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Eugene Leaves Drifter Lifestyle Behind, Looks To Establish Roots

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As he nears his 50th birthday, Eugene reflects on his life spent wandering. “I was just drifting through this country like a tumbleweed,” he said. “I haven’t established any roots, which was cool because there was no responsibility. But I see there are downsides to that. I never established real long term relationships. Having friends, well, I don’t really know what that looks like in a healthy relationship.”

Eugene grew up in San Antonio, Texas, to two drug-addicted parents. “There was already trouble because my dad was a 39-year-old black man and my mom was a 21-year-old Mexican girl—that didn’t go over well. And the only thing they had in common was heroin.” Eugene started getting into trouble young, joyriding in stolen cars, and spending age 14 to 18 in a juvenile facility after setting fire to a vacant building.

After watching some episodes of “Miami Vice,” Eugene decided to head to Florida after his release. He joined a touring carnival and set up and tore down rollercoasters. He then became a day laborer and continued his drifter lifestyle. The last time he saw any family members was in the 70s. Since then, Eugene’s mother died of a heroin overdose, and his dad of cirrhosis of the liver. His sister, who was addicted to crack cocaine and involved in prostitution, was violently killed.

“Since I’ve known drugs myself, I understand the stronghold now,” he said. “But I didn’t experiment with that stuff until my 30s, so for a long time, I was judgmental and condescending. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just stop. Now I have a lot of regret about how I was, and how I distanced myself.”

Eugene was working as a street musician in New Orleans when he met a girl who introduced him to drugs. “She made it look appealing,” he said. “Man is inquisitive, curious. And it was fun at first. Then it became more mechanical. I’ve learned we don’t need to know everything. I’ve been everywhere—Hawaii, Alaska—and I just kept thinking, ‘Let me just go here, my life will be different.’ I couldn’t see that the grass isn’t always greener.”

Now, just a couple months into the program, Eugene is growing in his relationship with God. “I’m trying to figure out my own salvation. I want to be a witness for Christ, genuinely, not just externally. He’s become more real, more tangible. Christ is more than an ideal.”

Eugene said he’s determined to graduate. “I want to stay connected and get involved—not just to have a place to fall back on, but to be active in the ministry. Everyone is going through the human struggle in one way or another. If I know myself, I know all men. I can have compassion and genuine empathy.

“Pride kept me from asking for help,” he added. “I always thought I could do it myself, that I didn’t need the fellowship of my brothers. I do. I’m allowing in structure. I’m finding humility. I think the greatest success in life is contentment. I’m glad I’m here. I need this.”

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