InterCoast Colleges is a private vocational college that provides career training throughout California. Founded over thirty years ago, InterCoast prepares individuals for new careers and has seen many successful graduates pursue and achieve life-long goals. InterCoast is proud of its graduates and success stories. David Prentice is a graduate of InterCoast Colleges, Carson campus. His story of recovery and his journey represent many graduates before him and also those who are yet to follow. InterCoast sat down with Mr. Prentice to discuss his journey as a testament to what can be done when a person chooses to change his life. This is his story….
A Life’s Journey
My story begins with being raised by divorced parents who shared custody. My father, suffering from alcohol abuse, created an early childhood belief that associated good times with drinking excessively—even at a young age. My mother was very strict. I honestly believe that if it were not for the relief alcohol gave me, I could have ended up a suicide statistic before I entered my late teens because of her emotional abuse. Alcohol allowed me to feel at ease, comfortable in my own skin. When I was a teenager my mother moved us to Dallas. I naturally sought out companions who drank and used like I did. Drinking at a young age naturally opened the door for the introduction to drugs. Not to mention that summer vacations in Boston with my dad turned into summer long parties as I became his best friend and his drinking buddy.
After high school, because of my love of history and the desire to get away from both of my parents, I joined the Army. I loved the military and fit in. We worked hard and drank harder. As I came to the end of a decade of military service, alcohol started to catch up with me. When it became time to reenlist I was asked to not submit the paperwork. My commander had watched my downward spiral and wisely suggested that I would be better served not reenlisting. He stated that if I did, I could end up in big trouble due to my drinking.
Life as a civilian was terribly difficult because I had spent the past ten years living in the black and white world of the military. Now I found myself in a world where everything was a shade of gray.
The decision to move to Los Angeles seemed a great idea. A friend and I bought a yacht and I had plenty of money saved from the army. It was a great way to start a new adventure. Always looking for a new life and feeling confident that I was in control, I had high hopes that I could make it on my own. I did for a while. I started selling boats and became a top salesperson in the boating industry.
Using alcohol and drugs had worked for a while, but eventually I lost everything. I was living only to drink and abuse drugs. I moved into illegal acts without thinking of the repercussions or how these poor decisions would impact my life.
Seeking a change, I found a twelve-step fellowship and did well for a year. I got married, brought a home, had a great job, but eventually relapsed because I decided to put material things in front of “working the steps”. I had a God shaped hole that I was trying to fill with cars, women, etc.
The next years were spent going in and out of rehab, jail, and prison (once for a short stint). To avoid prosecution, I fled the state as a fugitive. Running nowhere and trying to find a life.
Eventually my drinking and using took me to a place where I knew I was going to die. All those years of going in and out of twelve-step programs finally clicked in. I realized that recovery could work and finally I had been beaten into a state of accepting that I needed help to get well. I went to a meeting, got a sponsor, and started working the steps.
When I got to the ninth step of the twelve-step program, I turned myself in to the State of California and was sentenced to four years in prison. I went to prison as a sober member of my twelve-step program and worked all twelve steps every year. I had a sponsor and was honored to sponsor men on the prison yard. I had a pen-pal (in Sydney) who encouraged me to go to school and helped me see that, upon my release, God was going to use me for His purpose.
During my prison term, I received an associate’s degree in Biblical studies and I accepted the reality that I could not do this life alone. I knew my life was changing.
When I was released, I planned to continue my education. I knew I would be successful with my studies because I was committed. People tried to tell me that I should go get a job at a fast food place or look for warehouse work to support myself, but I took a leap of faith. Although I knew that this journey would not be easy, I stayed committed.
Very soon after I started school, I noticed life was changing for the better. I had relied on God to get me through prison and now I saw Him blessing me again; all my needs were being met. I was succeeding in school and I was offered a federal work study grant to work at InterCoast Colleges. The school believed in me and I knew that if I put forth my best effort, I would see positive results on my continued journey, and InterCoast would help me launch a career in the recovery field.
I completed my clinical rotation requirements at the Midnight Mission in Los Angeles. I knew this was my calling. I wanted to be in the area where I could work at ground zero—skid row. That is where things really changed. I met my amazing wife. She was my trainer and is still my greatest support along with the leadership and management of The Midnight Mission.
I have come full circle. I was named class valedictorian at InterCoast Colleges, Carson campus and I am a success story of the school. They believed in me then and still support me on this journey.
The judge who sentenced me to prison, is the same judge who presented me an award for my achievements and for the work I do to assist others in the recovery and addictions community.
I achieved my goal to become a program manager for the Midnight Mission and then was thoroughly surprised when they promoted me to a director’s position this February.
I am grateful to all those who have touched my life on this journey. From the continued support I receive from InterCoast Colleges, my employer, my clients, my loving wife, and all those that support the cause of recovery.
Above all, I give thanks to God and the twelve steps. Life, for me, is about celebrating recovery. Believe in yourself and all things can happen. Recovery happens and recovery is a beautiful thing!