Erika is ‘walking into the light’ after years of darkness

Erika spent seven years, off and on, onthe streets after raising kids and having a
successful career.

Erika spent seven years, off and on, on the streets after raising kids and having a
successful career.

She is excitedly welcoming Jesus into her life

While her life didn’t go the traditional route, Erika was more or less “the responsible one” for most of her young life. She grew up in San Luis Obispo in a “dysfunctional family, so everything that comes with that,” Erika said, “verbal abuse, physical, visitation fights, substance abuse.”

Erika’s parents got divorced when she was 10, and just two years later, her father died. She did well in school, although she left high school when she got pregnant. “I tested out to raise my daughter,” Erika said. “I got married. And I ended up adopting my two brothers when they were 6 and 12. My mom lost custody of them. Even though I was just 16, I was married and had a house and a kid of my own.”

Erika raised the kids, and developed a successful career as a histotechnologist, a specialized health lab worker. “I had been working from home, and doing some side jobs—one was a job at a lab, just sweeping up after everyone’s gone.

I started learning what they were doing and then started training after work and eventually went to Cal Poly and got licensed at 16.”

After eight years of marriage, Erika found out her husband was cheating and they divorced. She took her career on the road, getting different lab assignments every couple months. “At that point, my brothers were out of the house, and my daughter went to live with her dad,” she said. “I had burnt myself out, just going and going. I suddenly found myself in these empty hotel rooms and the weekends off. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Erika said it started at 25 with just some wine on the weekends. “That turned into a few bottles a day, drinking at work, losing jobs, losing the respect of my family. My mom was literally dying from drinking, and that was my only coping mechanism.

“I started having panic attacks. I started going into mental hospitals, having breakdowns. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, panic disorder, insomnia, anxiety. My mental health got worse and worse.”

When Erika was 31, her mom died. “I was devastated. It brought back my dad’s death. It was like a double whammy, realizing I had no parents.” Erika went to rehab for six months, but was kicked out after she started dating another resident there. They ended up on the streets. “There was sex trafficking going on down at the creek, and abuse and manipulation, and people stealing from you all the time. I was there for seven years off and on.

“I started developing this false identity. Like, ‘This is who I am now.’

I thought, ‘I’ve already lived a life, raised kids, had a marriage and a career, and it all failed.’ So I gave up and just thought, ‘I’m going to be a homeless, druggie, alcoholic on the streets.’ I was literally running from God, hiding from Him in the bushes. I was so full of shame and guilt.”

Erika got a DUI and went back to jail. “I was in ‘the hole’ because I was suicidal. I was sitting there, totally alone, thinking, ‘Is this my life?’

“I started praying. I knew I needed change. And I knew if someone gave me a little bit of help, I’d take it the rest of the way.”

The day she was released, Erika drank so much that she was passed out and taken back to the mental hospital. “Every person there was telling me: ‘You need to know about this new program in Santa Maria.

It’s great.’ I made a commitment to myself that I was going to fully surrender.” Erika got to the Mission four months ago. “It’s been really good,” she said. “I was in the dark for so long, to walk

into the light can be frightening. But the support, and all the people genuinely wanting you to do well, that’s what keeps me going.

“I used to cry in the morning—I didn’t want to wake up. Now I’m excited for the day. I was so hopeless and now I’m filled with so much hope.”

Erika has been reveling in her time with Jesus. “Sometimes I have to calm myself down  because I’m so excited. … I’m so eager, it’s ridiculous,” she said. “There is so much time to sit and read and learn about and be with God. I’m welcoming Jesus back into my life. I’m restoring my life.

“The program has brought me out of isolation. That was the devil trying to pull me in. I withdrew from family, friends, and anything good because I was shameful. Now, every time I feel myself spiraling, I change my thoughts and perspective. I know that wasn’t the life I was meant to live.”