January 2020 | Spiritual Awakenings

Clearer than ever

A private investigator discovers that faith, not sight, would lead him out of the dark

An old saying states that one should “walk by faith, not by sight.” Until recently, I never really understood what that phrase meant. In fact, for many years I had done just the opposite, walking primarily by sight and, at times, in reckless disregard of any kind of faith. 

I trusted what I saw because what I saw was what I knew to be true. Sure, all the senses are important and each contributes greatly to the human experience, however no sense was more valuable or trustworthy to me than my sight. Without my eyes, how would I know where I was going in life? I thought I needed sight to see. 

But I was wrong about that. Instead of leading me to the promised land of my hopes and dreams, my sight led me to a crossroads of darkness and despair that I never saw coming. It was faith, not sight, that led me out of that darkness.

There are many definitions in the world for the word “faith.” The Bible simply says, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

In my 40s, I learned that faith, for me, is an action word. It’s very easy to say, “I believe in this,” or, “I trust in that.” But can a person prove it? Can one trust in something without evidence to back it up? For me, faith is backup. Faith is the action of proving what one claims to believe or trust in. 

I was born in Santa Monica, California 49 years ago. My biological parents divorced when I was just a baby. When I was 4, my mother remarried to a Los Angeles police detective who raised and loved me as his own. I lived in a beautiful and loving blue-collar, Catholic family on the west side of L.A. My childhood was fantastic. I never lacked for anything growing up. I excelled in school and sports. I had lots of friends, lots of opportunities and lots of fun. 

After high school, I attended a nearby university for three years, but instead of finishing my degree, I took off for Carnaval in Brazil. Upon my return, I held various jobs, from bartending to the film business, before settling into a successful career as a licensed private investigator. I traveled the world personally and professionally and built a very good life throughout my 20s. 

But in my 30s, I destroyed that good life by falling victim to a raging alcohol and gambling problem, which eventually led me to commit crimes using my private investigator badge and a gun. I committed armed robberies and got involved in illegal trafficking. 

My physical stature was big, but my ego and personality were even bigger. I drank and committed crimes with impunity. I was the enforcer. I made my own luck and I dispensed street justice because that was my job. I successfully avoided capture and successfully navigated the justice systems at home and abroad. I felt bullet-proof, untouchable and entitled. I never considered that anyone or anything was in charge of my life but me.

I was eventually arrested multiple times for multiple offenses in both San Diego and L.A. counties. Then, at age of 40, I finally surrendered to the begging and pleading of my devastated and broken-hearted parents to enter rehab for treatment. 

When I entered rehab, I had eight felony charges pending. However, I only agreed to 30 days in rehab. And I only agreed to that much to get my family off my back. I wanted to prove to every concerned family member and friend that I didn’t have a drinking problem. Don’t forget, I was a trained private investigator. I knew how to survive and cut deals, how the court systems worked and what my legal rights were. I planned to fight everyone and everything because I trusted only me.

But something else happened.

Early on during my stay in rehab, I’d been waking up during the middle of many nights with headaches. The only other person awake during those early morning hours was the counselor on the graveyard shift, who began speaking to me about faith, God and a life in sobriety. Those discussions happened regularly and became increasingly more intense. But I was not interested in a life in sobriety, which sounded extremely boring. I was in a rush to get back to my exciting life of crime, alcohol and drugs. 

But as the chaos in my life calmed and clarity of thought returned, I decided to stick around and fight the felonies from rehab, which I did by going to court routinely once a month with my lawyer and a letter from the rehab stating that I had met or exceeded all my treatment goals and regularly attended AA meetings.

During that time, that graveyard counselor challenged me to prove my manhood and toughness by working the AA Twelve Step recovery program. So I worked the program and, as I did so, I connected on a deep, spiritual level with a power greater than myself that I called God. I stayed in rehab working those Steps and continued to surrender my old life for faith in a new one. 

There are many examples where faith led me to surrender my old life. At three months sober, I went to broker a drug deal, but had a change of heart in the midst of it and walked away. I had faith that something better lay ahead. Another time, at six months sober, I chased an old girlfriend to San Francisco while on a 10-day rehab pass, only to realize that the relationship wasn’t meant to be. I returned to rehab early because I had faith that something better lay ahead. These are examples of how I grew in faith.

But I still faced four years in state prison for crimes I had committed in San Diego. My monthly appearances with my lawyer continued for eight months. Then one day, that graveyard counselor told me that it was time to put the negativity of my legal case behind me so that positive energy could enter my life. Again, I surrendered on faith and did just that. 

I was already leading a sober, honorable, spiritual life by then. I had worked all 12 Steps. I had turned my will and life over to the care of God and sobriety. Yet I still wanted to fight all the felony charges by holding out for the best legal deal I could get—even if that “deal” was dishonorable. That counselor (who had now become my sponsor) helped me to understand what real accountability and honor is. He helped me understand that I was in fact guilty of all those felonies and that fighting them was just another example of faith in my own “sight” and not in God’s will for me.

So at 10 months sober, I walked into that San Diego courtroom, raised my right hand and pleaded guilty to a reduced two-felony deal. At that moment, I understood what real faith was because I immediately gave up my driver’s license for one year and my private investigator license. I had to do some miscellaneous jail time. I also gave up my right to own a firearm for the rest of my life. And I received a five-year sentence of probation, which meant I gave up all rights for search and seizure of my car or property anytime with or without probable cause.

All this I accepted on faith alone. Quite literally, as I raised my right hand in court, I clearly thought to myself, OK, God, I hope you know what you’re doing. 

Ultimately, I ended up with a new life. I’m now coming up on eight years of sobriety. I’ve finished all my jail and probation time. I got my driver’s license back and I’ve been gainfully employed managing a family law practice for the past seven years. My relationships with family and friends are without question the best they’ve ever been. I’ve earned a newfound level of dignity and respect that I never knew was even possible and I feel the absolute best I’ve ever felt. Furthermore, I’m back in college now, finishing my undergraduate degree after a 27-year absence and I’m doing so with a huge heart full of gratitude. 

With all the value that I had placed over the years in what my eyes saw as truth, it turned out that faith granted me a new way to see.

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