Luis putting ‘foolish mistakes’ behind him

Luis’ parents were together until he was 6 or 7 years old. “My dad was really smart and was a mechanic,” Luis said. “He was a terrible husband, but a great father to us. He was an alcoholic and a drug user, and was abusive to my mom.”

The family, which included Luis’ twin and an older sister, lived in New York, but after his parents’ divorce and some bad behavior by Luis, his mom decided to relocate. “My mom wanted to get me out of New York because I was a problematic child,” he said. “I was mean and I was a bully. So when I was 9, we came to California by Greyhound (bus).”

The family settled in Santa Barbara, where Luis has been for 30 years. He went to high school in Goleta, but didn’t graduate. “I got into a lot of trouble and ended up getting on probation for smoking weed,” he said. “I had to go to a school for bad kids. I ended up dropping out.”

Luis said he got into drugs right after high school when he was 19. He was at a party and a friend encouraged him to try. He started using cocaine and methamphetamine. Throughout a dramatic relationship, Luis said, “it made it easier to deal with my emotions.”

Thirteen years after dropping out of school, Luis went to adult school and got his high school diploma. He went to Laurus College in Santa Maria and received his associate’s degree in IT. “I was chosen to be the successful student speaker at my college graduation,” he said.

But addiction still hindered his progress. He landed in jail on a vandalism charge and the public defender told him about the Mission. “I wanted to change so I agreed to come,” he said. “After all, it’s my fault. I keep getting arrested because of my own foolish mistakes.”

After just a couple months in the program, things are going well, Luis said. “Addiction has been a part of my life for a long time now,” he said. “Coming to the Mission has helped me to stay sober not only for me but for my daughter too.”

Luis’ daughter is 1, and living with her grandmother. “I blame myself for a lot of things,” he said. “I met my daughter’s mom and introduced her to drugs. We both ended up homeless because her mom kicked us out. I worked, but used the money on drugs. … Now, my daughter’s mom is in jail. And my daughter would be living with me if I had made better decisions. I think about my daughter every day and every night.”

Luis plans to graduate the program and return to school to get his master’s degree in IT. “I love learning,” he said. “I also love music and art, and want to travel the world.”