When he reflects on his upbringing as the youngest of nine siblings, Mark recalls chaos and a lack of affection. “There was a lot of fighting and confrontation going on,” he said. “There were never loving words expressed, or any hugging, or saying ‘I love you,’ or anything of that sort.
“My father was an alcoholic, and my mother was a workaholic, so there was no adult supervision most of the time. When I was 10, I got involved with gangs and drugs. At 12, I started using heroin. That’s where I found the love I was looking for—or the acceptance, rather—in the gangs and in the drug world.”
Mark’s parents got divorced when he was 12 after an incident where his father tried to kill his mother and Mark ran him out of the house with a knife. “I ran into him (a couple years later), and he said he was living in a little town called Nipomo, which I’d never heard of. He brought me back with him. I thought I’d be living in a home with him, but he put me in a run-down trailer out in a field. I was a teenager, and I had no running water or restroom.
“I struggled. I had to grow up immediately. I worked hard, starting at 15, building houses and doing random jobs. Since my dad drank all the time, I took that on. I assumed it was OK since he was doing it. I hooked up with the people that were into drugs here and started selling.”
Mark got married when he was 17 and they had three children, one after another. But Mark was still using and knew he needed help, so he entered a program. “I found the Lord,” he said. “I found growth immediately. I really grasped onto what the Lord was trying to teach me there.”
But after a relapse, he began a downward spiral. Mark and his wife of 38 years are separated, and they haven’t shared a home in 10 years. “I’ve been in and out of churches and programs, trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life.”
After years of homelessness, Mark came to the Mission. “I knew if I went back out on the streets, I was going to die. I had to come back to a place where I knew I could get help and get under the shield of God again. He is working tremendously in my life. He’s helping me cleanse my heart and work past my childhood (trauma).”
Mark’s relationship with family is improving, and his apologies have been accepted. “I’m just praying and hoping that I can live under the same roof with my wife someday. I’m 56 years old now and I have nothing to show for it. There’s a lot of shame behind that and I feel like I’m not being the man I’m supposed to be. One of my biggest goals is to just be a productive member of the community, to be a loving husband and father and grandfather.”
With the path he is now on, Mark knows that he will reach his goals. “I would recommend this program to somebody who’s really lost and doesn’t know the right path,” he said. “The Mission is a place of refuge.”