Year Born: 1955
Country of Origin: Spain
History: Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Violence
Some people take a long time to learn from their own bitter experiences. I was like that. I was born and raised in Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain. My family lived in an area called Somorrostro, which occupied a large section of the city’s beachfront. Somorrostro had a reputation for crime and drug dealing.
My parents had nine children, and I was the eldest. Because we were very poor, my father sent me to work as a ball boy at a local tennis club. I was ten years old and worked for ten hours each day. As a result, I could not go to school like most children my age. When I was 14, I began working as a machinist at a metal shop.
In 1975, I was called up for military service, which was mandatory in Spain. I wanted to do something adventurous with my life, so I volunteered to join the Spanish Foreign Legion in Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa. During that time, I plunged into the sordid world of drug and alcohol abuse.
When I left the Legion, I returned to Barcelona and formed a gang. We stole anything we could lay our hands on. We would then sell the stolen items for money to finance our drug addiction. I started taking LSD and amphetamines, and I immersed myself in a life of sex, alcohol, and gambling. This destructive lifestyle led me to become more and more violent. I always carried a knife, an ax, or a machete, and I was never afraid to use one of them if it seemed necessary.
On one occasion, my gang and I stole a car and were chased by the police. It was like a scene out of a movie. We drove the stolen vehicle for about 30 kilometers (20 mi), until the police started shooting at us. Finally, our driver crashed the car, and we all ran from the scene. When my father found out, he understandably threw me out of the house.
For the next five years, the streets became my home. I slept in doorways, in trucks, on park benches, and in graveyards. I even lived for a while in a cave. My life had no purpose whatsoever, and I felt that it did not matter whether I was alive or dead. I remember cutting my wrists and arms under the influence of drugs. I retain the scars to this day.
HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE
When I was 28, my mother came looking for me and asked me to return home. I agreed and promised her that I would straighten out my life, but it took me a while to fulfill that promise.
One afternoon, two of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at our door. As I was listening to them, my father yelled from inside the house that I should shut the door in their faces. As I never liked taking orders, I decided to ignore him. They offered me three small books, which I gladly accepted. I asked them where their meeting place was, and a few days later, I turned up outside the Kingdom Hall.
The first thing I noticed was how neatly dressed everybody was. In contrast, I had long hair, a scruffy beard, and shabby clothes. It was evident I did not fit in, so I remained outside the hall. But to my surprise, I recognized a former associate and gang member named Juan, dressed in a suit. I later learned that he had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses just a year earlier. His presence gave me the confidence I needed to go inside and attend the meeting. That was where it all started to change for me.
I accepted an offer to study the Bible and quickly realized that if I wanted God’s approval, I needed to change my aggressive nature and immoral lifestyle. Making those changes was not easy. I learned that to please Jehovah God, I needed to “be transformed by making [my] mind over.” (Romans 12:2) I was deeply touched by God’s mercy. Despite all my mistakes, I sensed that he was giving me the chance to begin again. What I learned about Jehovah God sank deep into my heart. It became clear to me that there was a Creator who cared for me.—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
This moved me to start making changes. For example, when the subject of tobacco came up during my Bible study, I said to myself, ‘If Jehovah God wants me to remain clean and undefiled in every sense, then these cigarettes will simply have to go!’ (2 Corinthians 7:1) And into the garbage bin they went!
I also needed to stop using and selling drugs. That took a little more time and effort. To achieve that goal, I knew I had to cut ties with my former associates. Their influence was not helping me to progress spiritually. In time, however, I began to rely more on God and on the help of my new friends in the congregation. Their love for and interest in me as a person was something I had never experienced before. As the months went by, I was finally able to break free from drugs and “put on the new personality,” which would help me to have God’s approval. (Ephesians 4:24) In August 1985, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
HOW I HAVE BENEFITED
The Bible gave me a new lease on life. It freed me from a damaging lifestyle that was destroying my body and my dignity. In fact, more than 30 of my former associates died at a young age from AIDS or other drug-related illnesses. How grateful I am that by applying Bible principles, I was able to avoid the same tragic consequences.
The knives and axes that I used to carry as a violent young man are now a thing of the past. I never imagined that one day I would instead be carrying a Bible and using it to help people. Today, my wife and I both serve as full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My parents never became Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they appreciated the benefits I received because I studied the Bible. In fact, my father even defended the Witnesses in front of all his colleagues. It was clear to him that my newfound faith had brought about a remarkable change for the better. My mother often said that I should have studied the Bible sooner. I could not agree with her more!
My experiences in life have taught me how senseless it is to seek satisfaction in drugs and other vices. I now get true satisfaction from introducing others to the teachings found in God’s Word—teachings that truly saved my life.