On Saturday, November 5, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission graduated 16 members of its drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at the Santa Barbara Community Church. The room was full of a positive and supportive energy exuded by friends and family.
Many of the graduates looked to God to pave their way to recovery. “Without Jesus Christ as my lord and savior, I’m lost,” said one. As the graduates spoke, they all expressed thanks to the Rescue Mission. “I’m really, really grateful to Santa Barbara Mission,” another person stated.
A woman named Joselle told a very compelling story. “Age seven is when life changed as I knew it,” she said. “All of a sudden I had a stepmother. She ruled with an iron fist and an iron tongue. She was verbally abusive.” When Joselle’s stepmother got full custody of her at the age of 13, she felt scared and out of her element. That’s when her life started revolving around mind-altering substances. Joselle was charged with six DUIs in her lifetime. On January 22, 2016, Joselle started turning it all around. “My heart is strong, and I’ve felt the best I have in over a decade,” she said.
Another graduate named Blair also told his story. Blair never felt he could connect to people, and was not confident in his social interactions. Blair was 12 when he first got high. “I felt connected to people while high,” he said. “I didn’t feel any remorse. I hoped to escape fear and pity.” Blair’s life at home and school began to change. “On the days I went to school, I got in fights.” When Blair was 13, he ended up at a house with an older man. He remembered taking pills, and the man doing things to him he will never forget. “I blamed myself for what happened,” he said.
At 14 years old, Blair ended up in Juvenile Hall. And he joined a white gang, where he directed most of his violence at child molesters. He ended up spending a total of 24 years in prison. “I saw a lot that I can never unsee,” he said. After Blair got out of prison, he overdosed on heroin. When he joined the Santa Barbara Rescue Program he “no longer felt alone,” he said. “These 11 months have blessed me with the faith that life matters.”
Then a Rescue Mission worker named Josh spoke. He had encouraging words for the graduates: “Be confident that God has brought you to this place, and it’s the place for you now. … Look where you used to be, and look where God has brought you.” The Rescue Mission, said representatives, is certified by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the highest level of distinction given to non-medical treatment facilities. In contrast to national statistics that show only 21 percent of those who complete addiction recovery programs remain clean for five years, more than 51 percent of the Mission’s graduates maintain recovery in that same time frame.
The event ended with the crowd of family and friends cheering for the graduates. They said how proud they were of their loved ones for completing the program, and said that their journeys ahead were going to be just fine.