A Lawyer’s Recovery
Javier Miranda, an attorney living in Puerto Rico, celebrates two birthdays. One on July 28th, the day he was born, and the other on September 29, 2009 when he arrived at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in San Juan. At the time, he had practiced law for 26 years and had been a drug addict for almost twice that long.
“I was the most self–destructive type of addict,” recalls Miranda. “The kind with money in his pocket. The poor addict will seek help long before the rich one will. I was a successful lawyer, with many clients, and I lived a comfortable lifestyle. And I did it all while struggling with a terrible drug addiction. Many of my clients were the dealers from whom I was buying drugs. And they paid me from their drug money.”
When the addiction finally overpowered Javier, the firm at which he worked suspended him, and he lost his license to practice law. He recalls that from 2004 on was the worst time of his life.
“I had a home, but no running water, no electricity, no food. It was literally a shell. I only bathed when it rained, or when a neighbor was kind enough to share his water hose.”
“If you played for me the top song of 2006, or read to me major headlines from 2005, they would be completely new to me. The addiction had put me out of touch with the world to the point where I wouldn’t even get out of bed unless the drugs, or the means to get them, were in front of me,” says Miranda.
‘I wanted to live’
Javier recalls the person who first introduced him to the ARC. Humberto Domenech, a Salvation Army soldier who had gone through similar difficulties in his life, had tried to convince Javier to begin his steps to recovery, just as he had.
Javier soon realized that his life would end if he didn’t do something immediately. The next time my friends see me, he thought, will be when they bury me in my grave.
“I called Humberto, and told him I was willing to give the Army a chance. He wept. He said it was the best news he had ever received.”
Javier arrived at the ARC with only a white t–shirt, pants that were too short, and sandals. He stood 5’10”, but weighed only 125 lbs., 10 of which were water weight from a pancreatic infection. He stopped to rest four times before he finished climbing the ARC’s 61 stairs.
“I remember two things that were said to me that day. The first one was from a beneficiary, who looked at me and said, ‘My man, in two weeks, you were going to be dead.’”
The other comment came from Major Iris Diaz, director of program and residential services for the ARC. She told Javier words that he had not heard in a long time: “Javier, I trust you.”
“Well, I thought she was crazy to trust me!” says Javier. “I didn’t expect anyone to put their trust in me. I came to the Army just to survive and to keep myself from dying. But as weeks passed, a miracle happened. I accepted Christ as my Savior. I read and studied the Bible. And I realized there was a better way to be than how I had been for so long.
“Now, I didn’t want to simply survive. I wanted to truly be alive again.”
‘The power of God’
Today, Miranda has been sober for six years. With his health miraculously intact, he proudly talks about playing basketball with friends every Wednesday and beating guys half his age. He divides his time as admissions counselor for the San Juan ARC, as an adherent for The Salvation Army, and, after taking courses to recover his license, as an attorney at law.
When Miranda’s name is mentioned by anyone, officers in Puerto Rico beam with joy. He has become a role model to the other ARC beneficiaries. Many recognize him from his time as a lawyer before coming to the Army. In his position for the ARC, Javier helps the beneficiaries to create structure in their lives and to pursue their path to recovery. He also encourages them to accept the Lord’s help.
“That’s the first step, and I say, do it now. Not tomorrow—now. Do that, and then take it slow. You want a job? Tell God. You want your own place to live? Tell God. You want to repair broken relationships? Tell God. All will come in due time.
“Many of the guys who come here are already ahead of where I was, because they are much younger and made the choice to get better long before I did,” says Javier. “I tell them that no matter how well they think they are living while feeding their addiction, sooner or later, that addiction will grab them, and take everything from them. You run from it for so many years, but eventually you get tired of running, and that’s when it grabs you, and ends you. The addiction never gets tired of chasing you.”
Javier knows their struggles better than most. But he also recognizes that healing every soul is a team project.
“The one who deserves the least amount of credit in my recovery is me, quite honestly. I’m so grateful to The Salvation Army for helping me start my life over. The ARC taught me that alone, I couldn’t treat the sickness of addiction. I had to open up to the Lord and accept His help. When I woke up every morning, I devoted myself to being what God wanted me to be, and I asked Him to take me by the hand and to light my path. I still do that today.”
Javier has seen the power of God change lives. He recalls running into a notorious Puerto Rican “narco” with whom he had done business many years ago. Javier invited him to a corps service, which inspired the man to quit his life as a drug runner.
“He told me, ‘Javier, I can’t do this anymore. It’s a danger to society. I’m hurting so many people.’ Today, that man has turned his life around and is saving souls, even bringing some men here to the ARC to seek help. He calls me often to ask how they’re doing,” says Javier.
“He also asks me when we will open a center in San Juan exclusively for women addicts. I hope that, one day, I can tell him we have one. The need for what The Salvation Army does gets bigger and more serious every day. Our sisters need just as much help as our brothers.”
‘The angels in my life’
“My strength and will have been shaken many, many times. But in every moment of doubt, there has always been an angel in my life, from the Lord, smiling in front of me, holding me up in my worst moments,” says Javier.
“My health, my support group, my recovery, and my career have all been a gift from God.”
Javier is also an angel to many people. When General André Cox visited Puerto Rico in 2015, the ARC made a photomontage of the ministries and services that The Salvation Army provides in the area and played it during a luncheon at the San Juan Corps. Salvationists, officers, and the General all viewed it. When Javier’s face appeared on the screen, the audience exploded in cheers.
Jacqueline, Javier’s girlfriend, leaned over and whispered to him, “I’m very proud of you.”
Javier Miranda smiled. He was proud of himself too.
by Hugo Bravo