His mother and father’s frequent fights filled the air with dysfunction and rancor.
To shut out the hell at home, Mauricio Martinez turned to drugs and alcohol.
He began to smoke marijuana by age 11.
He fell into the “wrong crowd,” and paid for it.
“I liked it. I thought it was a way to escape my problems. It became an everyday thing,” Martinez said.
One problem led to another. His life spun out of control.
But when the boy found the professional help he needed, all the bad stuff stopped.
Martinez, a junior at West Auburn High School, shares his story of recovery on Friday as a guest speaker at the Auburn Youth Resources and Enumclaw Youth & Family Services’ 23rd annual Valentine’s Breakfast at Grace Community Church.
The event is AYR’s major fundraiser, supporting its work as a private, nonprofit child and family support agency in the community.
Breakfast is served at 6:30 a.m.; the program begins at 7.
Martinez, 17, persevered through bad times to find his way.
After his family lost their Covington home to foreclosure and moved to Auburn, Martinez wasted little time before surrounding himself with familiar “older” friends and troubles.
He gravitated toward cocaine and meth use as a teenager. He skipped school, sometimes leaving home to shack up with friends, even strangers, in abandoned homes.
He stole from family, friends, homes and restaurants to support his drug addiction. He stole money from his sister’s savings to pay for and trigger his “daily high.”
But his actions caught up to him.
Ultimately, police arrested Martinez on separate thefts. Judges sent him to juvenile detention.
His hopeless life, as he painfully recalls, was going nowhere.
“I got to the point where I hated myself,” Martinez said. “There was nothing good about me, but I always knew I wanted to do something great in my life … I just didn’t know how.
“I was lonely, I was stuck, I was trapped, I was sad, I was depressed,” he said. “I missed my family. They were there, but I didn’t even know it. I just didn’t make an effort to quit.”
A friend who’d been released from a detention center encouraged Martinez to attend a Narcotic Anonymous meeting.
“That changed my life,” Martinez said.
It was only the beginning.
AYR soon intervened.
Willing to change, Martinez received intensive drug and alcohol group therapy. He responded to the guidance of AYR professionals, notably Dustin Doerflinger, a counselor, and Joe Woolley, who operates AYR’s Arcadia House youth drop-in program.
Today, Martinez is a bright student, active in student government and energetic in his community. He sits on the AYR board of directors. He serves on the eight member Junior City Council, which the City formed to keep the Auburn City Council up to date on kid-related matters, from the youth curfew to gang issues and beyond.
He has plans, dreams. He wants to go to college and become an independent business owner, perhaps mentor troubled teens.
He has been sober for more than a year. He has since repaired his rocky relationship with family.
“Sometimes I can’t believe it myself,” Martinez said of his transformation. “This whole new person, I like. … What I do now motivates me to do more.”
Jim Blanchard, AYR executive director, says Martinez is a “phenomenal example” of a young person who has done the work himself to stand tall on two firm feet.
“He’s just done terrific. He’s almost an agency resource in a sense,” Blanchard said. “We all have the utmost respect for what Mauricio has accomplished. Today he’s a fine looking young man.
“When I frankly think about where he was two, three years ago and where he is today, I am overwhelmed.”
• Event: 23rd annual Valentine Breakfast, “Come Together With Heart”• When: 6:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14; program begins at 7.
• Where: Grace Community Church, 1320 Auburn Way S.
• Program: The Auburn Youth Resources-Enumclaw Youth and Family Services breakfast is the organization’s largest annual fundraising event. Guest speakers, entertainment and raffle for several prizes. The Green River Community College Jazz Choir performs.
• Admission: Free. Call to reserve your seat at 253-351-6059.
• Information: Visit www.ayr4kids.org.