It doesn’t matter where I am, from the grocery store to the church building, people want to know about Manuel Diaz of Comanche, Texas because they care. Even though they have never met him, they have been cheering for him since we first began bringing you his story, the story of a young man who defied all odds and is today free from an unbelievably vicious drug habit, a habit that did its best to destroy him.
Today, as hard as it is to believe, over a year and a half has now passed and, believe it or not, Manuel Diaz is still on top of the world and still giving God the praise for it all. In fact, Manuel has gone to work for a carpenter and is learning all kinds of new skills that he is using as I type to do some work for Rickey and me, and doing it very well I might add!
Manuel still has dreams of going to college and becoming a teacher some day, but for now he is learning for the first time in his life exactly how it feels to do a good days work and draw a days pay, a concept that Manuel did not learn while growing up in Comanche. Of course, it is difficult to rise when you have been as low as he has been. Right now he is saving every penny for a vehicle because he cannot even think about college until he has a way to drive back and forth, something most of us take for granted.
If you haven’t been following Manuel’s story, you will find it below. It is one that you just don’t want to miss if you want to feel better about life and the fact that there are still success stories; we just don’t hear about them very often!
Once upon a time, Manuel Diaz was my student, and I enjoyed him quite a lot. Then, time passed and I did not enjoy Manuel Diaz because he was a “druggie” who did not pay into the system because he didn’t have a job and he lived off of his mom…the all too typical story these days. However, for Manuel the typical story became very atypical the day he looked up and found Jesus.
In a day when drug and alcohol abuse abound, when drugs and alcohol take prisoner more of our children every day, I think you will find the story of Manuel Diaz and his deliverance from the deadly poison a light in an otherwise often totally dark underworld. So (deep breath), here we go.
Manuel graduated from Comanche High School in 2006 with the idea of going into the military; in fact, he enlisted in the Marine Corp at end of his junior year. He joined an infantry combat unit because he thought that if he was going to be in the military, he might as well go to war; however, by his own admission, he had no idea what was “stepping into.”
“I don’t regret my decision, but I did not get the advice of someone who had been there. I thought war was heroic; however, it was actually unexplainable. You’d have to be there to understand. It is nothing I regret or talk badly about. I just stepped into something that I didn’t expect.”
Manuel was in combat for seven months. He does not talk about that portion of his career, and we understand and respect that.
In order to understand the rest of the story of rescue and redemption, we have to back up for a moment. In fact, back to his thirteenth year when his dad gave him a joint, a beer, and a cigarette, and “I ran with it.”
“I looked up to my dad, and it just seemed like the thing to do. I grew up seeing my parents drinking and doing drugs and I thought that was normal. My mom quit, but my dad continued to do that and of course this caused a lot of fighting etc…so I can’t blame the marines for any of my drug problem.
“From the time I was thirteen, drugs were what I turned to when I thought I had no hope. They make you numb to the harshness of reality. They numb you to pain, and you can go through your days smiling and not thinking….at least at first….before you find yourself hooked. The drugs I did were cocaine, meth, pot, pain killers, methadone…
“But I didn’t start using for pain. I just wanted to be able to hang with the older kids; the pain came later. My father wasn’t a father; I learned how to do everything on my own. So many things that a father would teach a son I had to learn on my own, everything from throwing a football to how to work on a car. It wasn’t like my parents sat me down and interacted with me about how to do things…how to work…”
Now, fast forward back to Manuel’s military years where he was basically clean during his military service except for alcohol….it didn’t count on a drug test and as far as he knows they did not test for alcohol…
THEN…..after being in the military for about three years, there came a two-week period when Manuel opted to use cocaine…and then failed a drug test. With his career ruined and no chance of receiving military benefits, Manuel decided to go to the Brig and do his time and then leave the military with a bad conduct discharge.
When he was released, Manuel came back to Comanche and found that it was harder to find a job due to his record. Plus, he was strung out on drugs and getting and keeping a job was basically impossible for him. Within about a year after being back, he was hooked on Crystal Meth.
“There are no words to explain it. This started an addiction that I never thought I would get out of. That drug stole my soul. The others were terrible addictions and I thought I had to have them, but the Meth really gave me a kick because I was getting so tolerant to everything else. I actually was working at ALCO at this time, but eventually the Meth caused me not to be able to do my job and, of course, I lost it. I take full responsibility for this.
“From then until August 2010 began the roughest road of my life because my addiction took me down a road of robbing from my own mother, from the people who helped me; you can’t trust a drug addict. If I were on drugs now, you couldn’t trust me. I lost touch with reality. I’d never been this strung out, even when my dad died when I was sixteen.
“Up until this point I’d always been able to quit before. This time, something evil had control of me and I couldn’t quit. This was the lowest I’ve ever been and I’ve been in a lot of low spots.
“By this time my mom had been going to church since 2007, and she was doing well for herself. In August 2010, I was going to church every now and then with my mom, and sometimes I’d feel like I was getting what the preacher was saying and I’d start being faithful to go for a few weeks but then the drug addiction would pull me back. I’d feel bad and go to church then feel better and go back to drugs. I found myself doing what I truly did not want to do.
“I actually got to know the ministers from the church when I was in the marines and they prayed for me…so I began to know them. Then back here I went to church some but I didn’t really understand what it was all about…
“In August 2010, the minister called me because he knew what I was going through and he told me that I couldn‘t continue the way I was. He never lied to me. He told me that God had put it on his heart that if I didn’t change something was going to happen to me. I was rude to him, disrespectful to him because I thought I had it all figured out.
“Then, there came the day when I broke into the home of a couple I knew would be at church. I broke into their house and stole a gun from them and traded it for drugs. This is how low I was; it was a totally premeditated crime.
“The very next day, I sobered up and I called the minister back and told him that I needed help and he came right then at 7:00 in the evening. I told him that I had to confess something that I didn’t want to but I had to, and then I told him that I had stolen the gun.”
The minister took Manuel to the home of the couple from whom he had robbed, and he confessed to them what he had done.
“I felt so guilty, and yet the first thing they did was to forgive me. I had never seen anything like this in my life. I thought they would call the cops, and I was prepared to go to jail, but they forgave me. The man cried and he said ‘Jesus loved me so I love you. All you can do is give your life to God.’
“I couldn’t believe that he hugged my neck and forgave me. Then, they told me about a home in San Antonio and on August 26, 2010, I went to this home.”
The home that Manuel’s ministers took him to is located in San Antonio and it is called Outcry in the Barrio. If you want to understand more about how it came to be, I would suggest either reading a couple of books or watching the movies made from the books. The first is The Cross and the Switchblade and the second is titled Run, Baby Run.
Then, a must read is the book by the same name as the home. All three read or watched in this order will give you a very clear picture of this particular ministry and how it began. These can all be found on Amazon.com.
“The ministers took me to the home. As soon as we arrived, I had guys with tattoos and guys like you would see in a prison coming up to me and telling me that Jesus could save my life. They gave me their testimonies, telling me how bad they had been. I heard murderers telling me that Jesus loves me.
“I heard over and over their testimonies, and I heard what God had done with the lives of these people whom I saw every day at the home. I learned that I could be forgiven for everything I had done.
“The home taught me Biblical principals. Everything taught there is based on the Bible, from submission to your leaders, to loving one another, to not judging one another, how we should always improve and never get comfortable with ourselves.
“I started practicing the things that were being taught after I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. That was three days after I was there.”
I had to stop Manuel here and ask him why he made this decision so soon.
“Because I was sober, and it was amazing that I had no withdrawals from drugs and alcohol. This had to be God because it doesn’t make sense that I could take so many drugs for so long and have no withdrawals.
“So…three days later at evening chapel service, my heart was grabbed and I chose to go to the altar and surrender everything to God.
“I started crying and I had not cried in years. My prayer was ‘God, if you are real, change my life’ I couldn’t speak much. I was too emotional and skeptical. Remember I said, ‘God, IF you are real.’ I didn’t see the Heavens open or doves flying around, but my heart changed right then and I became a new creation.
“The next day I asked someone whom I had wronged to forgive me and that is when I began to see that I really had changed. Day by day by day the Holy Spirit guided me to help people and to keep my life right with God, to repent my failures.
“I was at the home for 97 days, and coming home to Comanche was an indescribable feeling. My own brother thought I’d fail within a couple of months because he had seen that so often. Months and months later my brother and his wife came to Christ because I didn’t quit. They told me at the home that it would be my life and not my talk that wins people to God.
“At the home I had a vision of coming back to this community and reaching out to anyone and everyone, from the drug addicts to the alcoholics to anyone who doesn’t know Christ, as someone who was at one time skeptical and now I’ve seen the truth.
“I just know I love God and He has pulled me out of the biggest mess I’ve ever been in. and no matter what, I am going to live for God. I take no credit for any of this but give it all to God. Without what Jesus did for me and my sins, this wouldn’t be possible. Praise God!”
And here at Texansunited.com, it is our job to report to you the happenings of Comanche, and isn’t it wonderful that one of our young men is now drug free? Manuel, we wish you so much success as you work to help the people of Comanche.
Manuel Diaz had a drug habit; we’ve told you that before. However, it has been a year this month since Manuel Diaz agreed to go to Outcry in the Barrio to see if there might be a chance that there he could kick his drug addiction, and I just had to know how he is making it.
So…..I called and asked if he would be willing to share more with us, and he very graciously agreed to do just that! I have to tell you, I am so very, very thankful for the progress this young man has made.
“It’s been a year and I can‘t believe it since I went in!!”
Of course, my very first question to Manuel was how hard it has been to stay clean.
“I hit the ground running and never looked back. Have I been tempted to drink a beer or something? Sure, I’ve been tempted; the craving has been there at times, but I thank God that I did not fall back.
“There have been good times, and there have been hard times. One of the most discouraging is to see people who keep going back into the life. It is hard to know that I have the answer on what they need to change their lives and they won’t listen.”
Now, at this point I have to tell you that I fell over on the couch in very undignified fits of laughter. You have to remember, I used to be a teacher…Manuel’s teacher! I’m afraid that I was not above reminding him of the irony of his last statement, but I understood exactly what he was feeling…how many times I have felt the very same thing.
Once I was back on track, I asked Manuel to continue with his story.
“The Biblical teaching that I was taught to apply has held me up and helped me during the storms. This keeps me focused on the most important things in life
“I look at the people who look up to me and I never want to let them down or cause them to fall.”
I asked Manuel if he missed anything about the old life.
“I know what that life holds and so do I wish I could go back to it? No way! I was in a hard, hard spot and I never want to go back there again.”
Why has he been able to do this when others can’t?
“Probably because I truly have decided to change, I made the decision in my own heart to change. It wasn’t just going thru motions; it was a choice I made 100%…
“Those who fail just want to change certain parts of themselves because they were in a hard spot, but they are not willing to give up everything in order to truly be a changed person.
“For me it was a full decision…to live for God and change my life. If you are really passionate to achieve what you believe in, you will go all the way to accomplish your goals.”
And just what are the goals of Manuel Diaz? He has decided to be a teacher! If I had not been so proud of him, I suppose I would have laughed again and proclaimed that there is justice in the world!
“I never once thought about being a teacher before I changed my life. But when I came out of the home I began teaching Bible studies (with the minister listening to me to be sure I was teaching correctly). I started to see how much I love to teach because I see things that I have applied to my own life and how those things can help someone else. I love seeing how someone else is helped because of something I share. I think I will just love to teach!
“Right now I want to teach government/ history/ social studies/ economics…anything in that field. I never had a father to teach me. My brother and I learned by trial and error, but I can be there to help young people.”
Outcry In The Barrio is not a traditional “facility.” It is simply called a home, and it takes no funding except from donations. The recommended stay is at least 90 days. Those who live in the home are evaluated every day and after 90 days, the leader tells those who live there if he feels they are ready to leave or not. He might even request that someone stay another 90 days; however, everyone is free to leave at any time.
The thing that is not an option is Bible study. If a person chooses to enter the home, he does attend many, many hours of Bible study. A basic 14-lesson curriculum is taught first. Later, the subject is character and how people can apply Biblical principles to their lives.
There are also cleaning, kitchen, yard, etc. work to help prepare people for the world outside the home.
“What do I want to leave people with today? I’m still looking to the future…continuing to move forward through the adversity, and I’m not slowing down. Through the hard times and the good times I’m living for God, and I’m not quitting!”