Denis feels ‘more dedicated’ this time through the program
Denis, now 27, is the oldest of four. “I’ve always had my parents to support me,” he said. Dennis and his family moved around a lot in the Central Coast area, but he considers Carpinteria home. He attended school there, but was behind in elementary school and didn’t pass the seventh grade. “They sent me to a court-ordered probation school in Santa Barbara and I was doing good there,” Denis said. “I was able to catch up. But when I got into high school and left the probation school, I started doing bad again. I didn’t feel like being at school. I was with friends and drinking.”
Denis dropped out of high school when he was a junior. “I just stopped going. I wasn’t doing any of the work.”
In the years that followed, Denis said he would sometimes work, but not consistently. “I wasn’t doing anything good for my future or myself,” he said. “I was getting into trouble with the law, drinking—I got a DUI. After that I started using meth. That’s when things got bad. “I started using it every day, all day. I wouldn’t really do much else but get high. That was for seven or eight years, up until last year.”
Denis had stopped working and was staying with a friend. He got arrested for robbery. To avoid a longer jail sentence, he took a deal, and that included a strike. “I had the attitude that I was going to do whatever I needed to do to get on the right path. I knew, with the strike, it would be bad if I got in trouble again.”
For a while, Denis did well. He went back to his parents and got a job. But as soon as he started using again, he walked away from the job and started hanging around an old crowd. “I would go back and forth,” Denis said. “My parents would pick me up, I’d do good, then I would just get over it, use and go back. It was that same cycle, over and over again.”
After a few more mistakes, including a possession charge and public intoxication arrest—his mother called the police when he got drunk and out of hand at home—Denis realized he needed real help. He knew a friend was in a program in Santa Maria. He called and got the name.
Denis is hoping the third time’s a charm, as he’s recently started his third stint at the mission. After arriving in March, he left the program. His second stay ended after a relapse. “This is the third time I’m back,” said Denis last month. It’s really helping and it’s going really well. I’m feeling more dedicated this time. I want to make this the last time.”
Denis said all the aspects of the program have been helpful for him. “The staff, outreach, classes, bible studies, going to the store for (vocational training), it all keeps me focused and concentrating on what I need to be doing,” he said. “It keeps my mind off the outside right now. There is so much going on right now, and it doesn’t help. Here I can stay positive.
“I want to learn more about the Lord. I want to read the bible and lift myself up to him. He hasn’t let me down, and I know he brought me here for a reason—to learn more about him.”