I started cooking at an early age — 8, 10 years old, coming home from school. I didn’t want to eat a bowl of cereal every time, so I started experimenting and burning stuff. I started cooking more and more and more, and I got good at it, became real self-independent. I was like, Mom I don’t need you to cook for me no more.
It was in my blood, my DNA, to cook. My mom is a great cook, but my dad was a chef. I used to watch him cook a lot, all the opportunities I had. He had major skills — he’d debone a whole chicken. He made the food look beautiful, too. He’d plate it and garnish it. I loved when he cooked — he made the food fun.
He passed away in 2007 of prostate cancer and I just remember him telling me, Mac, you’ve got to become something great in your life, you’ve got to find your talent. That stuck in my head. I thought, what am I good at? I was good at food, just like him. I enrolled in culinary college in 2008. I took it seriously. I was really focused because I loved it. When I got out, I started working in restaurants.
It was around that time, I started experimenting with crystal meth. In the restaurant business, a lot of people get high. I started doing more, almost every day. It got to where I didn’t have control over it. Then I started losing stuff.
I had a family. We had a house in Hayward. I was still going to work, but I wasn’t coming home for weeks because I was feeling too much shame. I just wanted to stay away. I lost my girlfriend. I lost the house. I lost the car — I had two cars as a matter of fact and I lost them both because of tickets. I was spending a lot of money on crystal and not taking care of my responsibilities.
I was heavy on it now. I moved out to San Francisco, got a hotel room out here. I’m paying for it every day. It was a struggle to keep a roof over my head. I was working at a restaurant as a line cook. Every 30 minutes, I’m going to the bathroom to get high.
I never thought about bettering myself until I sat down for two years in jail. At that point, I got to have clarity and see where my mistakes were at. I got to hold myself accountable for what I’d done. It was self-destruction. It was nobody but Mac that did that.
I was working with myself. I got closer to my higher power, my spirituality. I was reading the bible every day, I was praying every day, wanting to change, surrendering myself to a higher power. I learned that I was dealing with past trauma in my family with my dad being on drugs and my mom being abused. I never did sit with that. I always kept that down inside of me. So I got to work with that trauma that I had as a young kid. That’s where it all started.
I started softening up. Instead of being this hard figure, holding my emotions back and everything, I’m like, whew, I can breathe. I was softening more and more — I turned into smush now! To this day, I feel so much better. This is the high I want, this is the high I’m looking for. Being honest and looking someone in the eye and holding your head high, not having any worries or guilt or shame — that feels good to walk around with.
While I’m in jail, I’m also amending my relationship with my mom, I’m amending my relationship with my sister, amending my relationship with my kids. I’m starting to bond with my family and good things are starting to come back in my life.
I told my lawyer, man, I need help. I wanted a program. I knew I needed it. They gave me a book with all the San Francisco county programs. I did my research — I looked at all of them. I read “St. Anthony’s, Father Alfred’s.” It’s like my spirit chose. I saw that, and I needed it.
I went to Father Alfred’s on October 23, 2020. My lawyer dropped me off. When I got there, I was already working with myself, and I felt right in place. The counselors there loved me. They said I was leading the group. I was being so honest that other people felt like they could talk.
Recovery to me is being totally honest. It helps you to talk about it, and you help others at the same time. They think, if you said it, I can say my truth now. I’ve seen the power that it has, just freeing all the pain. That’s recovery for me — being honest, being real, not caring about anybody’s judgements. At the end of the day, it’s your life. I’m the only person that’s in control of my life. Once you get that and you want to change, then it’s recovery. You’re going to put the work in. Because it’s work.
I’m so much happier about myself now. I’m so grateful not to be living in that same place, that dark place. I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful for waking up in the morning. I’m grateful to be at St. Anthony’s and still part of Father Alfred’s and working at the Dining Room. I’m grateful to give my service to unfortunate people.
That’s another thing I learned from Father Alfred’s. They always preached to me, don’t be self-centered, don’t be selfish. You got to help others that want it too. You share with them. You let them know your experiences and what you been through. Because life is not about me anymore, it’s about helping others. From my family, my kids, my friends, to strangers, it’s all about helping. That’s what life is about. And I know that now.
Mac is currently a chef in the St. Anthony’s Dining Room. He is three years sober, and will graduate from Father Alfred Center in November. He dreams of opening his own restaurant one day.