SANTA ROSA — With tears rolling down his face, Manuel Montemayor remembers being controlled by drugs since he was 21.
Partying and drinking became a daily activity to the point where he saw no light ahead.
However, it all turned around the day he met Dr. Linda Tate, known as Paulette, a pastor dear to him.
Now Montemayor has seen more than one light — plenty of shiny ones as he is the star of his own tale made into a movie.
“The Way Out” was recently screened in his hometown of Santa Rosa and has no blood, no shootings, no cursing and no nudity, which is what Montemayor wanted.
“This movie has a lot of action, and will show all of what I went through, but I wanted to make sure children could watch it so that families that are involved in cartels can see the damage,” Montemayor said.
He now speaks openly about his addictions and works as a public speaker for teenagers with criminal records such as him to remind them there is a way to turn their lives around.
“I am trying to tell the world that drugs lead you to nothing. Drugs lead to more problems, and I want these youngsters to know there is a God,” Montemayor said.
“Ask for God’s help, appreciate mom and dad, they help us and guide us through battles. I have run with the devil but God has not left me,” he said.
The movie will be shown July 20 at 6 p.m. in Mission on 905 N Conway Avenue.
Montemayor describes Tate’s power of prayer to be the force that allowed him to move past his demons and showcase his life to help younger generations.
Montemayor credits his soberness to Tate, who met him when he tried to go inside her house.
“I was cutting grass to make a little bit of money but no one wanted to hire me. I was still on parole and I came positive in a drug test,” he said.
Montemayor describes seeing a beautiful house. He stepped out of his car, knocked on the door, and Tate’s young daughter said they did not need yard work but they needed landscaping.
“I said I was the man she was looking for but I knew nothing about landscaping,” Montemayor said.
This is where Tate came into his life and gave him a chance to prove himself.
Montemayor would break stuff on purpose from her yard, and he would fix them in exchange for money.
“I knew he was lying and looking for drugs, but I didn’t let that stop me from praying for him. I prayed for three days straight, when he left and I knew he would one day come back,” Tate said.
Montemayor worked for Tate for a little while and then did not see her again until eight years later.
He sobered up when he saw her again and has been sober now for 12 years.
But the journey to get to where he is today was not that easy.
THE ROAD TO ADDICTION
Montemayor recalls the first time he fell in love and got married. But he also remembers his first wife Antonia was the reason for his fallout in life.
He met her when he was only 19 while living in Indiana. Soon after love struck and he decided to marry her. Even after his parents disagreed, Antonia became his wife and she gave birth to their son Manuelito.
But three years later his life completely changed after Antonia died of kidney failure.
“When my wife died was when I was first introduced to drugs. I was 21 and it was 1978 and I started hanging out with people that used drugs and introduced me to easy, illegal money,” Montemayor said.
Easy money became tempting to him, and with no parents around or a good support system, Montemayor began to live a lifestyle he would later regret.
“I was transporting 3,000 illegal aliens and smuggling them through 18 wheelers across the checkpoints. Every time I did it I would receive $1,000,” he said.
Montemayor said he was making enough illicit money, so in 1983 he decided to buy a bar he named “La sirenita.”
It was a bar for adults and Montemayor charged $500 per song for his female employees to dance nude.
“I would give them $150 from the $500 I received. All kinds of people attended and bought drugs from me. I felt untouchable, with a lot of friends and women,” he said.
By this time, Montemayor had remarried and his then wife was helping run the toxic business.
In 1988, he was caught with one kilo of cocaine, which sent him to prison for the second time, where he spent five years of his life.
His previous run-ins with the law included a DUI in 1994, which put him on probation for two years. Three months later, he got another DUI.
After having two wives he went off and married a third one, but she divorced him because he was in prison.
“Everyone began to turn their back on me. When I came out of prison, 10 days later my mom passed away,” Montemayor said.
The moment that finally made him turn his life around was when he met Tate.
Montemayor remembers feeling lonely and recalls that many of his friends and people he thought cared about him were only there for him because of money and parties.
After meeting with Tate and sobering on his own, he met with a few California friends one night. The director of the movie “Through the Valley,” Juan Vazquez, which features Danny Trejo, was in attendance.
Four months after their encounter, Montemayor received a call from Vazquez, who asked him to do a part on the movie.
Thanks to that opportunity Montemayor was able to reach out to sponsors to finance the movie about his life and allowed him to tell his own story his way.
“If it had not been for Paulette (Tate) I don’t know where I would be, but the way God talks to her showed me God had a plan for me and each one of us.”
What you need to know about Manuel Montemayor
Resides: San Antonio, Texas
Profession: Actor and Public Speaker
Favorite book: “God’s Got This,” by Joel Osteen
Favorite movie: “Through the Valley”
Most influential person: His wife Rachel P. Montemayor