Addiction is more than just the statistics we read about in the news. This series of articles about participants from the Fulton County Drug Court is meant to illuminate the human faces behind the numbers.
They are all part of our Fulton County family, and they are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons. This is the next article in the series that features the story of Danny Mendez, as told to by Carol Tiffany, Program Coordinator.
My mom was 15 years old and pregnant with me when she left with my dad to go to Texas. Due to my mom’s young age, my grandparents hired a private investigator in Texas to bring her back to Ohio. My dad didn’t want her to go back, so he held my mom captive at knife point, finally deciding to let her go.
I never knew or met my dad because he ran drugs across the border to Mexico.
My name is Danny Mendez, and my mom was my hero when I was growing up. She graduated from Wauseon, was independent, had a job, and took care of me. I grew up on the eastside of Toledo, and it was a rough environment.
Most of my childhood, I helped raise my siblings because my mom had to support us. She worked 2 jobs and went to night school to become an accountant.
She had another child while in a relationship, but he was an alcoholic so it didn’t work out. I was 10 years old at this time taking care of an 8 year old sister while my mom worked and went to school.
We were often left unattended while the baby was at a babysitter, and the police were called. I temporarily went to foster care.
When I was in the 5th grade, I lived with my grandparents in Lyons but went back to live with my mom in Toledo for middle school.
I came home from school one day and had an earring in addition to eyebrow slits.
I chose to be jumped into the Bloods. My mom moved me back to Lyons out of concern, but I still kept my Toledo friends.
I went to Evergreen High School and was friends with everyone. I was popular, an athlete, and liked to party. I was invited to all the social events and started drinking and smoking weed.
After high school, I moved back to Toledo. All through my 20’s I sold Cocaine. I loved the lifestyle: power, popularity, money.
I had a false sense of being needed, relied upon, and best of all, people wanted to please me. It fed my ego and replicated my high popularity.
Toward the end of my 20’s, I started using Cocaine. I was selling it to support my habit, but I wasn’t making money, so I stopped.
In my late 20’s, I settled down and got a good job working at Pepsi. I would joke that I used to sell Coke but now I work for Pepsi.
However, I still drank, went to bars, and partied a lot. A turning point for me came after I got married. I went to a friend’s birthday party in Toledo and continued drinking throughout the night.
While driving home, I totaled my new car and was arrested for DUI. I had to take a weekend driving class, but continued drinking.
In order to get away from the Toledo lifestyle, we moved back to Wauseon. This is when my addiction took off. My wife hurt her back and was prescribed Percocet.
She took them as needed for pain, but I would take them as well. When she ran out, we experienced withdrawal so we bought them on the street.
The dealers introduced us to other drugs which we used but also continued opiates due to the addiction withdrawal. We mostly liked uppers because we could party and be with people in a social environment.
In my late 30’s, I started using Cocaine then finally meth. My wife went to Serenity Haven for treatment, and we both promised the other we would be sober.
That lasted for a year and a half, but we both relapsed after my daughter lost her child during childbirth.
The next few years, my addiction continually progressed and my life got more complicated. I got in legal trouble and was arrested for possession after my house was raided.
My wife and I were separated due to our drug activity, so my daughter went to foster care. I believe this time, I hit rock bottom.
While at CCNO, I did a lot of self-reflection. I had always believed that addiction was a victimless crime, but my family was the collateral damage that I caused.
I was being selfish and hurt my family who I loved most. I knew I needed to make major life changes so I applied for Drug Court. I wanted to get straight with God and get my family back.
I had faith up to this point and considered myself a religious man, but was not committed to following the path. I didn’t make church a habit or priority in my life.
That was going to change. When I got out of CCNO, I had to start over because I had lost everything.
Before I could fully engage in Drug Court, I was sent to a lockdown rehab facility called, S.E.A.R.C.H. I used this time for applying healthy coping skills and most of all for self-reflection. I read the Bible, took time out of my day for prayer and meditation which put me in contact with my higher power.
In order to continue my loving relationship with God and my family, I needed to start following the direction of my religious teachings.
In order to live my life in a healthy and sober way, I needed to set goals for myself.
Participating in Drug Court was difficult at first until I got into a routine. Here, I found support in the treatment team who had faith in me and trusted me to do the next right thing.
This process of continued sobriety helped me to apply life skills and set goals for success. I got a job, a car, and I worked on rebuilding relationships with my family.
I finally felt strong enough to move back home to be with my wife and daughter. Things were going well until the unthinkable happened.
I work 3rd shift, so when I got home, my wife and daughter were sleeping in the bed. Since it was still early, I let them sleep. When it was time to wake them up, my wife was unresponsive. I pulled her to the floor and started CPR and called 911. She died on March 29, 2020.
This was during the COVID quarantine, and I could have easily relapsed. I didn’t have to do random drug screens nor go to probation appointments. I didn’t have to be accountable to Drug Court, but I was determined to hold myself accountable.
Sobriety brings me peace. Even though there will always be troubles in life, I know this peace and my faith will carry me through tough times. I despise drugs now.
Drugs have taken everything from me, but I am still the winner. I am no longer in limbo or stuck in the destructive cycle of addiction. I am now a survivor of my past addiction and my journey continues.
Despite any past choices, circumstances, or consequences I have encountered, I am able to hold my head high. The past does not define me. Circumstances will not defeat me because through my faith, I find peace.
I am healed by the stripes of Jesus. He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. It is through this faith that I can continue to have peace in my soul and hope in my heart. “We know that all things work together for the good to those who love God.” – Romans 8:28
In the future, I would like my legacy to be about charity. Not just money, but in good deeds to help the community. My goal has always been to leave the world a better place than it was before. I will be graduating Drug Court on June 3, 2021.
I am a strong person today due to hard work, struggles, faith, and determination. I know life will bring more tests, but I will pass. I believe in myself.
Source: The Village Reporter