A San Clemente resident and reformed-convict-turned-rehabilitator looks to inspire people facing similar situations in which he used to find himself with the release of a book that tells his story.
In his book, Finding Grace, that was officially released in October 2022, Billy Reynolds details the lifestyle he had that led a child into addiction, leading a gang and serving time in prison after attempting to shoot a federal agent.
Now leading his own drug and alcohol recovery program called RecoverU, in addition to facilitating the Capo Beach Church’s Bridge program for 19 years, Reynolds has made it his life mission to encourage other troubled individuals to turn their lives around, just as he did.
Reynolds spoke with the San Clemente Times on Monday, March 6, about his book.
He described the mindset that drove much of his actions from childhood in 1960s New York up to his sentencing in the late ’90s as one that always went back to an angry child who felt pressured to be the “man of the house” and stick up for his siblings.
“When we’d come out of the liquor store and I’d see the guys with the long trench coats, the hats on, wads of money … right then and there, that was my role model,” said Reynolds.
Starting at 12 years old, he was introduced to marijuana, gambling in pool halls and other types of unsavory behavior. As he moved to California at the age of 17, he brought his tough, East Coast attitude with him, which landed him in trouble.
Reynolds said the lack of stimulating activities in prison led him to find the Bible while in his jail cell, and from there, he began to change his behavior. He’s been continuously sober for more than 17 years.
With the Bridge program that does involve Christianity, it’s different and more welcoming than other religious entities that might turn off a recovering addict by bashing “God, God, God,” according to Reynolds.
Even so, his goal is to give back to people and educate them by getting to the root of the problem, no matter whether religion is involved with the outlet through which he speaks to others.
“It’s all the same thing; it’s all driving for a better life,” he said. “It’s my job as an … interventionist to educate families and the individual client of how they can do it.”
By telling his story to those who are in the shoes he once wore, Reynolds says he brings hope that people can emulate his way of growing and changing.
He spent more than two and a half years writing and ensuring Finding Grace was ready for publication, a process that allowed him to be honest and tell his life story in a way that brought back numerous memories.
Additionally, a new revelation emerged during the book’s development that told Reynolds he was a good man who deserved good things in life. He had paid his debt to society without resentment, Reynolds said, and that his experiences were necessary to get him to where he is now.
“I believe God puts people in our lives for certain reasons,” he said. “That situation where I was in that security housing unit … and nothing else was in that cell but that Bible, it was that night on Aug. 28, 1997, that changed the course of my life from that moment on.”
The spiritual aspect of recovery is crucial to Reynolds, as he believes that people who do good to others, by putting back a loose grocery cart, or smiling at someone to brighten their day, will receive their own blessings in return.
“A man told me years ago, ‘You have a gift, Billy, you can use it (for) good or bad,’” said Reynolds. “Today, I choose that gift to be used as good.”
He added that the best part of participating in a person’s journey is seeing “the light bulb go off in somebody’s eyes,” as the first step in their path to a better future. Reynolds also mentioned encouraging people when they cry and saying that crying is positive and shows feelings and emotions and is a sign of growth.
The hope for his book is that it inspires others to want to change, to ask for help, and that anything is possible.
“Someone can’t survive what I’ve survived and not want to give back and help others in (their) life,” Reynolds said.
Finding Grace is available for purchase on amazon.com.