Luis works on ‘building up spirit and mind’

After two difficult years in and out of jail and seeing his relationship with his family suffer, Luis decided to ask for help. He had tried to battle his addiction on his own, and at just 21, recognized that he needed more support.

“I’d try to bring myself up and out of it,” he said. “I tried doing more positive things. I just couldn’t do it on my own.”

Luis grew up in Santa Maria with his parents and two sisters. His parents split when he was young. “My issues started in high school,” he said. “I started hanging out with gang members. I was getting more associated with them. And that’s when my addiction started. I began using meth. I struggled really badly with it.”

Luis switched to the American Indian education program in Orcutt, which was a needed change of scenery. “It helped me out a lot, moving over there. I got a lot of help and support. I got my high school diploma and was doing good.”

After graduation, Luis decided to skip college and start working. “I worked in the fields for a while, and that’s where I started to use again,” he said. “That began a really bad struggle for the next two years.

“I knew when I starting using again that there would be problems. I was hanging out with people I shouldn’t be hanging out with. I would drive a car, giving rides to people I shouldn’t. I was selling dope. I started getting locked up.”

Luis’ addiction also took on his family. “I was struggling with my family,” he said. “I told my mom I needed help, I needed support to keep my motivated to stop using. She said I should go to a program, that it would help a lot. But in my mind, that wasn’t going to help me.”

Finally, while in jail, Luis got to talking with another inmate. I told him I didn’t want to be there anymore. I wanted a new life. I decided to try a program.”

Luis came to the Mission once, but left and relapsed quickly. Almost immediately he knew he made a mistake. “I realized right away that nothing was going to change. It’s going to be the same out here if I keep using. Nothing changes. I got tired of it. So I decided to really get help. I had heard how much programs help, but it depends on you too.”

When he first arrived, Luis admitted it was hard. “I was struggling at first, but it got easier and easier,” he said. “I disciplined myself. Little by little I started adapting to everything and it felt good. I felt good. It felt like God had a purpose for me in being in this program.

“I stopped focusing on having less freedom, or doing things I don’t like. I stopped focusing on the past and looked toward moving forward. We all fall. I just started letting God help me up in my life.”

Luis enjoys morning devotion time and the classes the group does together. “I’m doing so much better,” he said. “Now, I really want to change. I know that I can’t do it alone. I need help. I need therapy. It’s helping me a lot, being here. I feel great.”

“I’m getting so much out of this program. When we talk about situations, about what we’re holding on our hearts, or what’s making us upset, it helps. I never used to do that. I’d suck it up, or ‘man up.’ But talking about all of the anger, frustration … it takes it all out.”

Luis had a relationship with God before, he said, but being in the program has built on that foundation. “I’ve been building up my spirit and my mind, thinking more positively. I’ve gotten closer to God.”

Luis knows that the connection he’s building with the Mission will not only help now, but in the future, after he graduates. He is enjoying a strong relationship with his Dad and older sister, who he says are supporting him throughout his time in the program. Luis is also hoping for restoration with his mom and younger sister.