years habitual/ 12 years for bringing narcotics into a state facility).
My Dungeon Filled With Light:
I was sent to solitary confinement for five months. This was in Santa Fe, New Mexico state prison. This was also the site of the worst prison riots in U.S. history in the 1980’s. I walked into solitary confinement in March of 2008. This was the hole. We have no contact with others. I spent the next five months in that cell just me and my Bible. I got down on my knees and cried out to God, “Lord Jesus, if you are still there, I need you. Would you come back into my life and forgive me. I don’t want to do anything great, I just want you back and the peace and joy that is found only in your presence.”
God showed up. For the first time in years, I felt his presence and knew He was with me. I repented and turned to God with all my heart. I would read my Bible eight to ten hours a day and pray the rest of the day. I read the entire Bible and the Gospels several times in five months. One afternoon, God began to show me pictures in my head of me serving him in ministry. Among other things, I saw myself in the pulpit preaching again.
I said, “No Lord! You got the wrong guy. There are people that are more faithful, more holy, smarter, more qualified and loyal than I am. I am a failure.”
At that moment the verse from Mathew 20:15 flooded my mind, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (ESV). I reluctantly agreed that God could do what he wanted. I vowed to serve the Lord the remainder of my time in prison. Throughout that five months in the hole the presence of the Lord was tangible. What should have been the worst time in my life, was the best five months of my life. My prison was turned into a palace.
At the end of five months I was release form solitary and sent to a facility in Grants, New Mexico. As soon as I came into the unit and was assigned a cell, an old friend came up and said, “Hey Coyote, I got you holmes.” He allowed me to see a small syringe cuffed in his hand with what appeared to be heroin in it. I went up to him and said. “I don’t do that stuff anymore ese. Don’t ever bring that back to me.”
I have never put a needle in my arm again. I was voted in as inmate pastor and started 420 Prayer Meetings that went on in all the cell blocks at 4:20PM. On the street 420 meant it was time to get high. However, I switched it to mean I Corinthians 4:20, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”
I started taking undergraduate correspondence courses through Global University and I was the leader of the Scared Straight program that spoke with young men who were starting to get in trouble with the law.
After the Lord met me in solitary confinement, the next twenty seven months in prison were spent with a constant awareness of the presence of God. It felt as if I was in a bubble of the manifest presence God. He walked with me and talked with me. Sometimes doubt would creep in and I would think, “This is not real. I must have done too many drugs.” I began to ask God to reveal to me that this was him speaking and not the dilusions of an ex-addict.
On March 14, 2010 as I walked the prison yard with other inmates at the state prison in Los Lunas, New Mexico a severe dust storm came out of nowhere (which is not uncommon in the area). The guards called movement, which meant that inmates could now move to another area of the facility for ten minutesl. After that the facility would be locked down again. We all began to go in because of the dust storm. I sensed the small still voice of the Lord, “Stay out here and walk with me.” So I continued to walk while everyone else went in. The storm subsited shortly after. I felt the beautiful presence of the Lord. He spoke to me as a thought in my mind but with a heigtened state of awareness. The Lord said, “A 7.2 earthquake will rock San Diego as a sign that I am speaking to you.”
Twenty one days later on April 4, 2010 an earthquake hit San Diego. It is known as the Easter Earthquake. I did not hear about it until the morning of April 5. I woke up and saw the words on my cell mate’s muted television- “A 7.2 Earthquake Rocks San Diego.” I just laid there in shcock for several minutes and then joy flooded my soul. This thing is for real!
In May of 2010, I was released from prison. I less than half of the 8 year sentence. I paroled to my father’s house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I attended Christian Life Fellowship church and attended the local community college. I worked as an English as a Second Language instructor.
In June 2010, I walked up to be prayed for healing of Hepatitis C by the elders of the church at my home church, Christian Life Fellowship, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When I went back for the next blood test, there was no sign of the virus. This is a documented healing. The Lord healed me of a disease that I contracted from using dirty needles. He not only forgave my sins but healed my disease. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Later that year after I spoke at a service, a pastor told me I should go to Central Bible College. I did just that. I came to CBC in 2011.
In May of 2013, I graduated with a BA in Leadership and Theology. I met and married the love of my life, Hannah-Rose, at CBC. She is of Filipino decent. Hannah and her sister were born and raised in Brooklyn after their parents arrived in the USA from Cebu in the Philippines. She struggled with depression and addiction her teenage years. She encountered the Lord at the Teen Challenge program in New York City. After she finished the program, she worked as staff at the center and then came to CBC in 2011.
After graduation, I served as assistant pastor at a Spanish church plant for six months and then decided to attend graduate school (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary). I worked as a bilingual (English/ Spanish) student services representative for Global University while attending grad school. Global University is the same school that I attended in prison via correspondence.
Prison to Pastor:
I worked as a faculty at Global University for exactly two years until May 6, 2015. I resigned to plant a church, CityReach Springfield in north Springfield and start Hope Homes. The home is a residential discipleship home that provides freedom and hope to those struggling with life controlling issues and desparate situations; such as, post-incarceration, addiction, and homelessness. I also serve as area director for Prison Fellowship Ministries
Since my arrival in Springfield, I have been going in weekly to local jails and prisons to preach the gospel. Last year over three hundred men professed faith in Christ at the altar calls. The Lord is using my past pain and failures to bring hope to other addicts and convicts. God is able to redeem even our past and use it for his glory.
Many inmates encounter God and serve Jesus in prison. However, they fall away when they are released back into the free world. There are many obstacles facing released offenders. It is our job, as the church, to embrace and disciple these men and women. It is not enough to minister at the prison or evangelize our neighbors. We must do the hard work and time consuming work of discipleship. This is the New Testament pattern. My wife and I are both products of residential Christ-centered recovery programs.
They need a controlled environment where they can learn to live out their faith and a community of Christ-followers that will do life with them. The Hope Home is much like an incubator for premature babies. The homes will be an incubator and boot camp where future world changers are trained and equipped. The Lord spoke to me in prison many years ago about an army He will raise up out of prisons and off the streets that will go across this land to preach the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ with great boldness and power.
I am grateful for my wife. She is truly a gift from God in my life. She has taught me to laugh again. She is my closest friend and the most sincere Christ-follower I know.
I am also grateful for my father, mother, and brother. I believe I am still alive today and on fire for God in answer to their prayers.
My wife, our team, and I are excited to see what the Lord is doing do through CityReach Springfield and Hope Homes. I serve as lead pastor/ church planter and my wife, Hannah, is the worship pastor. We launched CityReach Springfield Church on March 6, 2016. In the first month more than tweny people surrenderd their lives to Christ. The Hope Home for men opened on April 1, 2016 and the women’s home opened January of 2017. I serve as the Midwest Regional Pastor for CityReach Network. The fall of 2017, we are launching five churches in the Midwest and three on Missouri. God is on the move.
May 2016 I graduated with an MA from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Dr. Hausfeld, seminary president, asked me to be a class speaker. When he asked me to be the class speaker, I was honored. Then he asked if I would be willing to wear an orange prison jumpsuit to give my speech. Years ago while in solitary confinement at the state prison in Santa Fe, NM I had a dream. In the dream I was on a stage with many important people. However, I had on an orange prison jumpsuit. Intuitively I knew some people were looking at me and saying, “How did that guy get up there with all those important people.” This was a literal fulfillment of that dream. All glory to God for the great things he has done for his servant.
Several years ago the Lord impressed upon me that he would give us the church building on 1477 N Broadway. My wife, Hannah-Rose and I stood on this word and we prayed over the building, Jericho marched it, did prayer circles and some more stuff. I even put a picture up in my office of the property with a banner in pen that said “CityReach Springfield” so i could pray and be reminded of the promise of God. When God gives a promise begin to visualize it and pray it in for though the promise may delay- God will keep his word. Through several miracles the Lord opened the door and January of this year I walked into Hogan Land Title CO with no money down, signed a paper and walked out with the keys to our new property. We now own a 25 thousand square foot property in the heart of North Springfield. We launched at our new building on Mothers Day of 2017. July 16th we had the first graduates of our nine month men’s Hope Home program.
I am a keynote speaker for Prison Fellowship Ministries. In July of 2017, I went to speak at a prison in Omaha with the governor of Nebraska and the CEO of Prison Fellowship in attendance. Prison Fellowship pays all expenses and gives me an honorarium. Who would of thought that one day I would get paid to go to prisons. Only God could orchestrate something life this. I speak regularly at prison revivals. God is raising up an army out outcasts- prodigals, ex-cons, and ex-junkies that will go across this land and preach the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ with signs and wonders following. The Church of Jesus Christ will not fade away into the annals of history, On the contrary, the greatest hours of the church are right in front of us. This is the time to take back our cities for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ.
Join the movement!
“He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the dunghill. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the LORD’s, and he has set the world in order.” -1 Samuel 2:8
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” -C. S. LEWIS
But they overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.-Revelation 12:11
By His Grace,
John Caleb Alarid
Lead Pastor | CityReach Church- Springfield
This is the testimony of my old friend Mark Hessel (aka Hess) shared Easter Sunday at Hoffmantown Baptist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
He was a University of New Mexico Lobos football player back in the 90’s. I used to be his cocaine dealer and he served as my muscle and collector at times throughout the 90’s. Most of all he is a solid friend.
God is still in the redemption business!
In this video, John shares his full testimony with 100 addicts at Higher Ground Recovery center in Springfield, MO on January 29,2015.
John shares his vision for a church plant and men/ women’s recovery homes in North Springfield at the county jail.
John passionately calls people to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ at the county jail.
The following is an excerpt from Allan Thompson’s latest book, “What Grace Is”:
“I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ for real this time. With new spiritual eyes, I saw a whole other world that I couldn’t see before. I finally knew that God not only loved me, He liked me! . . . I didn’t want drugs anymore. I had a hunger and thirst for God’s Word instead, and I would spend all my spare time reading the Bible. I was a new creation.” – john alarid
John Alarid is now forty-one. He says, “There were many times when I was sure I would not even see thirty. My life was repeatedly spared when others around me died. I do not understand this. Why me, God?”
Is John a veteran of action in some foreign war? No. He is a veteran of a much bigger war—the war Satan brings against humans through drug and alcohol abuse.
John’s earliest memories are of living in a small house in Costa Rica where his father was a missionary teacher at a Bible College. As a child there, John would occasionally wander off on his tricycle, causing his parents much anxiety. He recalls, “I have always been a loner and a bit of a rebel. My normal instinct is to do things my own way. That has been a source of much pain for me, and for many others.”
When John was four his parents came back to the United States to raise money for their missionary work. While raising funds in Southern California the family spent a day at Disneyland. John found a shooting gallery set up like an old west saloon. There were coin-activated electronic rifles to fire at various targets placed on objects such as bottles and chair backs. After John used up several quarters, his parents were ready to leave. They entreated him to go, but he stubbornly refused. Finally, they left him sitting on a stool while they went to Tom Sawyer Island.
John had no money and soon lost interest in aiming at targets with a gun that couldn’t work, so he wandered over to a little grassy area under a tree across from the gallery. As he stood there, he felt the presence of a Being. At four, he did not know it was God, but he prayed and asked Jesus to come into his heart just like he had heard people do many times at his father’s mission services. “I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was personal, not something I just heard others do,” John says.
“At four years of age, not understanding what I was doing, I asked the God of the universe into my life and He came. In most of the years since, I have lived a life of rebellion against God, but I rejoice that He is faithful even when I am not.”
The next year John’s parents took him to a revival service. The evangelist animatedly paced the platform as he preached. John says, “The atmosphere was electric with what I would later understand to be the presence of God. The evangelist looked straight at me several times then a thought started to flood my mind—it was, ‘One day you are going to do this.’ ”
John’s parents divorced in 1983 and he and his brother, Brian, stayed with their father in Albuquerque. By then, John had become a rebellious teenager. Later, when his mother and father decided to remarry, the whole family moved to Warren, Michigan. John’s rebellion escalated. He was thrown out of one school for arguing with a teacher. At a private school, he skipped thirty straight days of classes choosing instead to hang out with some friends and smoke marijuana. John was arrested for shoplifting and was drinking heavily most of the time. He had a part time job at a fast food restaurant where he and some of his fellow workers conspired to create a scam which netted them forty to sixty dollars a night. Somehow, despite all his issues, he managed to complete his tenth grade class work.
Fed up with John’s behavior, his parents sent him to the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) in Roswell. The military regimen was good for John. He learned discipline, and he made straight As in his classes. Still, with a fake ID, he would rent hotel rooms on the weekends and get drunk.
One of his bunk mates at NMMI was a devout Muslim. John, who had drifted completely away from his Christian heritage, admired the fact that his fellow cadet was so devoted to his faith and willing to stand for something despite ridicule. Through their close friendship, John begin to question whether Jesus Christ was the only true way to heaven. He started to believe in relative truth. He thought what his friend believed was good for him and what his parents believed was good for them. “I started to think that if we were sincere in our beliefs then our version of reality was actually real,” John says. “I justified my actions based on this new view of the world. I could now do anything I wanted with impunity. For me, that was great!”
Then trouble came. The campus police searched John’s car after he and his roommate had an altercation with some local high school boys. The police found their hidden handgun and shotgun and John was suspended from school. When he called his dad and told him the news his dad cried on the phone and said, “Why do you keep doing this to me?” John says, “I had no answer.”
His dad enrolled him in Menaul School in Albuquerque, a faith-based private academy. John then “fell in love” with a girl he met there. He and his new girlfriend moved in together in an apartment paid for by her dad. John enrolled at the University of New Mexico (UNM) with a full scholarship based on his excellent grades at the military institute and Menaul.
Drugs were rampant on and around the UNM campus. Breaking up with his girlfriend, John moved into a house with an older former student. John threw wild parties and got heavily into the drug scene. With his entrepreneurial skills, partially honed at the fast food restaurant, he became a dealer, primarily to the dorm students who had the desire and the money. John started going by his middle name, Caleb. Because John is half hispanic on his father’s side and half Norwegian on his mother’s he picked up the nickname, Coyote. A coyote is also a mixed breed: half wolf and half dog.
His own drug use became so obsessive that the drugs began to change his thought processes. But, something within him clung to his upbringing in the church, and one night, totally inebriated, he gave God an ultimatum. John said, “God, You have made yourself real to my parents. If You will show up and talk to me I will believe. If not, I am going my own way.” God did not show up. John says, “I had never felt more alone in my life, but I reasoned that since God had not shown up I was free to live life my own way and, I continued to do so.”
John had all the trappings of a wealthy drug dealer. He was given preference at the bars, drove a brand new sports car, carried a handgun, and had shoulder length hair and a long goatee. He walked around, always followed by an entourage, and was invited to all the parties on and off campus. “Guys would detail my car for drugs. Girls would clean my apartment for drugs. I was the man and everything revolved around me,” John says.
Feeling invincible, he began to use crack cocaine. He became paranoid and thought people were constantly spying on him. He says, “Here I was nineteen years old and turning into a monster. I started to hang with a rougher, older crowd. I was a major player in the Albuquerque drug scene.” John was also involved with Chicano gangs and received drugs directly from cartels in Mexico. Being fluent in Spanish was a great asset.
John’s paranoia became even more extreme. He stopped going to classes because he decided they were a waste of time, and because he was afraid to be out in public. He would often stay at different hotels for fear of his house being raided. Finally, he began to have drug-induced seizures. John had no peace. He was continuously nervous and high. “I felt like I was going crazy. I was a shell of a man I was so skinny. I was trapped.”
Finally, John was set up by an acquaintance and busted. He was thrown into the Bernalillo County Detention Center where he spent the weekend sleeping on a concrete floor next to a toilet in an overcrowded cell.
On Monday, the judge released John to his dad. Instead of this being a turning point in John’s life, he chose to remain in his cocaine addiction and withdrew from his classes at UNM. John was delusional from the cocaine, alcohol, and Valium he was taking. He couldn’t even talk straight. Instead he mumbled so much he could not be understood. He wanted to stop the madness, but something kept driving him to the total self-destruction that was surely coming.
John’s dad got him back into NMMI, but John continued to use and sell drugs and failed most of his classes. His house caught fire because another person there was smoking in bed, and John lost ten-thousand dollars in cash and all of his personal belongings.
Then John started shooting heroin, something he vowed he would never do. He was placed on probation for his cocaine trafficking charge, but still continued his drug and alcohol abuse. Then he was sent to the Meadows, a drug rehabilitation facility in Wickenburg, Arizona. As soon as he was released, he got drunk. He was given a DWI and sent to jail for a few days, and then was sent to Teen Challenge, a Christian-based drug and alcohol rehab center founded by Reverend David Wilkerson. This particular facility was a working pig farm near Spokane, Washington. John hated being there and slopping pigs, but says, “I did begin to have a few moments of clarity there.” Despite his moments of clarity, John was kicked out of the program for not following the rules. His parole officer was notified, and John was met at the airport by the police and spent several months in the Spokane County Jail.
When John got back to New Mexico the Holy Spirit was really after him. John says, “Everywhere I went all I could hear was people talking about Jesus and God.” At one point, John felt like God was literally in the car asking him to stay with Him. The cars in front of him and to his side both had Christian bumper stickers. There was a huge billboard on the corner featuring Jesus holding his arms open. It seemed to John that Jesus was saying, “John Caleb, come to Me and I will give you rest for your soul.”
John, still headstrong, had different plans. He says, “This was too much for me. I was so distraught I could hardly drive. I pulled over and said, ‘God, if this is You, please leave me alone. I don’t want You right now.’ ” God’s presence quickly faded.
After six months, John’s probation period expired and he was back to heavy drugs. He paired with another heroin addict and got into identity theft. One day, completely high on heroin, John was driving on the interstate from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. He began to fall asleep and swerved off the road a couple of times when suddenly he heard a voice from the back seat exclaim, “John!” He looked back and thought he saw an angel sitting there. He then pulled off the interstate onto a two-lane road and slowed to forty miles an hour but still rear-ended a pickup truck. Fortunately no one was badly injured.
In 1998, John was convicted of commercial burglary and was given a deal by the judge to enter a rehab program for at least a year. His dad drove him to Denver to go to a facility called Cynicore. On the drive, John began to suffer severe heroin withdrawal with cold sweats, shakes, and horrible body pains. He was hospitalized, but upon his recovery he checked into a hotel room and injected heroin again. Then his dad convinced him to go to Victory Outreach, a Christian rehab in Denver, where he stayed briefly but soon left and returned to the Albuquerque drug scene.
In Albuquerque, he stabbed another addict who attacked him. Panicky, he asked a girlfriend to drive him to Phoenix where he entered another Victory Outreach Center to hide out. “As my senses cleared during the first few months there, God could, and did, begin to show Himself more fully to me,” John says. “I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ for real this time. With new spiritual eyes, I saw a whole other world that I couldn’t see before. I finally knew that God not only loved me, He liked me!”
John continues, “My world view was changed overnight. I now would not use drugs or steal because it would offend my Creator. In fact, I didn’t want drugs anymore. I had a hunger and thirst for God’s Word instead, and I would spend all my spare time reading the Bible. I was a new creation.”
In 1999, the men from Victory Outreach went to Glorietta, New Mexico, for a “Men of Conviction” conference. During the conference, an evangelist asked all the men who felt they were being called to full time ministry to come forward. “I sat in my seat and said to God, ‘I am not going forward unless You speak to me,’ ” John recalls. “I suddenly felt the presence of God all over me. I began to weep like a little baby, something I never had done, even as a child. I said, ‘Ok, Lord’ and got out of my seat and walked forward. As I walked I saw a mist over the altar. When I stepped into that mist I began to babble in a language I had never learned or spoken before. The words just flowed out of me. I was consumed with love for all those around me.” Later at Victory Outreach, John heard God tell him three times, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; feed my sheep.” He considers this his mandate for ministry.
John went to the Victory Outreach-affiliated Urban Training Center School of Ministry. While there, he evangelized at the Santa Monica Pier. One night, as he stood outside a shooting gallery there, he heard God say, “Do you remember that day we first met?”
John later went with a group to the Philippines where they spent two years opening a school and a church. “This was my most victorious time,” John remembers. “We would perform drama at public schools and go from hovel to hovel in a dump where people lived in wretched conditions. Because of the gangs the dump was also a very dangerous place.”
After that, John flew back to the United States and was immediately arrested at the Los Angeles airport and extradited in chains back to Albuquerque where he stood trial for some of his past offenses. In 2005, he was sentenced for receiving stolen property and for committing identity theft. He went “on the lam,” grew discouraged, and backslid into drugs. “It was the most horrible time of my life,” John agonizes. “I was constantly tormented by little demons all around me, grabbing and pestering.” Finally, in 2007, he was picked up and sent to prison for eight years.
While in prison John was rightfully accused of smuggling heroin in and was thrown into solitary. John was there five months and spent almost every waking hour praying. He begged God to take him back, and then God reviewed John’s past for him and showed John his unworthiness. John sobbed out to God, “You are right. I am not worthy. I have been unfaithful. You are after the wrong guy!” The Lord said, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want to do?” God then restored John and he came out of solitary a completely different man. He wound up serving less than four years because of good behavior and was released in June 2010.
John began to attend an Assemblies of God church in New Mexico and an elderly, retired pastor, after hearing John speak at a camp meeting, suggested he go to Central Bible College (CBC, now part of Evangel University) in Springfield, Missouri.John graduated from CBC with a B.A. in Theology and Church Leadership.
In December 2013, John married “the love of my life,” Hannah-Rose Milan Tayo, who he met while at CBC. John will complete his M.A. in Intercultural Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield in 2016. He served as faculty at the Assemblies’ Global University for two years and is now planting a church. John and Hannah will be launchning a CityReach Springfield in north Springfield on March 13, 2016 and have just opened a Hope Home for men. John laughs, “While on drugs and alcohol I couldn’t even speak or think straight, and now I’m attending seminary and preaching.”
John’s dad has relocated to Branson, Missouri, near Springfield, and he and John have a close relationship. John’s brother, Brian, is a pastor in a non-denominational church in Albuquerque. His mother, Carla Heinecke, lives there and attends Brian’s church and John is deeply grateful for their love and support as well.
“No one is more aware of the love and grace of God than I,” John says. “He has spared me to glorify Him through proclaiming his Gospel message. I will do that to the best of my ability for the rest of my life.”
John’s “Why me, God?” is no longer a mystery.