Santa Barbara Rescue Mission focuses on rebuilding lives. Here are just a few stories.
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!
Alana is the proud mother of an amazing 19-year-old boy named Nicholas. Although they have an incredible relationship today, it was not always the case. Alana comes from a long line of alcoholics, and her family worked hard at presenting a normal appearance to the outside world but on the inside it was far from the truth. She said, “In my family you were taught that big girls don’t cry. I was supposed to do everything on my own because it was weak to need anybody. I was angry and hurt and I learned quickly that drugs were an escape from painful thoughts and feelings. Using drugs made me feel powerful and for ten years I was under their spell.” When Alana became pregnant with her son Nick, she was able to stay clean for three years, but she began to use, sell, and make drugs, which led to trouble with the law.
When she was released and out on bail, she realized that she could be locked up for 12 years. Alana said, “I began to look at this hole I’d dug for myself. I swallowed a bunch of Methamphetamine (speed) and had a loaded gun in my lap. I prayed ‘God forgive me for what I’m about to do.'” Thankfully, she woke up to a friend pounding on her door and asked for help. He told her about the Mission and she filled out an application and was accepted. Alana is the Mission’s Outpatient Treatment Coordinator and celebrated eleven years clean and sober this year. Alana said, “I am so thankful that I did not pull that trigger. Without the Mission, I know I would be dead.”
Amanda and her cousin, Danny
Amanda was addicted to meth, prescription drugs, and alcohol. She was stealing, lying, and cheating—anything she had to in order to get her next fix. Before she graduated from our donor-funded residential treatment center. Today she says, “I allowed God to enter my heart and I began to have a desire to be more like the woman God created me to be, to be a woman of integrity. He gave me something I never had–HOPE.”
Amanda is attending Santa Barbara City College, studying to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor—just like her cousin Danny, a 2006 graduate who currently serves as a residential treatment specialist here at the Mission. Your gifts made such an impact in her life, through the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, that she wants to counsel other recovering addicts and alcoholics–just like the counseling she received from our Bethel House.
Before her graduation, Amanda’s new-found faith and transformation were tested. Amanda’s grandmother—who meant more to Amanda than life itself—passed away a loss Amanda had been dreading for a long time. “I always thought that I could never stay clean if I lost [my grandmother]. She was my everything…”
But Amanda has come a long way. In fact, everything about her has been so radically transformed that she’s a completely different person. “It is because of my relationship with God that I made it through clean and sober. I feel like God told me, ‘It’s okay,’ and he will take care of her and she won’t hurt anymore.”
Stan grew up in a poor neighborhood in our very own community, where peer pressure forced him into a gang and its lifestyle of drug abuse. But even in the midst of his supposedly tight-knit gang, Stan was lonely. He hated his life. “Prior to coming to the Rescue Mission, my lifestyle was an unbalanced death sentence. Willing to pay the cost for my actions, I wasn’t sent to prison again, but I was given the opportunity to go to the Rescue Mission and change my life.” Stan then said, “Over the past year, miracles have been a big part of my daily life, and on September 30, I was granted sole custody of my three oldest children. A year ago, I was not allowed to see my kids. People like me don’t stay clean and sober for over a year. People like me don’t get custody of their kids. People like me don’t check in with parole or probation. People like me die in their alcoholism, die in their addiction, die in prison. I was welcomed at the Rescue Mission when I wasn’t welcome anywhere. One last great idea to try and get sober, and here I am today.”
Sherry was adopted as a child and felt a rejection and abandonment that would plague her for most of her life. During her teenage years growing up in Los Angeles, friends introduced her to alcohol and marijuana. “I used to go out of my way to prove I was something,” she remembers, “but I didn’t even know who I was.” It was not until she was into her 30’s that Sherry realized she had a problem with substance abuse. By this time, she was a wife and mother of four children. Sherry went in and out of jail and lost job after job as a result of her destructive lifestyle.
Sherry writes, “I have contentment and confidence in God; there used to be such a strong need for anything else to fill that void. Now its like, ‘Okay, God, what are you trying to show me; what should I be moving forward in?’”
Although she attempted to get treatment for her addiction more than once, permanent recovery remained elusive. A referral from a counselor led Sherry to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. “I had heard about the Rescue Mission in passing,” she explains, “but I never thought much about it. But once I got to Bethel House, I knew I was home.”
During her year in the residential program, Sherry went through a process of facing the deep hurt that she had been running from since her childhood. One day at a time, Sherry began to explore the root issues fueling her addictions. She asked a lot of questions, applied herself diligently to her counseling workbook, and learned to be truly honest with herself and other for the first time. Simple lessons like learning discipline, setting boundaries and receiving forgiveness had significant results. Sherry’s relationships with her children, now grown, were transformed. “So much has happened in my heart…” she reflects, “in my entire life.” One of the Bethel House volunteers, Shirley, became Sherry’s mentor. The women developed a wonderful relationship that is a source of encouragement and friendship and still continues to this day.
Today, Sherry is excited to be working full-time at the Rescue Mission’s main facility on Yanonali Street. She encounters many women who call in seeking help and she tells them “If you really want what is offered here, your recovery will happen.” Sherry’s life is living proof.
I grew up in Santa Barbara County and started using marijuana as a teenager. My parents were going through a divorce and I began to distance myself from life at home. At 17 I began using methamphetamines, all the while trying to keep my lifestyle a secret from my mother. After years of sneaking around, I was caught by the police and sent to jail. At that point, my mom was through with me. I was at a point where I needed to get clean. I was exhausted. Everything else I’d done didn’t work—it was time to change. I went through the Rescue Mission’s Bethel House program and graduated in 2006. Not only did I overcome methamphetamines, but the staff even helped me to stop smoking! Bethel House saved my life. The staff cared about my life when I didn’t care at all.
Kim, Cambi’s mother, shares her experience “I remember going to Family Day with Cambi one Saturday towards the middle of her treatment. We came to one of the more emotional points in the session and Cambi knelt down in front of me. She held my hand and looked into my eyes as she shared her heart. She was being honest and open for the first time in a long time. It was a touching moment—kind of a rebirth for us. I don’t think people know where to send the people that they love. Today, it’s like a whole new world—now I know there is help out there. Without the Rescue Mission I don’t think that Cambi would have gotten sober.”
Cambi adds, “I look back and I think ‘Wow—I’m so different.’ When I was in my addiction, I couldn’t spend more than 10 minutes with my mom; now, I hunger for her time. To me, that’s a big change. She’s amazing. Today I care about my life and I care about the young lady that I see in the mirror. I am no longer a victim of my past. I work full-time, I am responsible, and when I give my word I follow through on it. Best of all, I have a great relationship with my mother.”
A poem written by Austin’s daughter
Kelly McIntosh 2002
I missed you today. That genuine miss, where you can truly feel your heart ache. And you would drop everything just to see someone for a moment. It isn’t just the miss of a title anymore. I think it was… I missed a dad. I missed you, Dad. Because in my innocent eyes and confused heart you did not leave because you had to, you left because you wanted to. The drink was more important. But that was then. We’re done with the broken promises, lonely holidays, unseen soccer games, and the loss of what I knew to be a family. I stopped getting my hopes up just to be let down as you floated in and out of recovery. Because my heart was not that strong. But now, I truly believe it does not have to be. I trust you. Five years of never touching a drink. Five years to rebuild your life. Five years to rebuild mine. And when I look back now, I only see the old, good times. Only a few grains of sorrow left in my heart to remind me to keep my feet on the ground. And now, there are those days, I think about how much I want to wake up in the morning and see your face. How the only place I think I may be truly happy, is laughing by your side. I’m so proud of you, Dad. I wish you could see yourself from my eyes. See how selfless, and amazing you are. Understand how many lives you inspire… when you are sober. And although the past had its heartbreaks and times when even breathing seemed hard, I know I would not be the same person I am without them. And if you had not recovered I may not have realized how much I love you. Thank you Daddy, for giving me that chance.