Esteban remembers what he calls his first experience with Jesus Christ. He was struggling with anxiety and depression, and went to the hospital. “I was having these intense panic attacks, like really, really bad,” he said. “I kept going to the hospital. And the last time I was there, the pastor at New Life Church, he met me there. And he laid his hand on me and prayed. And as soon as he touched me, I just started uncontrollably crying, just like instantaneously. That was the first experience I had with Jesus.”
Esteban had been doing drugs for about 10 years. “I started when I was 13 or 14, somewhere around there,” he said. “I started with alcohol and then marijuana. Then it was cocaine and ecstasy—whatever was around. It just took over.”
Esteban, a 31-year-old Oxnard native, has a son who is 9. “Me and his mom were together for about a year when we had him. After he was born, it was on and off,” he said.
A major turning point in Esteban’s life was when he overdosed in 2012. “That was kind of like my first rock bottom,” he said. “Then I broke up with my son’s mom. And that was another rock bottom. And so since then, it’s just been this uphill climb, trying to get back to ground level.”
Esteban started going to church on his own. He got baptized in 2014. “I just felt it in my heart,” he said. “It was nice to go up. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t know everything that came with me following Jesus. I couldn’t go back to what I used to do. But I did. And then I got disciplined by God. That showed me that I’m a real child of God because the Bible says that he corrects those he loves.”
Esteban got off drugs in 2013 and quit alcohol in 2015, after he and his son’s mom broke up for good. There have still been tough times. “Once the drugs were gone, I didn’t have anything to run to,” he said. “The anxiety and depression, it came back really hard this time. Like I was barely sleeping, barely getting up to go to work. There’s just this overwhelming pressure and this feeling of being stuck. I just knew I couldn’t go on like this.”
Esteban went to the hospital when he started feeling suicidal. He was sent to a psychiatric facility for a day before going to a crisis residential treatment facility in Ventura. “I was there for three weeks,” said Esteban, who was diagnosed with major depression.
“That’s where they got me on my medication and gave me all of these tools. It ultimately led me here. I didn’t want to come here at first. But one of the nurses there, we made a connection. And she pulled me aside and told me she believes in Jesus too.
She told me, ‘You know you don’t want to stay in your car and be alone. You know you just came from isolation, and you don’t want to go back.’ I took at that as God speaking to me through her. So I called in, and here I am.”
Esteban said the environment has been very positive. “It’s so much better here,” Esteban said. “I’m learning here. I need the structure, and the faith. It’s been good for me.”
Esteban said the chaplains have been especially helpful. “They always (remind us) that they are here for us,” he said. “They know we have a need. They come to us and are here to help us. And all the guys too. When you come from isolation and then you come to a place like this, it’s hard to isolate. They give me what I was missing out there.”
Esteban wants to graduate from the program and then is interested in entering the transitional living house. “I was thinking, down the road, about trying to get a job at the Boys & Girls Club—I used to go to it when I was small. I’d like to encourage people and especially kids. Growing up, we all have this need to hear praise and hear, ‘You’re worth something.” I know the world can beat you down. And I just want to be that person to lift them up and say, ‘You’re special.’”