sober in 2004 by returning to church and going through a faith-based 12-step program.
But around the time his parents got divorced, Carlos’ older brother, Craig, turned to drugs and ended up getting addicted to heroin. Two of his sisters also struggled with drug addiction.
“Addiction, more or less, always had an impact within my family and how we grew up,” he said. “When I got to an age of accountability, I started to recognize that my parents struggled with some forms of addiction.”
Although Carlos tried to minimize his drug use, he couldn’t step away completely as drugs were his means of support. He became so physically addicted to heroin that he was unable to stay sober without experiencing severe withdrawals. But during an ordinary day in August of 2012, everything changed.
“A friend of mine who had just gotten out of jail came over and bought some heroin from me,” Carlos said. “We were in my basement, he got the drugs and began shooting up until he ended up overdosing. He fell into my lap, and I remember holding him in my arms, checking for a pulse. There was no pulse, and I realized I had no control.”
Carlos called the police then he cried out, prayed and promised that he’d change his life around if his friend came back to life. Upon arrival, law enforcement officers were able to reverse the overdose.
“[The police] asked me what I was going to do with my life,” he said. “They said, ‘we can either go get a warrant, but you know if we come back, we’ll find something. Or you can put everything you have in a bag, and we’ll walk out of here and give you a chance.’ I still don’t know why they gave me the chance, but I put my faith in them and gave them everything that I had.”
A few days after the incident, Carlos started to move toward taking control of his life. By September of the same year, he got sober and remained sober.
Faithful way out of addiction
Now, Carlos is 22 years old. He defines himself as an entrepreneur and a musician, but most importantly a Mormon because religion brought him back to a healthy life. He became an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was able to serve a two-year mission as a returned missionary – traveling around the country to talk about his religion and recruit church members.
The last four years of his life were marked by devotion and sobriety, but also by a newfound ability to help other people who were struggling with substance use disorders.
“I believe that true doctrine, understood, changes behavior quicker than the study of behavior changes behavior,” he said. “Meaning that surely the study of behavior can affect change, but perhaps the better solution is for people to understand who they are spiritually.”
Carlos is currently going to school to become a psychologist and hopes to work with recovering addicts in the future. His brother Craig has been enrolled in a detox treatment program for about a month and expects to return home soon.
“I began to ask myself what separates me and my family members from someone who isn’t able to overcome addiction, and I realized that I had a spirit,” he said. “My body doesn’t control my spirit, and I have the ability to act for myself.”