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ELIJAH PREPARES FOR ‘NEW BEGINNINGS’ AS HE NEARS GRADUATION
After years of his addiction running his life, Elijah said it hurt him deeply when he realized what he had done to his parents and how much he had worried them. “I took advantage of their love for me,” he said. “I didn’t care at the time about anyone but myself.”
So when his parents visited the Mission during Elijah’s time in the Life Recovery Program, it meant a lot when his mom pulled him aside. “She told me, ‘I’ve been watching you. I was looking in your eyes. It says it all over your face: You’re at peace now.’”
Elijah, 31, said he had a healthy and happy childhood because of his parents. “I grew up in a good family, good background, going to the best schools,” he said. “We went to church—I always knew God. But as I grew up—around high school—I fell out of it. I did my own thing.”
Elijah started drinking during his senior year. “I was focused on partying,” he said. “I was addicted to my image and my status. It was about being popular, and being known as “that guy.”
Elijah’s parents were both real estate agents, and they encouraged him to follow in their footsteps. “They were trying to help me be like them, but I didn’t want to do that stuff. It wasn’t for me.”
Elijah went to work for UPS and then held maintenance jobs at apartment complexes. “I was still holding on to all of it—the job, life. I was still functional. (At work) people had an idea of what I was doing, but never caught me,” Elijah said. “But it all eventually caught up with me. I got into trouble with the law, got a couple DUIs, and went to jail on probation violations. I was in and out.”
Elijah saw other people in worse shape than him that avoided serious trouble. “I would just think, ‘Why me? Why am I getting all these DUIs, going to jail, and they aren’t getting in trouble?’ I knew it was my fault. I didn’t trust God.
“I felt like I was in a hole that I had made for myself and couldn’t get out,” Elijah added. “My whole family was there trying to help me, but I didn’t want the help. I was too stuck in my own self. I was too busy with friends and going out. I was so focused on that, and I couldn’t break it.”
Elijah knew he couldn’t continue on that way and tried to put some distance between himself and his friends. He also tried to break it off with a girl he’d been seeing. “She was feeding my addiction,” he said. “She knew what to do to get a hold of me. She knew exactly what to say—that she had bought (drugs). When they ran out, I’d try to go home, try to stop. I’d always end up back there. I knew I needed help. I wanted help.”
A friend of Elijah’s told him about the Mission. “He has been in the same situation I was in. He’s done drugs, has been in prison, has had these types of relationships. He asked me, ‘Are you really willing to do this? Otherwise, I don’t want to waste my time.’ I told him I needed to get away from these guys, this relationship, this town. I was well known there, but for the wrong things, and I didn’t like how that was making me feel.”
Elijah made the move. “Even though I’m from Santa Barbara County, I decided to come here, away from home,” he said. “God told me to stop what I was doing. He put my life on hold for a season and put me back where I needed to be—in a relationship with him and with my family. My eyes have been opened more with all of this, and I thank God for it. I’ve bettered myself and am on a good track.
“I just surrendered everything. I knew I needed to stay here to really think about my life and the consequences.”
Elijah enjoys his vocational training. “I’m at a position where I work a lot with the homeless,” he said. “I really get hands on with them; I know their names, I know a lot about them. I’m here to be a servant to Him and to these guys. It’s humbled me. It’s made me open my eyes to see how God put me in this place, that that could’ve been me, and that God loves me enough to make me see that.”
“If my parents had decided that they’d had enough, felt like they were going to give up … If I had kept going the way I was going, I could be in that same position (as the homeless).”
Elijah is graduating this month, and has been asked to intern at the Mission. He is planning to move into transitional housing and get a job locally. “I don’t feel like it’s necessary for me to go back home. I’d rather start a new chapter of my life—new beginnings. It’s better here, close to the Mission, being accountable.” “He put me in this place, where I am my best self, finally. Now, I trust him.”
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