by Mike DomĂnguez (aka "Acorn")
I was born in 1973 and raised by my aunt and grandmother in a tiny fishing village called Delacroix Island in St. Bernard parish on the outskirts of New Orleans. My mother had married a Pentecostal preacher with five children, and believed my aunt and grandmother would be able to provide for me and give me the continued stability and attention that I needed as an only child, and which she wasn't able do anymore. I have always remained close to my mother, and to this day she is my closest friend and confident. My aunt and grandmother were traditional Roman Catholics, and made sure that I received the best Catholic education.
For as long as I can remember I have always known that I was gay, and I positively embraced that part of myself. I officially came out to my family when I was 16 years old. They accepted me and encouraged me to be proud of who I am. My stepfather would come around eventually, three years before he died, but he let me know that he loved me, and God loved me and accepted me just the way I was. I wish we would have had more time to develop a deeper relationship.
After high school I got involved with the whole grunge-punk counterculture, and spent the next few years traveling the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It was during this time that I began to get involved with drugs, which eventually led me spiraling downward into addiction, a battle that I continue to fight everyday. I was very drawn to Vodou and Santeria (especially the Catholic fusion of it) and a particularly dark path known as "Palo Mayombe". I became deeply involved in those religions and professed my devotion to them in formal initiations.
During my years of traveling, while in El Salvador I was arrested for drug possession and sentenced to six months in prison where I was raped or gang-raped practically on a daily basis. After I was released I returned to the United States with a grudge and a raging drug habit, and was willing to do whatever I needed to do to stay numb. I survived on the streets, living as a gutter-punk for the next two years, homeless, prostituting, stealing, in and out of jail.
I don't remember much about those two years (which I believe is a gift from God), except waking up one day in the hospital after a drug overdose with my family around me praying. After leaving the hospital I went into what would be a 20 year cycle of drug overdoses, hospitals and drug detox-rehabs. I moved back with my aunt and grandmother, and I managed to become a "functioning drug addict" and was even able to graduate in the top 10% of one of the best Catholic universities in the country. It was during my college years that I re-embraced my Catholicism and relationship with God.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina changed my life forever. She destroyed everything and we lost all we had - not only our house and possessions but our ENTIRE community where generations of my family have lived since the 1780's. There was not one house left standing. Everything was washed away but the worst loss was of my uncle and cousin who stayed behind during the evacuation to protect our family home and pets. They drowned and died in the storm. My uncle's body was never recovered. All of this was too much for my grandmother to bear. She took to her bed and never got up again. She died two years later, a casuality of hurricane Katrina.
After what seemed like a lifetime of unhealthy, abusive, disfunctional relationships, and just when I was about to give up on finding love altogether, that's when love found me. In 2006 I began corresponding online with a sweet, wonderful man from Lima, Peru. We spent a year traveling back and forth, spending the holidays together and taking extended vacations getting to know each other. In 2007 we decided to take a trip to Spain, and it was there that we were legally married, and that's why I am living in Peru. I like it here well enough, but our goal is to eventually settle ourselves in Madrid.
In early 2010 I had a major drug overdose. My veins had totally collapsed and I developed a severe staph infection that was traveling to my heart. The doctors here in Peru were limited in what they could do to save me, so I went to the US for medical treatment. The doctors there were very straightforward and told me that if I didn't die - which was a very real possibility - the staph infection was not being controlled by the antibiotiocs, it wasn't getting any better and was starting to cause noticeable problems with my heart function - that they would have to amputate my arms.
On the day I signed the permission forms allowing the hospital to amputate if necessary my family went to the shrine of Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos and begged him to intercede. There they met a kind priest who offered to come to see me in the hospital and bless me with the "Seelos Cross", Fr. Seelos' personal crucifix to which many cures have been attributed.
It wasn't more then a day after being blessed with the Seelos Cross and with a relic of Fr. Seelos, that the staph infection that was killing me finally started to show signs of improving - the antibiotics were working and my heart was getting stronger! The doctors were in total amazement, as they had resigned to believing that I was either going to succumb to the infection or have my arms amputated.
A week later I walked out of the hospital with both of my arms intact, totally healed, not just of the infection but I am also claiming a deliverance of 20 years of drug addiction. God, through the intercession of Blessed Fr. Seelos and the prayers of my guardian angel, family and friends has given me another - but I know last chance at life - a gift that I'm going to cherish and appreciate forever and not take for granted anymore.
Life still has it's up's and down's. Relationships take work. I suffer permanent neurological damage from years of drug abuse. Staying clean and drug free is still a daily struggle of will, but I know that by the grace and strength of God I can do it. My life is nowhere near perfect or close to "normal", yet each day is a blessing which I thank God for.
We have to play the hand, and carry the crosses that God gives us, and I am discovering every day that when I submit to His will and put my faith and trust in Him alone, life is a whole lot better.