Celia finds her perfect fit at the Mission

Celia with her daughters

Celia with her daughters.

Celia never thought she would be leading other women in their recovery, but God had other plans.

As Program Manager for the recently opened Women’s Life Recovery Program at Rescue Mission Alliance Central Coast, Celia is excited to use her life, educational, and professional experiences in her role.

Celia knows what it’s like to wrestle with addiction and recovery, struggling through a 17-year addiction to a mix of marijuana, methamphetamine, pain killers, and alcohol, and attempting various sobriety programs.

Celia’s addiction started at the early age of 12, as she tried to navigate life with a semi-absentee father with a heroin addiction, an abusive, alcoholic mother, and years of sexual abuse. By the time she was 16, she had her first son and was influenced by her mother to marry at 17.

The volatile and abusive marriage would last 11 years, and Celia and her first husband would have five more kids together.

“But then my husband told me he was divorcing me and seeking sole custody of the kids. My sister and sister-in-law were there telling me, ‘You don’t get it. He’s going to take your kids.’ That snapped me out of it.”

That was a Friday night and by Saturday she and her kids were at the Fresno Mission’s Emergency Shelter. Three days later, they were in the Rescue the Children program at the Mission. This experience laid the foundation for Celia’s future.

Eleven months into the program, the Fresno Mission offered Celia a job.

“Once I started working with the women it came very naturally to me. The compassion, the empathy—I wanted to be there for them. I went to school to be a drug and alcohol counselor. I graduated from the program, school, and moved from case manager to lead case manager.”

Celia worked for the Fresno Mission for seven years. And when Celia and her second husband relocated to the Central Coast, Celia reached out to the Mission about volunteer opportunities. Using what she thought was a generic number to contact a coordinator, she instead spoke to Director Chris Rutledge, who encouraged her to apply for the new women’s Program Manager position.

Celia is grateful for the opportunity and is unafraid of what the future holds for the program. “I like challenges … God has this program. He is the God of the Impossible. And the donors are generous. They are the reason we are able to try something different and help a new population in Santa Maria.”

It’s the knowledge generated from being on both sides – experiencing the program and leading the program – that Celia is using to serve and encourage women in need to join them. “We know the outcome of us being in control. For me, I was tired of doing the same things repeatedly and never getting anywhere, so I tried something different. The new path I am on is exciting and new—yours can be too!”