“The first thing I saw was my friend lying on the floor. He was blue in the face, and rigor mortis had already set in. There was a heroin tie around his arm and a steroid needle lying next to him. He was dead,” Pedro M. shares leaning forward on the couch, next to the second-floor isolation pods at BTS. This wasn’t supposed to be his life. His family’s story was one of inspirational triumph over adversity. His Cuban-American mother and Chilean-American father had extremely high hopes for their young Pedro, their eldest son.

And as if that wasn’t enough pressure for him to contend with, Pedro was also diagnosed with A.D.H.D. at the age of twelve. The medication prescribed caused him to “zombie out” and made it difficult to perform well in school. His father just thought it was an excuse. “He didn’t believe I had an issue, and that caused me to question if I was good enough,” Pedro recounts. The anxiety and frustration he experienced, as a result of this unrealistic burden, set off a pattern of bad grades, acting out, skipping classes, and not attending school throughout his middle and high school years. The strain, caused by this emotional and psychological weight, also saw Pedro seeking an escape through his first drug of choice, marijuana, at the age of sixteen. By eighteen, he had also added Ecstasy, Acid, and coke.

And by his early twenties, he had started dealing weed, cocaine, and acid. “It was the first time I felt like people needed me,” he shares. But then, a whole new monster came along and forever altered the trajectory of Pedro’s life. At the age of twenty-one, he was introduced to heroin, and as he puts it, “I thought my ‘identity’ was all those other drugs then I started heroin, and all of those other drugs meant nothing to me.”

Prior to jumping on the “horse,” Pedro’s family had turned a blind eye to his drug use and dealer existence. But upon his new obsession with that insidious product of the poppy plant, they could no longer look the other way. He was sent to his first rehab treatment center in Bakersfield, CA. But it was a short-lived experience: “I lasted about four days. I left on my twenty-second birthday on a Greyhound Bus back to SoCal.” This would become an all too familiar pattern for the balance of Pedro’s twenties. He didn’t think he had a problem. He just needed to cut back. However, he was on a sort of “heroin-go-round” as he explains, “I’d get loaded and messed up, jump off of it, go to rehab for a while and then jump right back on it as soon as I got out.” And as he had done previously, with his other “drug affairs,” Pedro was forced to sell heroin to get by. But then the dark reality of addiction thrust its sharp and heartless dagger into the heart of the precocious kid from Panorama City. Three seminal events in 2017 would serve as defining moments in Pedro’s journey from addiction to recovery.

Pedro had a friend named George. George and Pedro had become fast friends and roommates following a shared rehab stint. Around this time, Pedro had also met a girl named Kelsey. The two had met at an A.A. meeting in Malibu and had really hit it off. They started dating, and Pedro began spending less time with his good buddy George. A few months passed, and George announced one day he was moving out. But the day after he moved out, “His girlfriend called me asking where he was. She couldn’t reach him,” Pedro retells with a melancholy expression. And, sadly, as mentioned above, George’s new chapter, separate from his good friend Pedro, came to an abrupt and heartbreaking halt before it even got started.

Distraught, Pedro turned to his new flame Kelsey for love, connection, and support. But, by this time, the relationship had devolved into a cauldron of toxic codependency. Thankfully, her emotional clarity prevailed, and she ended it. Then on New Year’s Eve of that same year, a couple of shady drug dealers came over to rob a friend of Pedro’s staying at the apartment, but they only found Pedro. They assaulted him and fled. Pedro attempted to chase after them, but he was having difficulty breathing. He’d been stabbed in the lung. Somehow Pedro drove himself to the hospital. And, straight out of a darkly comedic scene from “Breaking Bad,” while he was on the gurney having his lung punctured to drain fluids so he could breathe, the police began peppering him with questions about the robbery and stabbing. “And I was like, get the F away from me, man. I’m kind of busy not dying right now,” Pedro laughingly remembers.

Once the medical staff had him stabilized, Pedro’s mind went directly to Kelsey. “I thought to myself, ‘this would be a great way to get Kelsey back in my life,’” he explains. He couldn’t contact her because she had blocked him everywhere else, but she was a voice-over artist and was on IMBD (International Movie Database). So he thought he could look her up and message her about the averted “tragedy.” “But when I started my search for her on IMDB, the first thing that popped up was her obituary,” he somberly explains. In the span of a year, Pedro had lost a dear friend, a girlfriend, and suffered a brutal assault. From that point, he began a narcotic fueled depression spiral that lasted over two and a half years. Pedro was in and out of rehab facilities during that long and terrible season of loss, grief, and addiction. He began trying to utilize a cocktail of methadone and alcohol to shake his heroin addiction. For a while, it appeared to work.

But, like most of his past attempts, things fell apart. Heroin wasn’t strong enough for him anymore, due to methadone, so he reached out to his former dealer and inquired about Fentanyl. She responded, “If you start doing Fentanyl, you’ll lose everything you have.” He didn’t care. He needed his fix. Eventually, he was able to secure the deadly drug, fifty times stronger than heroin, and got his much desired “head nod” back. But everything was falling apart.

Finally, his rock bottom arrived in the form of a DUI while working for DoorDash. At an AA meeting, a friend who’d been sober for some time pointed Pedro towards Beit T’Shuvah. Following the interview process and a BTS-mandated detox, Pedro finally found refuge at what he truly hoped would be his last rehab story.

“I knew very early on I needed a sponsor,” he says. And following a Zoom A.A. meeting, he connected with his now sponsor. “This was a sign from God. It was meant to be,” Pedro recalls with a smile. The two shared the obstacles of depression and addiction. And to face those demons, his sponsor gave him the following daily assignments. 1. Pray in the morning. 2. Call two sobers guys daily. 3. Go to an AA meeting. 4. Write a gratitude list. 5. Pray at night. It wasn’t easy at first, but over time, his days gradually began to get better.

He also began taking care of his body by improving the quality of his diet and working out again. As he started feeling better about himself, he took the initiative of seeking out new residents, who were like him when he arrived at Beit T’Shuvah, to try and help them acclimate to their new world at BTS. Pedro is also now enrolled at West L.A. College, pursuing an education and potential career in film production. He’s also begun to flex his artistic muscles again with his “Pedro Originals” painting projects splashed all over the BTS campus. “My main focus is making real connections with real people while I’m here,” he concludes. Though soft-spoken with reluctance to talk about himself, Pedro is a shining example of how Beit T’Shuvah can take a once broken and desperate soul and help them rediscover who they really are and forge a path towards who they eventually want to be. You got our vote, Pedro.

Spotlight on Pedro M. by Randall S.

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