At 49, John Flores can finally say he is. Sober now four years, he’s looking forward to graduating this June having earned his Associates of Science in radio/television.
Thirty-three years after dropping out of high school, he’s making up for lost time and years of not being so good.
“I didn’t know I’d be able to do it,” he says of college. “In the past, I couldn’t stay focused because I was always [messed] up.” Now, after a little more than two years, his focus has been on school. He is picking up the pieces of his life after years of addiction.
Flores grew up in Linda Vista, a self-described “Americanized Mexican or “Poncho,” raised by hard-working parents who believed in the American dream. His dad signed him up for baseball by the age of 7, and he would play all night on the street with his friends after practices. Things gradually began to change when a friend, “David”, started smoking. Flores did too. He was 13.
The next two years, he was “messing up, partying,” drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, marijuana, pills, basically drugs “A-Z.” The two “partied too much together,” and by 15, after eight years, Flores no longer played team sports. Once a “good defensive player,” his antics got worse, and so did his drug use.
“I didn’t want to go by any rules,” recalls Flores, who says he used crystal meth on a regular basis; he drank and partied with his friends, finally dropping out of school and running away to join the Army at 17. He enlisted 10 months after the U.S pulled out of Vietnam, during a time when drug use was prominent and drug tests were still not in place. Within eight months he was overseas in Germany, where he found himself getting into unnecessary trouble.
“I didn’t listen to authority,” Flores says, “drugs were found easily in the form of liquid speed, and sold over the counter in the villages.” He was also smoking hash and drinking alcohol. After six years, he left with an honorable discharge for time served.
In 1987, Flores quit a speed habit that lasted 20 years. His drinking got worse, and the same year within the same week he got two DUIs. Before the final sentencing, Flores eluded the police, and went underground for 10 years, working small odd jobs and managing properties. Finally tired of looking over his back, he turned himself in 2000, deciding he needed “a stable life.” He went through inpatient treatment for alcohol at the veteran’s hospital in La Jolla. Part of the outpatient program was work or school.
It wasn’t until the drugs and alcohol stopped that Flores was able to focus on the things that were always so important to him. He began taking classes at City College, and soon began to feel mentally stronger with each completed course. He was interested in the radio/television department and set to work challenging himself to get a two-year-degree in it.
“The choices I made, I made. I was influenced by friends, but ultimately it’s all on me, I don’t blame anyone but me,” say’s Flores, who is most proud of his sobriety.
Taking a very active role in the communications field, he has been an intern for World Talk Radio, 92.5 FM, and has volunteered as an on-air host for KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM, now a production assistant for the station on campus; he can be found tutoring students who come in as scared as he once was. Students like Antonio Marquez, who says Flores is “a student who’s been through the whole program, he knows a lot of information from a student’s point of view.”
He is also executive producer of Soft Soul Productions, which can be found at http://myspace.com/softsoullatino. Flores is currently working on a second CD with Kennis Jones, a former writer for Smokey Robinson and longtime friend he has always been inspired by. “It’s his lyrics and the stories,” he says, proud of his involvement.
Out of everything in his life, he is most proud of his sobriety, and graduating this June is the next important goal to meet. He is one of many adults re-entering school, going for a higher education, and getting it. “You’re never too old to learn,” he says “and if you have a dream follow it through. Things will happen for you.”