Santa Barbara Rescue Mission focuses on rebuilding lives. Here are just a few stories.
Lili didn’t recognize the eyes staring back at her — burning a hole through her soul . . . She was shocked. She was pained. By the cutting glares. But nothing compared to the shame she felt, when Lili finally realized that the menacing stranger glowering at her . . . was her own reflection . . . It was a moment of clarity that, I’m sure, Lili will never forget. A moment when she could finally hear the truth in her mother’s pleas — “Lili, please. You need to get help. You need help to get free. Please, Lili. I don’t even know who you are anymore . . .”
As a little girl, I don’t believe that Lili ever wished for her addiction. I don’t think she ever hoped or dreamed that she would one day be an addict. But it happened — before she even realized it was happening. It began with a single pill intended to soothe the blinding pain of a migraine. However, that single pill sent Lili on a crash course of addiction that ripped apart her relationships and every shred of her self-respect. With nowhere else to go . . . with no other options . . . and with the weight of the shame and guilt of her addiction on the verge of destroying her life . . . Lili came to Santa Barbara Rescue Mission for help — desperately hoping for a miracle.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to be at Santa Barbara Rescue Mission,” Lili says. “The Mission has given me so many life-changing experiences. I’ve been given a great miracle . . . another chance to live and a newfound faith in God. I believe because of this program.”
Today, the old Lili is gone. And the new, transformed Lili is clean for the first time in a long time. And she’s eager to begin her brand new life — with her broken relationships now mended. And her mom . . . she couldn’t be prouder.
Ashley was born in Los Alamitos, California, in 1992. Both of her parents struggled with addiction, and she followed in their footsteps. She began using drugs in the sixth grade. This eliminated the pain from the loss of her father, the lack of acceptance from her mother, and the sexual abuse suffered at the hand of her grandfather. Ultimately, her drug of choice became methamphetamines. “They ruined who I was and created a monster who thought she was invincible,” she remembers.
Ashley spent most of her adult life in the county jail and was facing an eight year prison sentence. The court granted her the opportunity to come to Bethel House as an alternative to sentencing. She was able to work through the anger and hatred that consumed her. Now she no longer sees herself as a victim and will not allow herself to be victimized. “I used to hate my grandfather; now I pray for him. God has forgiven me so I can forgive him,” she stated. Ashley shared her powerful testimony at her graduation this month and is determined to maintain her recovery.
Please listen to the recent graduates express their gratitude for what they gained in our 12-month residential recovery program.
Two of our graduates share their personal stories at each graduation ceremony. This is Peter’s story of recovery.
Erika’s childhood was golden—full of love . . . laughter . . . and magic memories. The family would gather from miles around. She would romp through the house with her cousins. All in all, it was the stuff of fairy tales. But one day suddenly, the fairy tale ended. Erika’s parents divorced—and her world fell to pieces.
She went looking for love in all the wrong places. She started using drugs. And then she lost control. Family gatherings became a nightmare . . . Erika wasn’t welcome and she knew it—all she lived for was just one more fix. And then one Christmas she landed in the hospital . . . her body so ravaged by drugs that she needed emergency help. God in His mercy had a plan for Erika. When hope seemed lost, He led her to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.
“It was the only opportunity left,” Erika remembers, “but it was the best thing ever. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about this place.” She’s a whole new woman today. Just listen to her—“I’m not a thief anymore,” she says. “I don’t have needles in my arms. I love my life today. I wake up every day with a smile on my face. I can be a good friend. I have a whole new relationship with my family.”
L.B. Chandler was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. At age eight, after the divorce of his parents, L.B. moved to Lompoc, California, with his father and stepmother. Although he was a three-year varsity letterman and captain of his high school football team, he struggled with drugs and alcohol. This struggle would continue into adulthood, leading L.B. down the dark path of addiction for the next seven years, during which he experienced the loss of many meaningful relationships, several attempts in rehab, and multiple incarcerations.
In the fall of 2004, L.B. entered the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program, where he took an honest look at his life choices, established relationships with others in recovery, and gained the tools for living life clean and sober. Upon completion of the program, L.B.was hired by SBRM as the Program Technician, later transitioning into the role of Treatment Counselor, and, for the last two years, he has held the position of Men’s Program Director. L.B. has completed the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Program (A.D.C.) at Santa Barbara City College, holds a CATC II State Certification and continues to further his education.
L.B. currently lives in Summerland with his wife Darlene and his nine-year-old son, L.J. He enjoys working out, reading a good book, attending L.J.’s football games, and cheering for Alabama football (Roll Tide!).
Dan just turned 31 this month and received his GED on Monday. Over the last several months, he worked diligently in the Learning Center with our volunteer tutor, Jane Blair. He shares, “It felt good to accomplish something, especially my high school diploma, which took me over 16 years to do.”
Dan has been in the Mission’s 12-month Residential Recovery Program for nine months and just entered the fourth phase of treatment, which includes finding employment. “I’m applying for jobs, and I feel more confident that I’ll get a job now that I have my diploma,” he explains. Dan intends to continue his education at Santa Barbara City College. He is planning to take automotive classes that will give him the certification to complement the experience he already possesses.
Distress rarely keeps a schedule. At SBRM, we never know when a desperate person will arrive and what their particular need might be. This is most evident during the night—when most of us are sleeping comfortably at home—where for the past year our Night Security Clerk, Tom Melody, has rarely worked an uneventful shift.
In addition to maintaining vigil over the entire facility so 175 people can sleep in safety, Tom has routinely been charged with responding to some of the most challenging circumstances: individuals finding themselves without shelter; law enforcement trying to get someone to safety; sick people in need of medical attention; scared people desiring security. We are so grateful for his faith, compassion, dependability and clear judgment in the midst of unexpected and severe needs.
This month, we celebrate how God has led Tom from being a guest in need of shelter, to being a volunteer assisting with our nightly services, to being the paid employee responsible for the facility, to being presented with a new “dream job” opportunity as the live-in caretaker at Rancho La Patera & Stow House.
Tom, we miss you already, but are so grateful for your dedicated service and excited for your new position. We trust this will involve many more uneventful evenings than you may have gotten used to around here.
I don’t think Kim ever really had a chance at a normal life. You probably wouldn’t have either if your mom was an addict. Kim’s mom was also a nurse, so drugs were all too easy to get her hands on.
“My mom was dependent on pills and was always giving me pain meds for anything,” she says, “so I became chemically dependent at a young age. I used to party with my mom, so there were no repercussions.” With a 25-pill-a-day habit, Kim could have overdosed and died . . . at any time. Like I said, she never even had a chance.
When Kim reached her lowest point — when she was dumpster diving for food and living under an overpass, she turned to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission for emergency shelter and entered our Outpatient Program. “I’m a totally different person today,” she says. “I was on the freeway off ramp, camped out there, and the Mission kept me from living like that. My life is just beginning, which is scary, but I have a lot of hope, instead of guilt.”
Kim is well on her way to recovery now. She’s been clean for months, and in her own words, “My obsession for using is gone, and the anxiety is gone.” She’s landed a job, and it’s a good one. She can hardly wait for the day when she’ll be reunited with her one-year-old son.
Rosie barely knew her daddy. He went to prison when she was just a little girl. She missed him fiercely, but it didn’t matter — he couldn’t be there when she needed him. Rosie’s mom was addicted to drugs, so it fell to her grandmother to raise her. Her grandmother was a good woman, but there was a void in Rosie’s heart that she simply could not fill.
Some would have deemed her hopeless. That she even finished school was a miracle. “I had pretty much dropped out,” Rosie says, and that was only the beginning. Soon she was trapped in a downward spiral . . . where all she wanted was her next fix and a place to sleep for the night. “I was the lowest of the low,” she remembers — “the most broken addict you will ever see or care to know…”
She was a wreck when she came to us — in every way you can imagine. “I don’t know if you noticed my scars up and down my arms,” she says. “I was almost a goner from doing drugs.”
That was more than a year ago now. We’ve seen Rosie blossom into a new woman — not at all the angry, fearful, and confused woman who, when she came to us, was “always looking over my shoulder.” For the first time in her adult life, she’s drug-free. She wants to become an x-ray technician, and she’s living in a place of her own.
Leslie didn’t set out to destroy herself. But by the time she came to us, she had lost all hope.
Leslie was just a pitiful shell of a woman when she got here. “I remember standing at the mirror, looking at my arms, and my eyes, and just how sunken they were,” Leslie remembers. “I didn’t recognize myself. I stood there bawling, ‘Who is this? Is this my life?’”
“I was too afraid to commit suicide, but I figured drugs would take care of that for me,” she recalls. This Easter will be so different for Leslie. “I had never experienced Easter for what it truly is,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful experience.” Her life has literally been raised from the dead — her health is back, she’s been restored, and she’s broken free from addictions that had her in a death grip.
Leslie graduated from the Mission’s 12-month recovery program on March 2, 2013.
We’re so grateful to Russell Shannon for capturing a graduation ceremony on video. Please enjoy these graduates from our 12-month residential recovery program, as they share their personal success stories.
He looked like the kid next door. He was quiet. In his own words, a bit of a mama’s boy. But there was more to Deron than met the eye — he’d been drinking since grade school. By the time he turned 14, he was living on the streets.
“Wherever they would let a fourteen-year-old hang out and drink and use drugs, that’s where I was,” Deron remembers sadly. He longed to fit in. And he was desperate to dull his pain. As long as life was one big party, he could forget how much it hurt to be part of a broken family. After 27 years of poisoning himself, he realized that every crime he committed separated him from others.
Deron was back in jail and headed to prison for the seventh time. He remembers, “crying yourself to sleep at night in a jail dorm with 70 other guys is not the most comfortable situation.” When he was rejected by two other programs, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission accepted him into the 12-month residential recovery program. His prayers were answered, “This really was no less than a lifeline thrown to a dying person.”
Deron graduated from the program on March 2, 2013, attends college, and has a good job. “There is no way to express the difference this has made in my life.” he says. “I thought that I would die in my addiction. Today I believe there is a different life ahead for me.”
Perhaps you have seen a woman pushing a large shopping cart of recyclables around the streets of downtown Santa Barbara. Her name is Nancy Thompson, and all of us who know her or have seen her can rejoice that she is now housed after being homeless for 23 years.
As a woman living outdoors who also has health problems, Nancy was identified as one of the top 100 most vulnerable individuals in Santa Barbara County during the 2010 Vulnerability Index survey. When I saw her name on that list, I knew I needed to advocate for this remarkable, self-sufficient woman who regularly showers and eats at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.
Now, thanks to the Santa Barbara City Housing Authority, the wonderful women at the Doctors Without Walls/Santa Barbara Street Medicine Women’s Clinic, and all the rest of us who encouraged and supported her, Nancy has the keys to her own apartment. The Pathpoint support staff is going to help Nancy explore other means of earning her living after she settles in. Although she can pull hundreds of pounds of recyclables at age 57, she knows that a less strenuous and stressful job will be welcome as she ages.
Congratulations, Nancy, you have earned this!
Homeless Guest Services Director
Tom was a victim of child abuse and grew up deathly afraid of his father. As a teenager, he began running away from home and ended up in juvenile hall. He felt a sense of security for the first time in his life and was finally receiving the attention he had been seeking from his dad. When Tom was the age of 16, his parents divorced and he stayed with his mother. She didn’t have any money or job skills, so they moved into the projects of East Oakland where they survived on food stamps and welfare. In his new neighborhood, Tom learned how to fight, sell drugs, and steal cars. By the age of 20, he had an eighth grade education and no future.
At this time, Tom was introduced to heroin by his brother and found relief from fear, pain, and rejection. Within a few years of heavy drug use, he received his first prison sentence. “At first prison frightened me but after many trips it became my comfort zone,” Tom remembers. He served time in San Quentin, New Folsom, DVI, and Corcoran State Prison with a combined total of 22 years behind bars. “I destroyed three marriages and was never there for my children,” he said, and came to the conclusion that he would die in prison.
Tom landed in the Santa Barbara County Jail on a parole violation, and he heard about the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. He remembers, “I came to the Rescue Mission with the clothes on my back. I had no self-worth, no value in myself or my life.” He received compassion and clinical treatment at the Mission and began his recovery. Tom said that he learned the importance of self-disclosure and “sharing the secrets of my past allowed me to rely upon and believe in the integrity of another human being.” He credits his recovery to the new relationship he has with God and said he found Jesus on Easter Sunday.
Tom received his certificate of completion from the 12-month Drug and Alcohol Treatment Recovery Program at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on Saturday, November 3, 2012. He delivered the speech for his graduating class and closed with these words, “I have lost many battles with this disease called addiction, but I believe in the end I will win the war.”
Lori was the last person you’d expect to find at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. She used to have a great job and a comfortable home. She had a college-age daughter she was incredibly proud of. But Lori also had a secret: While recovering from a knee injury, she’d become addicted to prescription painkillers. On the outside, she’d always been the picture of success. But on the inside –– to say that Lori was a mess doesn’t begin to describe it. Little by little, she lost everything…her job, her home, and every shred of her self-respect.
Lori finally reached the point where, she says, “I decided that it would be a good idea to drive my car into a brick wall.” She knew she needed help and her first stop was the emergency room of a local hospital. Not long after, Lori entered our 12-month residential treatment program. “I went kicking and screaming” she remembers. “I still don’t know how I got here. It’s God. I was just so against it, yet I just kept being compelled to follow through.” Lori graduated from the program in July and recently went back to school to finish her degree in psychology, and the future just keeps looking better.
Kristian’s parents divorced when he was five, and he and his brother went to live with his father on a Hare Krishna farm. He reflects “I never really fit in anywhere we moved to because my dad made us look and dress like Hare Krishnas, and my experiences left me full of fear, anger, resentment and confusion. I didn’t even start first grade until I was nine, so all of these things combined caused other kids to excessively pick on and make fun of us which resulted in my constantly getting into fights, getting kicked out of school, and getting in trouble with the law.”
Kristian’s drug use left him out of money and homeless in Isla Vista. He was arrested and in jail once again. This time he requested an opportunity to recover at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. He remembers “I really wanted to change my life but was out of ideas and had nowhere else to go.” He was given an opportunity to invest in the Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program instead of serving a one year sentence in the county jail. “There is a night and day difference that has happened to me, and I now have a peace I have never known before and hope for my future” Kristian said.
A life consumed by addiction was the only life Porfirio had ever known. His dad was a drug dealer. His much-beloved sister had overdosed and died. “I was in gangs and doing crazy stuff. Drugs ruined everything and I lost everything.” When they couldn’t take it anymore, even Porfirio’s wife and 6-year-old son gave up on him and left. That should have gotten his attention, but it only made things worse. “I was addicted and couldn’t stop,” he remembers.
People like Porfirio usually die if they don’t get help. And he could easily have become another tragic statistic. But God intervened and he was arrested. Some might celebrate this but it only creates a revolving door. Instead of prison, he was given a chance to come to the Mission and that was the turning point. Porfirio found the courage to face his addiction, and the life skills that are helping him overcome it. He no longer wanted to end his life –– he surrendered it to Christ, and he’s a whole new man. He secured employment while in the program and graduated in March. Today he is a loving father to his five children.
Pam had a good life, a beautiful home, and a husband she loved deeply. Until he started abusing her…and she had to flee for her life. It was the hardest thing she’d ever done. Before Pam knew it, she was alone…on the run…and living on the streets. It was brutal. She lost everything. Her family didn’t know if she was dead or alive. But that was nothing compared to the nightmare that ensnared her when, like so many who seek to escape from their pain, she started using drugs.
When we first met Pam, she was a shell of a woman. “I didn’t think anybody cared about me,” she says. “I was scared. I was broken. I was not able to trust.” She knew she needed help. Through our state-certified recovery program for women, Pam received professional counseling, spiritual support, and help to heal her pain. “It forced me to look at things in my life from my past and my childhood that I didn’t want to look at,” she explains. “I had the most amazing, patient counselor, and she showed me that I needed to confront those demons in my past. I learned that, if I would allow Him, God could take all of those horrible things that happened to me and use them as a stepping stone in my life rather than a stumbling block… I was totally broken, but my whole life has turned around.”
Jeff grew up hard and much too fast. He never knew his dad and his friends were his real family. When he was just 12 years old, they introduced him to drugs. It is a miracle that he even finished high school. All that mattered to him was getting high. He’d find a job…and then he’d lose it. Before long, he was sleeping in a tent in the forest at night. He still shudders at the memory of the noises…”the rats running…the wild animals and stuff.” In the midst of all of this he became a father.
The birth of his son was the happiest and worst day of his life, as he put it “I was happy that I had a beautiful baby boy but scared that I could no longer control my drug use and drinking. If I couldn’t be a father to my son, who was I?” Jeff was arrested and found himself in court. He said “I was facing a lot of time and didn’t know what I was going to do. I did the one thing I knew how to do…pray.” Jeff applied to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission while he was in jail and was accepted. He entered the path to healing, restoration, and the hope of a new life in Christ. Jeff became equipped with a biblical foundation and practical skills that will keep him from slipping back into his old lifestyle. He found a good church and, a few months later, a job that he’s kept. Jeff is a walking, talking miracle.
Tori started smoking marijuana at the age of seven and entered her first program ten years later. She experienced some clean time but relapsed and started using crystal meth. At the age of 20, she went into another program while pregnant with her second child and stayed clean for six years. Tori relapsed again and turned her house into a meth lab that was soon raided. Her three children were taken in the process. She said they were very angry with her, because they thought she lied to them. Tori told them she wasn’t going to go back to jail but she did. That’s when she knew she needed to change her life.
It was at this time that she heard about Bethel House and was very resistant to the idea. She said “I’d been to programs before, I’m a hooked to die dope fiend and I needed something stronger. I knew that God was the only thing that could save me.” Tori entered Bethel House on February 3, 2010 and at the age of 27 her healing began. Even though she experienced clean time in the past, she never changed her thinking. She said “I came in like a hard little street thug with a bad attitude. I turned into somebody that’s vulnerable, has compassion, and sincerely cares about other people.” Tori graduated in March of this year and returned to her husband and three children. What a gift!
Today is an exciting day for Tom, one of the recent graduates of our Men’s Recovery Program. After a year of challenging self-examination, key life skills training, and vital relapse prevention counseling, Tom is leaving SBRM and moving out into the community. Having already made the move from our Men’s Program to our independent Sober Living facility, he is now moving on to his own place as he begins his new full-time job as Assistant Manager at a local fuel station. What an encouragement he is to those men and women still in the program who hope to follow in his footsteps!
Even more exciting than the present success of independent living and a full time job, Tom is also a stunning example of our vision here at SBRM. Just a little over a year ago, he was homeless in Santa Barbara and lost in his addiction. But today he stands tall as a healthy, productive citizen who continues to rebuild his relationships and who is leading others to recovery. That’s exactly why we do what we do, all to God’s glory!
The News-Press reports on Robert Raseta’s recovery from a lifelong alcohol addiction in this article:
A Santa Barbara native, Tony had come home to live with his mother, a few years earlier. His addictions were completely out of control, and then, “I was the cause of her almost getting thrown out of where she was living. I’d never taken any responsibility until then, but I had to straighten that problem out. As a result of that, I had to leave the home, and I became instantly homeless.”
Out on the streets and in the grip of drugs and alcohol, Tony was helpless to protect himself from the violence that threatens the whole homeless community. “I’d have blackouts and wake up cut up or beat up,” he remembers. Every year, some of our homeless die from exposure, violence, and other dangers of the streets. It looked like Tony would be next.
Then Tony got arrested, and seeing that jail had never helped him before, the courts sent him to us. Here, for the first time, Tony explored the feelings he used to cover up with the drugs—the abuse he suffered from his mother as a child. “She did crazy things,” he says sadly, but at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission he’s learned the skills to work through those memories to healing.
If you met Tony today, you’d never believe he was the same man! He’s an avid student at our Learning Center, and his family is amazed at his new life. One brother, struggling with addiction himself, is even following in his footsteps! “Not only do I want to be a productive citizen out there,” he says now, “I want to give back the way they gave to me.”
Meri’s father was a “functioning” alcoholic who couldn’t seem to show his children any love. So Meri went looking for other ways to fill that hole in her life. “All my life I’ve struggled with drug addiction and abusive relationships,” she says sadly. “They kind of went hand in hand for me.”
Things went from bad to worse when the end of another bad relationship left her homeless. Now, she faced the nightly danger of violence on the streets—even rape. Thank God, Meri was spared, but her life was chaos. Her three children were living in three different states. She no longer felt she had any reason to live . . . until she was granted a year at our Bethel House women’s program after a drug-related crime.
Now, if she could sit across a table from you, she’d say: “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the donors who support the Rescue Mission. There was a time I was literally crying by myself under a bush, thinking I was going to die and there was no hope for me to ever recover. I had given up all hope for life. Because of the Bethel House, it’s like somebody came along, held me in their arms and said, ‘It’s OK.’ Without Bethel House I would not have had the opportunity to heal and be the person I always thought I could be, a servant of God who wants to help restore other lives.”
Meri’s making the most of her second chance, restoring her relationship with her parents and her children. “I never felt like I could raise these children and give them a better life,” she says, “Now I do.” And for the first time in her life, she looks forward to the future!