“Alcohol was a huge vehicle for a false sense of significance. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had worth, but I was headed for a real identity crisis.” – Nic Ochoa
Hearing Nic Ochoa’s story, it is easy to see the power relationships have both to destroy and restore. Raised in a healthy, church-going family, Nic saw his parents work hard and sacrifice to provide his siblings and him with a stable home environment. From an early age, Nic misinterpreted his parents’ love and desire to see him succeed as a standard that he could never reach. He began to view God in the same way. Faced with what was, in his mind, an unattainable standard, Nic began to look for acceptance and belonging outside the love already available to him at home. Insecure and searching for acceptance, he turned to alcohol, drugs, partying, and unhealthy relationships.
The partying accelerated through high school as he sought, and thought he had found, meaning in what the world had to offer. “Alcohol was a huge vehicle for a false sense of significance. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had worth, but I was headed for a real identity crisis.” said Nic. Though pleasurable in the moment, years later Nic would feel the pain of regret through his contribution to broken relationships leading him to further insecurity and lack of purpose in life.
After college, he moved to Dallas, where his partying continued. While on the surface, his life appeared fun, on the inside, he felt isolated, depressed, and broken. “The trinkets, treasures, and fleeting pleasures of this world that I pursued were never enough,” said Nic. “Nothing ever satisfied…I guess it wasn’t meant to.”
Although Nic had been raised around the church, he had no understanding of the goodness of God or the joy that comes from truly following Him. Further, no one in his life was encouraging him in this area, so he kept returning to the party scene weekend after weekend.
At this point, Nic’s relationships primarily served himself, and consequently, they were pulling him farther from God. This would change a few months later when Nic’s brother came to visit him in Dallas. They went out partying, and, drunk, Nic started talking in a way that had become commonplace to him. But, it was shocking to his brother in its depravity. Looking back, Nic doesn’t recall what he had said, but remembers looking at himself in the mirror afterwards and feeling appalled at who he had become. In this moment, Nic realized his pursuit to find acceptance and significance had brought him anything but that. Not only had it become a toxic lifestyle, it was dragging down his relationship with his family as well. “I was worried about you and who you had become,” Nic recalls his brother telling him.
This interaction with his brother was the catalyst for Nic to lean into the relationships he had with his sister and her husband.” Sensing he was at a low point, they invited him to live with them. Over the next few months, God used these relationships to give him a place to heal. More importantly, they modeled mature Christianity for him, both individually and in their marriage. He saw a sweetness in the way they loved one another, prayed together, and lived for God. Both the physical provision of a place to stay and the spiritual provision of a godly example were God’s grace for Nic at a time he desperately needed it. These became the starting point for Nic’s new life.
As he unwound from his former life, a peace steadily grew in his heart. In one particular morning quiet time, he recalls feeling overwhelmed by the mass of damaged relationships in his past. Then almost immediately, he sensed God’s forgiveness for all of it. “So much brokenness came flooding back, but, in that moment, I realized God had loved me in spite of my actions. I didn’t have to be perfect. He was already perfect. I could just trust in that freely.”
A verse Nic particularly clung to during that time was 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” As a new creation, he began to make decisions based on biblical principles rather than his own desires for pleasure. He started going to The Porch, Watermark’s ministry for young adults, and experienced authentic, biblical community. He grew in his knowledge of God through Equipped Disciple. He began sharing the hope that he now has in Christ with others through Unashamed, Watermark’s urban discipleship program. And, most critically, he found mentors who were willing to walk alongside him through it all, pouring their lives into his. Nic’s life is a testament to the power of relationships, and that God uses the relationships to radically change us for our good and His glory.
“A little over five years ago, if you had told me this is where I would be, I probably would have laughed at you,” said Nic. “But because of God’s grace, mercy, and kindness, and because of what He has done for me through Christ, there is a sweetness in my life that is unmatched. Everything else pales in comparison, and every step toward Him has been sweeter and sweeter.” – Written by Mike Netzer