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Cecil Works Through Childhood Trauma, Starts New Life At The Mission

Apr 26, 2019

His parents’ contentious divorce—and the difficult aftermath—shaped much of Cecil’s life. He was young when they split, and he and his siblings were first placed with their mother. “That wasn’t a safe situation,” he said. “We struggled for food. We were living in rat- and cockroach-infested places, people were doing drugs. It was horrible.”

Things got worse when Cecil’s mom remarried. His new stepfather revealed himself to be a pedophile, and he molested both of Cecil’s sisters. He also hit Cecil, which prompted a custody change. “My father saw the mark on my face and called the cops,” he said. “We moved in with him when I was 9 or 10. It was a better situation, but it wasn’t great. My dad—he was a Southern Baptist minister—was a heavy drinker. He was also very suicidal, to the point where he’d hold a gun to his head sometimes.”

By the time Cecil was in high school, he had shut down. “I really struggled,” he said. “I went into total isolation. I’m very, very withdrawn—that’s how I dealt with it.”

When Cecil was 18, he noticed that drinking changed his demeanor. “I was very alone. I’m a very lonely person. And when it comes to socializing, I’ve never been any good at it.
I realized alcohol broke me out of the isolation.”

Cecil spent the next several years working at tire shops. He made some friends, but says they were mostly “drinking buddies.” He got help at a program in Santa Barbara, graduating and living in a sober living house before meeting his girlfriend and getting a place with her. During that time, Cecil’s youngest brother died by suicide. “He hung himself,” he said. “It was hard. My girlfriend went through all that with me.”

Then, they found out she had cancer. “I was there, at the hospital through it all. She had a surgery and came home. I went to work at the gas station. I kissed her goodbye. … When I got home, she had passed. She was stone cold.”

Cecil moved back into a sober living facility and stayed sober for another year. “I held it together, but the next year, when it came around again, it hit me really hard. It was like I hadn’t grieved properly. I started drinking. I realized I could cheat the testing (at the facility) and then I started drinking on the job. It just started falling apart. I lost my place, I lost my job. I was living in my car and then on the streets.”

After moving around a bit, Cecil was back in Santa Barbara, living in MacKenzie Park. He remembers one night deciding to drink himself to death. “I was done,” he said. “I was OK with dying. But God wasn’t OK with my dying. The next day I woke up.”

That day, a couple police officers came into the park talking about the mission. One of the officers started working with Cecil, and even set up a phone interview with the mission from his police car. Cecil, now 46, started the program in November. “It was scary, but I liked how it was a smaller group of guys. I’m happy here, and it’s a good program. It’s what I needed. I needed to get sober, and remember God loves me. There are better things for me out there.”

Cecil said he’s hopeful about his future. “I’m feeling good about myself,” he said. “I had to deal with a lot as a child, but the Lord has really blessed me. He’s always been with me. Even when I was living in the bush, drinking, he protected me.”

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