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Harrison wants change, became ‘too comfortable on the streets’

Jun 29, 2020

Harrison and his biological sister were adopted by the same loving parents. They adopted his older sister, and when Harrison’s biological mother got pregnant again three years later, she reached out to the family. Harrison joined his older sister with his new parents. They worked for the phone company and cared deeply for their children. “They had good jobs,” he said. “They spoiled us. They had everything going for them. But then my mom developed a gambling problem. My sister and I both had college funds and they had to cash them out to pay my mom’s secret credit cards. That created some tension in the marriage.”

Then some tragedies further rocked the family. In a short period of time, Harrison’s parents each lost their mothers. They also each lost two siblings. “My mom’s brother overdosed on heroin at my grandma’s house. Two years later she passed. My dad’s brother passed away while my mom was in the hospital. His other brother was racing to the hospital to tell my grandma, and he was in a car accident on the way and died.”

Harrison was in middle school at the time. “It went from good times to ‘what the heck?’ It was a time when my parents were more distant. They were focused on the funerals and the bills. I was on the back burner and left to my own devices. I was more into playing video games and hanging out with my friends then going to school.”

Now in high school, Harrison started drinking socially, but it escalated to him drinking alone. It got to a whole new level after the tragic death of his sister when she was 22. “She had graduated from Humboldt and was a kindergarten teacher,” he said. “She was living with her fiancé in San Diego. They got into a fight about her drinking and she ended up taking his gun and killing herself. She had already packed her lunch for the next day—she wasn’t planning it. It was just in her drunken rage that she did it.”

After his sister’s death, Harrison’s parents tried to crack down on his drinking. “I snuck around and drank behind closed doors. I dropped out of high school to do independent study. I wanted to be left alone.”

Harrison started working minimum-wage jobs in kitchens. “Everyone assumes I like cooking. I don’t. It’s just all I know how to do. … I couldn’t hold a job, though. I’d get a paycheck, go get drunk with my money, leave the job, sober up, go to another job interview. My job history is horrible. Half the jobs I’ve had I was gone within the first week.”

In 2015, Harrison had a fight with his parents. They kicked him out of the house right before he needed to be at work. He had held down the job, one he actually enjoyed, for over a year. “I jumped off a bridge,” he said. “I tried to kill myself. I landed in the river bottom. I was knocked out—I’m not sure how long. When I came to, a coworker came and got me and took me to the hospital.”

They transported him to a mental hospital in Chino, and he was released three days later. When Harrison got out, he got intoxicated, and wandered around. “I found myself at a church to spend the night,” he said. “I cried out to God. I wasn’t raised in the church, but I sat on a bench in the courtyard and prayed. I was lost in every sense of the word.”

Harrison decided to get help, and over the next few years, he was in and out of the Ventura County Rescue Mission, a sister mission. “If I wasn’t there, I was on the streets, or with my parents before they’d throw me out,” he said. “I was stuck in a vicious cycle of self-hatred. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. I was aware of the consequences but still making the bad decisions. But I knew God had bigger plans for me.”

Harrison graduated from the program twice, held down a job at Lowe’s and climbed the latter, and even went back to college. But he still struggled with relapses. After Harrison’s mom was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, the hospital bills were adding up and his mom’s health was declining. “My parents are in their 70s and my dad had retired,” he said. “I moved in to help with bills, but after staying sober for months at a time, I would relapse. They became shorter periods of sobriety. Eventually my parents gave me an ultimatum. They said they didn’t want to talk to me for a year, until I was clean and had a job for six months.”

Harrison ended up on the streets. He was back getting meals from the mission in Ventura County earlier this year. “I realized that I didn’t want to go down this path,” he said. “I was getting too comfortable living on the streets.” A chaplain helped him get into Central Coast Rescue Mission, and he arrived in April. “It’s more intimate. There is more one-on-one time. We’re like one large family.”

Harrison has had some tough times since he’s been back in the program, but has been inspired to stay. “Everyone goes through hard times, and the world tells you to deal with the pain by eating, drinking, and being merry. Those things are a temporary fix—a band-aid. They will just cause you more heartache and pain. It’s about persevering through the hard times.”

The outreaches have been helpful for Harrison. “When we take food to the homeless, I enjoyed doing that, because it wasn’t too long ago that I was the homeless person being brought meals. I remember being aware that I smelled, that I wreaked, and even not being able to smell it because you become desensitized to it. It’s something that makes you feel human again, being able to shower on a regular basis. God has given me that. I have shelter, a bed, a roof over my head. I don’t need to worry or have anxiety about the things I don’t have. I focus on what I do have now.

“After I graduated the last time, I had an understanding of Scripture, but didn’t yet know how to utilize it. The thing I’m hoping to get out of this is to be able to put the word into practice. I want to be a hero of the word.”

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