Bringing Shalom to the City….

stories from CityTeam International in Oakland, CA

My Name is Samuel. I’m addicted to….

Written by Samuel Garcia


Hello everyone!!

Thank you again for coming out to our Family and Friends Open House on Saturday.  It really meant a lot to us all, not only for you to come see our presentation, but also coming to CityTeam to see where we live and what we do here.  Hope you enjoyed yourselves, and thank you for all the food  😀

 “I lost everything in (hurricane) Katrina…I was a big baller before it hit….When you go from eating with  silver spoon to a plastic spoon, it’s devastating.  When you go from eating with a wooden spoon to plastic spoon, it’s just another day of the week.”

-Curtis, CityTeam Oakland

I know this was a bit before the Open House night, but I just wanted to share because I thought it was an honor to sit in on it.  Last Thursday we were lucky enough to sit in on CityTeam’s Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.  I’ve never been to one before, so I wasn’t even sure if it was appropriate for us outsiders to sit in on it.  I assumed it would be a time where others would tell their deepest darkest confessions, and end in a place of despair.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t like that at all.

The meeting began with several people shouting out some of their accomplishments like how many days they had been sober, or if they had moved up to a higher level in the program.  With each accomplishment, no matter how big or how small, everyone gave a loud applause for that individual, as a gesture of “good job ______!”  It wasn’t at all like the house meetings, which can sometimes turn crazy when people are giving their opinions on everyone else.  This, however, was a time for approbation and affirmation, a time where they can celebrate the little milestones in life together in community.

The next phase of the meeting brought the spotlight on an individual named Curtis, who is also part of the program.  Each week a new guy is chosen to share his testimony about what God had done in and through his life, so this week, it was Curtis’ turn.  Now Curtis was one of the guys I had met when I first got here.  He’s one of the main chefs in the kitchen, and has only been here for a little more than 30 days.  He actually taught me how to play Domino’s while I was here, and introduced me to a prison card game called P-knuckle, which I still don’t really get.

I won’t tell his whole story, but here are a few things that stuck out in his testimony

  • Curtis was sentenced to 15 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary-Angola Prison for possession of and selling of drugs, and found God there.
  • After a couple years, to his surprise, and an apparent glitch in the system, he was set free for reasons he still does not know till this day.  He returned back home to New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Curtis was a survivor of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.  As we all know, the aftermath was a horrific event just to watch on t.v.  Curtis said he “saw too many dead bodies left out on the streets, too much for a man to handle.”  That’s when Curtis started to relapse and turn back to drugs in order to cope.
  • Curtis moved to California, went to Bible School, graduated from it, and became a minister.  Unfortunately, he was still battling with drugs.
  • He got caught recently, and had the choice of either coming to CityTeam, or going back to jail.  He chose CityTeam.

I was surprised by his story, the complexities of him battling drugs and growing in his faith.  Again, I realized that no one is exempt from the disease of addiction, not even ministers.  It shouldn’t make us more scared of it, but perhaps think of different ways we can approach this disease of addiction.

After Curtis shared, there was a time where we each took inventory of ourselves, as in Step 4 of the program says we should.  I was reminded that I can’t always change reasons why people do things, but rather, in introspect, you can change the way you react to things.  We’ve got to really look within to see what triggers us to act certain ways or even react.  This was a time where all the guys shared a little more of their story.

12 Steps of AA

  1. Admit Powerlessness
  2. Find Hope
  3. Surrender
  4. Take Inventory
  5. Confess
  6. Become Ready to Allow God to Change You
  7. Ask God
  8. Make List of Amends
  9. Make Amends
  10. Continue My Inventory
  11. Pray and Meditate
  12. Help Others

I challenge you all to try the steps, for whatever addictions, destructive behavior, patterns, or habits you might have.  You can even do it with a partner to help you get through it, too.  That’s how AA works, actually.  The guys and girls do this all in community.


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