“EPIC helped me deal with the feelings that I’ve had since I was an adolescent…I was able to find out who I was and why I did the things I did.”
“My mother abandoned me when I was a baby.” This is how Tracy’s life began.
Tracy was taken care of by a couple that his mother knew until they died when he was 13 years old. Tracy was on his own ever since— gang-banging, doing drugs, and getting into trouble. He continued this hard lifestyle for a dozen years until he got a girl pregnant when he was 25. The birth of his son was a turning point for Tracy. “That child meant so much to me,” says Tracy. “I turned my life around. I went back to school. I got a job as a Managing Information Specialist doing word processing for the government.”
Life had finally seemed to stabilize for Tracy, but that changed in an instant when he and his son were involved in a serious car accident that left Tracy with two broken legs, plus a broken pelvis, neck and some toes. His 3-year old son suffered some broken bones as well. During Tracy’s recuperation period, he lost custody of his son to the child’s mother, and Tracy was also forced to resign from his position since he was told that he was “disabled for life”.
Tracy healed his physical wounds and was able to regain custody of his son a year after the accident. Tracy’s most devastating blow, however, came two years later, when his son’s mother kidnapped the boy from school. It would take Tracy a long time to recover from this traumatic event…
Missing his son, Tracy cried for six months, and reverted back to his former lifestyle— doing hard drugs, living on the streets or going to jail. He was shot on five separate occasions, and saw many people die right in front of him. The last time he was arrested, he got five years in prison. “They put me into a program in prison to work on my drug addiction and that’s where I got the first taste of recovery,” states Tracy.
When Tracy was ready for parole, he came to the EPIC program at the Weingart Center Association. EPIC is geared specifically for helping people on parole successfully re-enter the community. “The counselors at the Weingart were a gift from God,” says Tracy. “I was able to find out who I was and why I did the things I did.
“EPIC helped me deal with the feelings that I’ve had since I was an adolescent,” continues Tracy. “Those feelings created a lot of anger in me.
“The grief and recovery services I got at the Weingart were very meaningful to me. After I shared my grief, it was like a weight of bricks was lifted off me.”
Tracy was in EPIC for nearly a year and during that time, he continued working on his sobriety, and dealt with many of the issues that led him down his road to destruction. Tracy became a member, and later president, of EPIC’s “Resident Council”, which is a team of clients in the program that act as role models and mentors to other clients. He won the “EPIC Idol” talent competition and was selected to sing the National Anthem at WCA’s 2007 fundraising event at Dodger Stadium.
Believing in the importance of family reunification if at all possible, EPIC helped Tracy reunite with his mother, whom he had only send five times in his life. Through this contact, Tracy also discovered that he fathered a daughter when he was 18, and that he is now a grandfather. This month, Tracy will see his son after a14 year separation, and will get to meet his daughter and grandson for the first time.
EPIC’s comprehensive program model also assisted Tracy with returning to the workforce. “I was so strong and steadfast on being a truck driver,” remembers Tracy, “but my case manager told me that people look up to me, and I should work in treatment and recovery.” The opportunity came when a former EPIC employee asked Tracy to speak at the out-patient treatment program where she was working. Tracy is now a counselor at the facility, working with mostly young Latino gang bangers to address anger management, sobriety, domestic violence and gang intervention. Tracy is also attending school to obtain a certificate to be a substance abuse specialist.
Tracy’s life is a story of true transformation— he has overcome many obstacles for this new beginning. “I’m not doing this for my son, or my mother. I’m doing this for myself,” says Tracy. “I really love life today. I’m forever in the Weingart’s debt.”