Conrad Donald “Big D” Garcia fills his time chasing after his grandkids. But he is definitely not your typical grandpa. Garcia spent thirty-one years behind bars and was one of the founders of La Eme, aka the Mexican Mafia. He has since left the gang life behind, along with a twenty-plus -year heroin habit. We interviewed Garcia in 2007 and talked with him about what it is like when he goes to prisons now and why he would never go back to a life of drugs.
Garcia shares what it is like when he visits prisons now.
“It’s an honor to go, cuz the Lord opens the door for me, but it saddens me, man. But I can at least make the guys laugh and forget that they’re there for a while, right? Then I bring the good news, that Jesus can make the change in their lives. I was in San Bernardino [prison] and I went into the module where all the gay guys are. The guards said they would reject me if I went in there. One guy said, ‘Look man, I pray, I read the Bible and I can quote Scripture.’ And he quoted Leviticus, the verse about a man lying with another man, that they’re doomed. He said, ‘I was born like this; you think I like this kind of life?’ I’m not here to argue, but I listened to him and I asked him, ‘Who did Jesus come here for?’ And he said, ‘For us.’ I said, ‘There it is, there, continue praying, continue reading the Word.’ But the time I left that module, they’re all hugging me, man, and the guards were trippin’ I’m not gonna take credit. It was all done by the Lord. That’s why I enjoy going into the prisons, to let them know there’s a way out.”
“The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:11-12
Garcia reflects on if he would ever go back to a life of drugs and his thoughts on functional drug addicts.
“I had been out about four years, went jogging, did my pushups, dips. I was cutting the lawn, drinking lemonade when I thought, it sure would be nice to take a little fix. Right there and then I rebuked it. I love this lifestyle; temptation may come, but the desire ain’t there. I got too much to lose, too much to live for. I’ve got two daughters and a son. I’ve got six grandkids and a great grandson…You’re functional until you get hooked. Cocaine and meth, you’re chasing that rush and when you run out, you’re gonna be all paranoid and stuff like that, but you will eventually go to sleep. Heroin don’t work like that; you can’t sleep for months, man. The more you fix, the more your body craves. If you overdo it, you’re gonna be nodding. I used to be driving, hitting the curbs. If you don’t have the resources, you’re gonna find the resources. I can’t handle it; nobody can. I don’t think anyone can handle any type of drugs; it’s just a big ol’ lie, man. Weed gets you all paranoid, bro, and nobody wants to be paranoid in the system. I used to know some bad dudes, bikers who had the best coke and meth. Pretty soon, these guys are paranoid, thinking somebody wants to kill ‘em. Drugs are nasty, deceiving.”
Turn to God. If you have an addiction, turn to God and ask Him to help you. God has placed people in your life that love you and care about you and want to help you. Reach out to a friend or family member and ask them if they would be willing to help you get help. Whether your addiction is to drugs, pornography or something else, it can be helpful to get help from a counselor or a recovery program. Many churches have a Celebrate Recovery program that can help you with your addiction.
Use your platform. God has given each of a story. Pray and ask God how he wants to use you. If you have never shared your faith story, take time to write it down. Think about what your life was like before you met God, include if there was a turning point or an event that helped you want to follow Christ. And then also write about what God is doing in your life right now. Make sure to include verses that were helpful in your life too. After you are done writing, ask a friend or small group member if you can share it with them. Ask them to give you feedback. Pray about who you can share your story with. It might be someone who is going through something similar or a group of students that need to be encouraged. Be open to share with others how God worked in your life.
Don’t limit God. Instead, have faith. If there is someone in your life that seems far away from God, pray for them. If there is a situation that seems impossible, ask God to give you faith to see the situation from his perspective. If you are feeling discouraged, ask God to show you His promise and His truth for the situation. God has also given us a body of believers to encourage us as well. Reach out to a friend, someone in your small group, ministry leader or pastor and ask them for their insight into the situation or to pray with you.