Content warning: this article references to suicide and substance abuse
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (April 14, 2022) Anthony Torres grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and currently lives in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he is the pastor at the Mountain View Church, a police chaplain, and an author. While Torres may not look like a typical chaplain, with both arms covered in tattoo sleeves, facial hair, and sporting t-shirts, he is a powerful speaker. Torres does not hold back the truth as he captivates his audience by sharing his story of addiction, alcoholism, and his journey to becoming 12 years clean and sober.
Recently, Torres released his book, “Letters to My People: Thoughts of a Recovering Addict,” and he wrote it hoping that it may help people who are going through addictions. The Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) invited Torres to speak to employees on April 12 as part of the Alcohol Awareness Month activities.
“The truth and reality is that I shouldn't be here today. I overdosed twice and wrecked my motorcycle. I am not here to press my beliefs on you. I just want to speak to you about where I come from and where I am today," said Torres.
He began drinking, Torres said and using cocaine as a teen and became a dad around the same time. Using substances was a way to self-medicate and escape his life. Torres struggled with depression, fear, and anxiety, leading to suicidal thoughts.
"When you are an addict, and you just don't know a way out, sometimes you feel the only way out is death," said Torres. "I wasn't trying to escape life. I love my kids. I was just trying to escape the pain.”
Torres also provides recovery help to people trying to overcome addictions and get to ‘being better.’ He said the definition of ‘being better’ varies from person to person, but for many, it is putting a stop to the generational addiction, especially to alcohol. According to Amanda Carreras, WSMR ASAP Prevention Coordinator, New Mexico usually has the highest alcohol-related death rates in the nation.
“Addiction, I call it the silent killer because we know it is there, but we don't talk about it enough. It is almost like it is accepted. People say, 'my grandpa drank, my mom drank,’" said Torres. “You would be surprised how many overdoses are happening. Fentanyl has taken so many lives. With alcohol, people are dying from cirrhosis of the liver, we talk about DWIs and car crashes, but cirrhosis of the liver, it is the real deal."
Torres believes that functioning addicts are the worst kind of addicts. He says they think they are okay because they can still work and get things done despite their heavy substance abuse. But for many, the abuse eventually begins to disrupt their lives and how they function.
“My bills were paid; my kids were taken care of, and they lacked for nothing in school. But when people would tell me that I needed help, I would say, I don't need help; I am good,” said Torres.
Eventually, Torres realized he had lost his family. His house was physically destroyed because he punched the walls, and his business suffered. He explained that one of the reasons people do not get over an addiction is that it is not easy. It takes work. People want the outcome but do not want to make an effort, especially when life is hard.
“Just imagine a Coca-Cola bottle, and I tell you to shake it up, point it towards everybody, and open the lid. What is going to happen? It will explode, and they will be upset at you,” said Torres. “But what if I give you the bottle again, shake it up, and tell you to open it slowly? What are you going to hear come out? The pressure slowly releases. This is you and I every day.”
Torres used the example to explain that moving on with life’s challenges and not getting help allows pressure to keep building. Although, when people turn to drugs to release their pressure, the results are negative. The drugs are a temporary escape because nothing gets solved. Once the 'buzz' is gone, your life and problems are still there.
His advice is to find ways to release pressure and stress positively, one day at a time. Also, work on instilling healthy habits throughout your life.
“Ask yourself, 'what are you doing today to release the pressure?' Set goals for yourself personally and professionally, to keep you focused and aiming at something,” said Torres. “There is life after addictions.”
Torres learned to deal with his addictions by changing his triggers and habits. A few things he did to change his life included not going to the bar, not doing drugs, directing his energy toward his family, focusing on his faith, and covering up tattoos from his prior lifestyle. It took him years to train his mind to have healthier habits.
His girlfriend (now wife) stayed with him for nine years while he was addicted. She thought she could help him, but years passed, and nothing changed. Even after they had children together, he would still leave home for days at a time while he drank and used drugs. Eventually, she left him until he got his life together and found hope in his faith. Torres's most challenging conversations are with the spouses who go to him for help.
“I always tell people dealing with an addict, ‘love them, keep the communication open, every situation is different - but you can’t save them,’” said Torres.
According to Torres, for someone to get over an addiction, the person has to want help. One thing he kept repeating while addressing the audience is how he wishes he had asked for help sooner. Furthermore, he shared that there is strength in asking for help and not letting the fear of people's judgments prevent you from reaching out to someone.
Torres is currently a devoted husband and father who has worked on his relationships with the individuals important to him and has dedicated his life to helping people. He is the first author and minister in his family. He is working toward opening a substance rehabilitation center in Alamogordo that would not charge people to get the services they may need.
If you are at WSMR and need help with substance abuse, you can
Call: 575-678-1957 or 575-678-2112
Or visit: The ACS Office, Building 465, Room 128