Sunday profile: Jose Saez fights addiction, homelessness to help others
At the age of 9, Jose Saez took his first drink of alcohol.
Three years later the military brat was drinking three beers every other day and by the time he turned 25, was consuming a case and a half of beer, daily.
“Eventually, I just got away from beer because it wasn’t doing anything for me anymore other than making me take a leak so I started drinking the hard stuff,” Saez said.
By the time Saez hit 30, his hard liquor habit was made worse by a hard drug habit, namely methamphetamine. Subsequently, his downward spiral continued to spiral out of control, until three years ago when Saez turned 47 years old.
“I went down to the church because someone said they would give me a free meal. I went in there and I heard the word and, man, that preacher…
“I went up to him at the end and said, ‘Hey, look, I appreciate the meal, blah, blah, blah, and I was going to go do what I was going to go do.’”
Jose Saez was going to go kill himself.
WORLD TRAVELER, TO HOMELESS
Born in Puerto Rico, Saez grew up in a military family and traveled all over the world from Germany to the “Lone Star State” of Texas.
“We were moving around a lot and I really took to drinking because I was moving all over the place and didn’t have time to make any friends,” Saez recalled of his childhood and young-adult life.
After settling in Massachusetts for a brief period of time, Saez eventually moved to the Roaring Fork Valley for work.
However, when he arrived to, arguably, one of the most beautiful places in the country, his never-ending addiction to liquor and meth left Saez in the darkest place he would come to ever know.
“I was homeless out here for a little over a year,” Saez said.
Still, always one to count his blessings, Saez explained that he was one of the “lucky ones,” because he had a car to sleep in at night.
The car was an old, beat up Honda Accord with a smashed out window.
“I would take it and park it out at No Name, but yeah, it was really, really cold and if it was snowing, it was snowing inside of the car,” Saez recounted of trying to survive during the winter months in the Rocky Mountains.
“Being homeless is overwhelming, and you tend to kind of isolate yourself,” he said.
Through it all, Saez still spoke to his mother, father and siblings, but never told them about his addiction or being homeless. Instead, he would say he was doing OK.
“It’s hard to get a hold of your family and say, ‘Hey, I am a drug addict. I am addicted to drugs. I am an alcoholic. Especially, when your family expects so much of you,’” Saez said. “Everything that I needed on a daily basis didn’t matter. What mattered was my next drink and my next high.”
Saez credits charitable assistance agencies such as Lift-Up, Salvation Army and Feed My Sheep for helping him fix his car, supplying him with food, keeping him warm during the day and providing him with hope.
However, according to Saez, it was faith that saved his life, literally.
Unable to shake his addiction, Saez was ready to pull the trigger on himself, until that one fateful Sunday when he decided to go eat what he thought would have been his last supper at Crossroads Church in Glenwood Springs.
“In the softest, kindest, gentlest voice I’d ever heard in my life, the preacher said, ‘Son, can I pray for you? Is their something I can do for you? What can I do for you?’” Saez said of that encounter after he had thanked the preacher for the free meal.
“This man didn’t know me, but he was willing to pray for me. He was asking if he could help me. I heard the lord speak to me, and I didn’t go kill myself.”
After leaving Crossroads Church that night, now two years ago, Saez has not touched drugs or alcohol unless it was to dispose of them at the detox facility he currently works at in Aspen, where he now helps recovering addicts.
Still recovering himself, Saez readily admits he still needs a little help from time to time. When he does, Feed My Sheep Director Karen Peppers happily prepares him a care package.
Saez never stopped attending Crossroads Church, either.
Today, Saez studies online where soon he will receive his Colorado Addiction Counselor (CAC) certification.
“I struggle every month to pay my bills, but I’m OK,” Saez said. “Why wouldn’t you want to help someone else and say, ‘Look, I was where you’re at and you don’t have to be there anymore.”
Saez no longer lives on the streets nor does he sleep in a car with a busted out window.
Instead, the 50-year-old inspiration to so many lives in an apartment in Silt and helps those recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. He plans on doing so until his actual time comes.
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AS OF SATURDAY, JAN. 23