Spirit of Courage Award: Josue Ocasio - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Spirit of Courage Award: Josue Ocasio

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One of this years Spirit of Courage honorees is a man who found light out of the darkness of addiction, and is now becoming that light for others.

Entrenched in a life of drugs and crime in Philadelphia, Josue Ocasio felt hatred around him.  

"Society made me to be a monster, society made me to be a violent person, society made me to be a person that nobody liked," he said.

His desperate past put him in prison for life- or so he thought.

Josue got a second chance, being released after serving just 17 years. He attributes his turn of fate to an act of God.

"I'm here for a reason, who knows what He wants me to do, just to share my story to share my life experience, and behind bars I couldn't do that," Josue said.

Despite his new found freedom, Josue still faced a bumpy road here in Erie, where he sought treatment at Stairways Behavioral Health.

He said if it weren't for an angel named Julie,  "I would be dead somewhere, and that's the God's honest truth... she went through places that I never imagined she would, got me out of crack houses... and worked with me... she's the best thing that ever happened I can't ask for any better."

Julie has been his wife for four years now.

She shares the credit for his recovery with the staff at Stairways.

"Stairways was great for him," she said, "his therapist Char was great I mean she is probably one of the best things he could have found... she was a huge impact on his life."

Josue is now giving back to those who pulled him from his dark past, by mentoring other addicts.

"I wanna help people that were in my situation who are going through the things that I went through, who you know can learn or have a better understanding of what I went through," he said.

He tells them what he wishes he himself would have accepted earlier.  "There are people that care out there, that they're not alone, I mean that if you give the chance to people to help you, they will," he said.

Julie said that's what kept her hanging on through the trying times that tested her patience and her faith.

"He wanted the help, and every time I'd go out and look for him and he was going through one of his what I call "moments"... I would ask him, you know, 'is this gonna stop and do you want help', and he would say 'yes.'"

Now three years clean and sober, living happily with his wife and her two children, Josue says he's found peace with himself.

"I like the person that I am today, you know, I've earned who I am today," Josue said. "I have everything that I want and more, and to me it's a beautiful thing."

The Spirit of Courage Awards are sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Joseph and will be presented on October 1st.

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