Despite the challenges he’s facing—being away from his children and working on his recovery—Fitim seems to always have a smile on his face. His positivity comes from peace, he explains, because after two years of drug use and jail time, Fitim is healthy and looking forward to a new start.
“I’m glad that God sent me here because I was in darkness,” Fitim said. “Sometimes he gives us the hard way in life so we wake up, so he can shake us and say, ‘Hey, get up! I love you!’”
Fitim is from Kosovo and moved to Germany 20 years ago where he met and married his wife of 14 years. They moved a decade ago to Santa Barbara. “I tried to give it my best, to show her love the way a husband should,” said Fitim, who worked several retail jobs and delivered newspapers in the early morning. In the meantime, his marriage started to crumble.
“I was working all the time and I was so stressed,” Fitim said. One day a friend offered crystal meth, and eventually Fitim relented. “I just didn’t want to feel the pain,” he said.
After two years of using, Fitim was sent to jail. He met a Christian inmate and they read their bibles every day; he began to hunger for more Christ-based teachings. So when his 10-month sentence was up, Fitim went straight from jail to the Mission. “When I started getting high, I lost everything. I lost my whole life. But I found God.”
Fitim has two sons, 11 and 15. “They always say, ‘Dad, you are so different. We are so happy you are in the program. We cannot wait for you to be done and for us to be back together.’”
Each week, Fitim takes the bus to Santa Barbara. His boys’ grandparents bring them to a Starbucks to meet for a visit. “They run to me and they hang on me and we are screaming and kiss each other and people are looking at us, watching,” Fitim said, laughing. “They mean so much to me. … I always apologize to them, but they say, ‘Dad, we forgive you already. That’s why we are here with you. We love you even more.’”