At the height of his addiction, Angel recalls, “smoking weed, doing coke, dropping ecstasy, and tripping on ‘shrooms, acid and ketamine. I was stocking the shelves at night at Ralph’s and slinging ‘8 balls’ [of cocaine] at the clubs on the weekend.”
The product of teenage parents with gang affiliations, Angel’s early life was surprisingly stable and full of love. “My mom was an addict and disappeared from my life when I was very little. But my dad stepped up and traded the gang life for G-d and provided a stable home life for me,” Angel says. But that stability was short-lived. At age 16 he was busted for weed and kicked out of school—a pattern that would repeat a few times during his high school years. “I was a good athlete in high school. I played a lot of sports but my best one was wrestling. So every time I got in trouble or kicked out, my wrestling coach would use his influence to get me back in school,” Angel recounts.
But this back and forth also started another odyssey for Angel. He bounced from his father’s house, to his mother’s, to a number of “day of the week” girls’ pads throughout his high school years and early adulthood. “I met my baby’s momma around this time. At first, I kind of used her for a place to live, but when my sons were born I really wanted to be there for them and for her,” he says.
But the pull of drugs was too strong, and Angel soon found himself in his first rehab facility as a result of being arrested for stealing nitrous tanks which he used as an inhalant and sold at parties. “My friends and I would follow the trucks around that had the tanks and after they were installed for the HVAC units in a building, we’d use bolt cutters and jack them,” he recalls. The low point came when his father found him passed out at a bus stop, incoherent after huffing a significant amount of computer duster.
His attempt at rehab started out very promising, but the model resident eventually relapsed, adding crystal meth to his cadre of uppers and downers. He even went as far as to mix baking soda with water to fake his drug test. Before long, he was kicked out of rehab. “I was living out of my car, motel rooms when I could get one, and the beds of whatever girl I was with at the time, all the while selling and using drugs,” Angel says remorsefully.
It all came to a head when he was incarcerated in L.A. County Jail for three years following multiple felony charges. “I spent three years of my kids’ lives in jail,” Angel says. “I missed so much.” A chance meeting between his mother, a recovered addict and co-founder of USC’s Unchained Scholars, and Harriet and Rabbi Mark led to Angel’s introduction to Beit T’Shuvah. Desperate for help and a chance to become the father he always wanted to be for his boys, Angel found a home and a community at BTS.
In recovery for almost six months, Angel is now in school to become a dog groomer. He also has two internships (the kitchen and the thrift store) at BTS. He is a part of the Social Distance running team, a mainstay in the gym, and a very active leader in BTS’s in-house AA meetings as the parser of chips. “I’m doing something with my life. And while I have lived many lives, I’m now living my very best life thanks to BTS and my community,” he joyfully says.
He’s also repaired his relationship with his sons and their mother. “She’s a great mother. I have so much respect and appreciation for her. We’re doing our best at co-parenting our boys and I can’t wait to re-enter their lives as I re-emerge into the outside world,” Angels says with his infectious smile. The sky is his only limit and as Angel learns to spread his wings wide it’s certain he will take flight for an amazing next phase of his life.