Drug czar congratulates
By Joel Kilpatrick
in Riverside (11/16/03)
John P. Walters,
President Bush’s “drug czar,” recently spoke
at a Teen Challenge graduation in Riverside, Calif., to the
largest group of recovering addicts he’s ever addressed.
“I came to
visit this institution because … it represents what
needs to be done across the country,” said Walters,
director of the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy. “Institutions that connect people to God, to
religion, as well as those that connect them to services,
are crucial to many millions of people in recovery.”
Seven hundred people
attended the July 8 ceremony, which featured vibrant testimonies,
prayer, applause, whoops and whistles. Since its founding
in 1958, TC has become the largest, oldest program of its
kind in the world. Last year, in Southern California alone,
TC received 62,000 requests for help. Southern California
TC serves 500 people in the residential program, and more
than half of those attended the ceremony.
as Daniel Lopez, 21, wearing a shirt and tie and gripping
the podium with tattoo-covered hands, told his story, often
through tears. Lopez lived with his grandmother because his
parents were drug addicts.
nobody cared about me, so I took care of myself,” he
said. At 14 he joined a “tagging crew” and adopted
their heroin habit. He bounced in and out of jail. Counseling,
recovery programs and methadone failed to help.
tried to get clean, but it had a grip on me,” he said.
“I finally asked God, if He was real, to help me.”
Lopez came to Teen Challenge and his inner pain faded away,
he said. Now he’s clean, and plans to become an art
The group heard
from David Fog, a 1991 graduate who once lived in a public
park and believed he would never be free of his crack cocaine
“When I share
my testimony, people don’t believe me,” he said,
bright-eyed and grinning. He went through four other rehabilitation
programs but said he “never breathed a sober breath”
until he came to TC and “wholeheartedly committed”
his life to Jesus Christ.
the power in our sobriety,” he said. Today, he and his
business partner operate a successful real estate office in
Burbank. Fog serves as president of the local board of Realtors.
who talk about substance abuse as a victimless activity, you
have to have blinders on to not see the incredible destruction
it does to users and to everyone around them,” Walters
said in his address. The drug czar said he and the president
are grateful for Teen Challenge.
a place of hope that takes those who’ve been broken
and hurt and those who love them and puts them back together,”
Walters said. “This place does what other people only
talk to me about, and the result is lives that are saved.”
to the sky, acknowledging God. They ascended the platform
to receive their diplomas from Walters and TC Southern California
Executive Director Dennis Griffith.
Later, Ruben Gutierrez
and his family shared their success story. At 17, Ruben became
addicted to cocaine. “I didn’t have hope in myself,”
he said. “I didn’t think I could be sober, but
I desperately wanted to. I was trying to be accepted by all
the wrong people.”
His mother, Lilly,
said the worst time of her life happened when drugs took control
of her son. “There was no love in him after that,”
she said. “He didn’t care about anybody. Hugs
and kisses were gone, ‘I love you, Mom’ was gone.”
His father, Bobby,
said his son faced six years of prison time. “I told
him this was probably his last chance,” Bobby said.
“We knew in our hearts God would give our son back,
and it was a battle, but God gave us the strength. Our whole
family has been praying for this.”
Ruben came to TC
one year ago and returned to sobriety. Now he’s respectful,
loving and has plans to attend Bible college.
An atmosphere of
thankfulness and joy pervaded a dinner afterwards. Even as
the meal was served, young men pulled one another aside for
spontaneous times of prayer, encouragement and hugs.
One speaker noted
that after a year in TC a graduate has spent:
• 320 hours
in church and chapel services,
• 377 hours
in 30 different classes,
• 1,085 hours
on work call.
an honor to be here to celebrate your miracles,” Walters
concluded in his address. “I wish those of you who graduated
my best. I will pray for you, and I ask only that you do the
same for me.”