José Miguel

My name is José Miguel and this is my story.

I was born in a Christian home. My parents lived in Angola when they started attending church and got converted. Curiously, it was my father who took my mother to the church for the first time. But unfortunately, when I was born he no longer attended church.

I am the second oldest of five brothers. My older brother never really enjoyed going to church, but my parents insisted otherwise. However, at the age of 14, my father told us that, from now on we could decide whether to go or not. That’s how I stopped attending church. At 14 years old, I thought I knew it all. I started to drink and smoke with a group of friends. We were very close and spent more time together on the street than at home.

In the meantime, my older brother discovered that I smoked hashish and told our parents. I stopped talking to him on that same day and we were like this for 6 years.

I quit school at 16, only with the 7th grade completed ‘I wanted to work, so I could have money to buy drugs and keep hanging out with my “friends”. In fact, with them I felt goodand safe. Or perhaps I enjoyed their company because we didn’t feel anything – we were high, on drugs and alcohol most of the time.  From then on, my life consisted of working two or three months, getting laid off and staying home for another two or three months. Despite this, I always found a way to use hash and alcohol, and I even smoked heroin several times. Thank God, I didn’t do it frequently, so I didn’t get addicted to heroin. However, many of my friends did get addicted, and some even died. Although my life was unstable and friends had died, I didn’t change my mindset – I still thought I had everything under control.

After four months of compulsory military service, I started working as a carpenter in a company, but I missed the work a lot. I didn’t have any interest, whatsoever, in what I was doing. I just wanted the money to support my addictions. I would spend it all, and even more, if I had the chance.

It was then that I met a woman with whom I would live for 3 years. During that time I tried to make my drinking problem as discreet as possible. During the day I drank moderately, but at night after leaving her home, I drank all I wanted. Obviously things didn’t work out and we split up. This left me without accountability. From then on, the alcohol dependency increased and I returned to what I had always been – someone with no goals in life, no desire to do anything. I had other relationships, but they all ended, for whatever reason, and whenever that happened I drank even more.

One morning, my hands were shaking so badly, that I had to grasp the cup of coffee with both hands to be able to drink it. It was then that I realized that I had to drink alcohol for breakfast instead of coffee. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to go to work. I kept getting worse and worse. One day without understanding it very well, I felt like dropping everything and going away. My life was senseless.

My parents always helped me, but at this point they were tired of my sad behavior and schemes. Of five children, I was the one that gave them more work. Then my mother told me about a lady friend from the church, Yolanda, who I also knew. She told me that Yolanda worked at Teen Challenge – a Christian association that helped drug addicts and alcoholics.

I accepted my mother’s advice and I went to meet Yolanda at the Fanhões Insertion Center. There, she explained to me how the rehab program worked and advised me to go to the coffee house in Lisbon – the Teen Challenge support center. I agreed to go and began my admission process. During the time I attended the coffee house meetings, I always continued my consumptions. I had decided that I would stop it as soon as I entered the program. I also decided that I was not interested in the spiritual part of the program; I had no interest in a possible relationship with God.

As soon as I entered the program, I realized that nothing made sense without God. Therefore, I had two chances: either to look for a different type of program or to get closer to God.  I decided to put God to the test: “God if you exist, if you are there, if you want to know who I am, if you care about me at all, prove it to me!” Then, one day at a chapel service, we started singing a song that I remembered as a kid. The lyrics say: “I look at everything and I always see You… in the earth, in the skies, everywhere I go I feel your love… it is impossible not to find You, it is impossible not to know You…” At that moment, that song made perfect sense in my life. The truth is that it is possible not to see God’s hand. But in fact, He had always been in my life, and he always kept me. I began to remember car accidents that I had under the influence of alcohol and how I was never seriously injured. After all, God had a purpose for me! And He wanted me to be reconciled to Him. I just had to be left without any strength to be able to realize it.

Now I know that God has a purpose for my life; I have learned to dream, to have goals and to be determined. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I will serve him and live for him. I won’t lose him again. Today I am married to a beautiful woman who, I am sure, God who put in my life. I have a little boy and we’re expecting our second child… I thank God for all he has added to my life.