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The Mission has ‘changed the way I see things’

Fernando, portrait

It’s been a year since Fernando graduated the mission’s Life Recovery program, and looking back, he hardly recognizes the person he used to be. “This program has helped me realize that I can live a new life,” he said. “There’s something else, another kind of living. I don’t need any of that stuff (drugs) to make me happy. I feel happy now without it.”

Fernando got married when he was 22, and divorced 10 years later after having three kids. He was using drugs, off and on, his entire life. “I tried it and got addicted, right away,” he said. “I never got in trouble. I didn’t even know it was a crime—I was so naïve I guess. I didn’t spend a day in jail until I was in my 50s. In my 20s, 30s, 40s, I was just working and using drugs.”

Fernando didn’t engage in any criminal behavior aside from possessing and using drugs, but started getting arrested in his 50s for being under the influence after the manager at his trailer park noticed and called the police. Fernando had lived there with his mom for the last 20 years, and she passed away before he sought help at the mission in January 2019. “I felt so guilty about my lifestyle,” he said. “I was tired of going to jail and using drugs. I wanted to find another way of living.”

Fernando said he was successful in finding that with the help of the program and its classes. “You have sit and learn and do the work. The classes were really helpful. And being at the store,” Fernando added, referring to the vocational training opportunities at the mission’s thrift store. “I’ve always had jobs, but I was always under the influence of something. It’s so different now. That was like a past life.”

Fernando is now working at Composite Plastic Systems. His remaining criminal charges have been dropped. “I came here with nothing,” he said. “I have a car now, and I have money in my pocket. Before, I never had money in my pocket, because if I had it, I’d spend it to get high. I’ve learned a lot here and part of it is how to manage money. This program changed my whole attitude, and changed the way I see things.”

Fernando is now in the Transitional Living Program house and is enjoying the stability. He is committed to staying sober and connected to God. “When I first came in the program, I didn’t want to stay, and now I don’t want to leave,” he said. “If I knew there were places like this, I would have gone a long time ago. But it’s all on God’s time. I will not go back. There is no way I can go back to using. If I go back, I’ll end up dying.”

The toughest part of coming to the program originally, Fernando said, was leaving behind his beloved pup, Kiko, a blue heeler. Kiko has been staying with Fernando’s sister now for more than 18 months, but he visits often, as she lives in Lompoc. “I will visit him today and on the weekends,” Fernando said. “It just makes my day when I see him—he makes me happy. We’ll spend some time at the park, just me and him.”

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