A fresh start

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From addict to future soldier

By Hugo Chavarría –

Ever since my early school years in Costa Rica, my life was tangled up in disaster—mischief, pranks toward my peers, disregard for classes, and curiosity of alcohol and drugs.

When I was 17, without having finished school and still very immature, I observed the drug trafficking around me and decided to move out of my house to live an independent life. I would be my own boss, have my own money, car and luxuries, and distance myself from my parents, whom I found annoying at the time.

However, the time came when I lost control over the drugs; they started controlling me. I wasn’t myself. I did things I did not want to do and ended up drowning myself in my consumption of drugs and alcohol in the darkest places of the city. Eventually I became homeless, eating from trash cans and sleeping on cardboard.

I didn’t care about life anymore. I walked alone, buried in the depths of my agony, wanting to get out of my situation but not being able to. My many unsuccessful attempts to change included hospitalization, psychologists, psychiatrists and support groups. They all seemed useless against the evil living inside me.

I began to seek death wherever I could, taking dangerous risks and acting disrespectfully and irresponsibly. But God kept protecting me, and had something better planned for me.

For many years I continued living in the world of gambling, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, robbery, lies, assault, disillusionment, abandonment of my family, dishonor to my parents, fraud, physical and emotional abuse toward my loved ones and thousands of bad habits and actions that kept me in my own misery.

On Dec. 2, 2013, I realized that death would not come to me easily. Despite my frustration and my urge to leave this world, I did not have enough courage to take my life by violent means. So I decided to starve myself and see what happened.

Three days later, my body couldn’t take it anymore, much less my spirit and thoughts. I decided to go to the train station, lie on the train tracks, and wait for the first train of the morning to finish what I had already started.

God, however, did not want that. Fifteen minutes before 6 a.m. when the train was set to arrive, a Salvation Army officer saw me on the tracks sleeping, woke me up, and asked what I was doing there. I told him briefly of my plans to kill myself. He hugged me—despite my bad body odor from days of not bathing—and told me that God loved me and wanted me to get off the train tracks. He told me to get up and come with him to get something to eat.

I got up and walked with him for a while. He told me he had to go, but to knock on the door of a nearby building, ask for the pastor and tell him my story. I did so, and a cadet named Carlos Andrés and his wife Tatiana greeted me, fed me, and talked to me about Jesus. I spent the rest of the day with them, and they told me about The Salvation Army and its mission and purpose. They took me to a shelter where I could bathe and sleep.

After years of suffering from marginalization and poverty, on Dec. 6, 2013, thanks to the intervention of the cadets and the shelter and support at the rehabilitation center, I started a new chapter of my life.

I managed to get my own place, clothes, food, real friends, guidance in the Word of God, and have been able to reintegrate myself in society and within my family. But the story doesn’t end here.

Today, thanks to the work of The Salvation Army’s rehabilitation center, Majors Manuel and Nancy Muñoz, and the Army in general, I will join its ranks. I am completing soldiership classes because I am convinced that God has called me to use my life story as a testimony that through Jesus there is nothing that is impossible. God found life in me when no one else could find a solution to my misfortune.

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