After years in the Ventura River bottom, Lawrence seeks help

Lawrence was born in California to two truck drivers. After experiencing some financial problems, his parents sold their home and relocated to West Virginia. “I noticed my parents were kind of veering away from each other,” Lawrence said. “Now that I know what I know, I see that they weren’t in love anymore.”

Lawrence’s older sister was having some marital problems back in California, and his mother went back to help her move. “Time went by, and I kept asking my dad where my mom was,” Lawrence said. “He finally said, ‘Your mom’s not coming back.’ I was 13.”

Lawrence ended up moving to California to live with his mom. “In high school, I was in special-ed reading, but I was in every sport I could get into,” he said. “I was undefeated in wrestling and in the newspaper every week. I played football and basketball and ran track.” But things started to derail when his sister, who was a nude dancer, started bringing her friends around. “She introduced me to (a fellow dancer), and she was a meth addict. She was always asking me if I wanted some. That’s where it started. Before I knew it, I was taking (drugs) to school, getting people high.”

His involvement with the drug wasn’t limited to using or even selling. Lawrence’s brother in law and uncle were cooking it too, and they welcomed Lawrence into the fold. “I was seeing all the nice things they had, like brand new vehicles,” Lawrence said. “They taught me how to cook dope my senior year.”

Lawrence’s cash windfall piqued the interest of a friend’s parents. “I had a brand new truck and then I bought some jet skis,” he said. “My friend’s mom and dad ended up calling the cops. That’s when my prison career got started.”

Lawrence got three years for manufacturing drugs. But the sentence didn’t deter him. “It just got me used to doing time.”

When Lawrence got out of prison, he got into drugs “full blown. I had my own labs. I would get everything I wanted and then I’d lose it all and go to prison. Then I’d do it all again.”

Eventually Lawrence tired of the cycle and told his mom, who was sick and bedridden, that he’d never cook again. “I wasn’t done using it though,” he said.

Lawrence became homeless and lived in the Ventura River bottom for more than four years. “One day something just clicked,” he said. “I just asked myself, ‘What am I doing?’”
Lawrence had heard about the Mission. “Somebody at the river bottom told me we could come over here to eat, sleep, or even stay. I came up here just to eat. And then I saw it and I just knew it was where I needed to go.

“I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I made up my mind that the mission was what I needed. I was tired of living down there, tired of doing what I was doing—stealing, wondering where I was going to get the next (meal).”

Lawrence is now nearing graduation from the mission’s Life Recovery Program. “I’m doing so good right now, it’s scary,” Lawrence said, smiling. “God has kept me here. It’s just a blessing. I haven’t had any cravings to get high, or to drink. It’s definitely all God. Thank God for the mission.”