My father celebrates two birthdays: the day he was born, and the day he got sober. As a young girl, I remember attending Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with him, sitting on his lap as the other recovering addicts shared their life-long struggles and daily accomplishments. I watched my father collect coins to honor his time sober; I watched him take cakes at his home meetings; and I watched him speak at various rehab centers about taking sobriety one day at a time. I also watched him start to trade in his Levis and flannels for tailor-made suits. But it didn’t seem to matter what my father wore because he was always being recognized. Have you ever seen a normal person—without celebrity status or fame—have a group of fans? I have. Anywhere my father goes, his fans come and thank him. Then they look at me and say “Your father is a great man. He helped changed my life.” I would nod politely, but was never quite sure what they were referring to.
As far as I knew, my dad built ‘programs’ for people. He would sometimes disappear off to Sacramento, or Washington D.C., and once he told me he was going to Boston to work at Harvard University for a bit. I thought this was all really cool, but I didn’t realize my father was doing something we all wish we could own up to, he was making a difference in the world. This tall, funny guy with tattoos and a big smile was running around the state of California helping to pass laws and save lives. During his time at the DA’s office he has been able to create and help implement the first multiagency plan designed to both rehabilitate and educate nonviolent felony offenders. This plan, known as the SB 618, was the first of it’s time to have all its members come from various law organization in San Diego to congregate together to help reduce the recidivism rate. My dad has created resources for young kids in an effort to provide them with the education he skipped out on when he was their age. Through these programs, my dad has been able to act as a medium between local government and the community.
When we sat down with Keith and DJ at the community transition center and listened to their stories, I began to see a little bit of JJ in each of them. I recognized their willpower, drive, force, playfulness, and I also noticed the light hearts they carry despite their heavy pasts. It became clear to me that my father more than just a dad to me. It also became clear that my father was truly thankful for his sobriety, and wishes that anyone who is suffering can find help.