Regina had a strong support system, a Christian background, and beautiful family. But after a fertility struggle and a surgery, she found herself battling addiction.
“I grew up in Westlake Village in a great family. I did really well for myself,” said Regina, who worked in insurance. “I had a beautiful daughter and a great husband, and I literally threw it all away.”
Regina desperately wanted another child, and she wasn’t able. “I did a lot of the ‘Why me? Everyone else is having babies, why not me?’ I just spiraled. I didn’t understand it at the time, but looking back, I see that I was blaming God. I was going to church, teaching Sunday School—and I just stopped. I turned away from everything I knew.”
At 26, Regina had surgery on her feet and was prescribed pain pills. “It was the perfect storm,” she said. “I was depressed. I started getting migraines and anxiety. The doctors kept prescribing and I kept taking, and then overtaking. I got deeper and deeper into drugs.”
Regina had a supportive husband, in-laws and parents. “I’ve had so many people in my life try to help me,” Regina said in tears. “There was so much guilt and shame. I have an amazing daughter. And I was so self-involved, and I let my needs—or what I felt I needed—come before her and everyone else. My family tried so many times to get me help. I’d start to receive it, and then I’d walk away from it.”
Regina tried many programs. “I went to a really nice, fancy rehab that my ex-husband thought would be great for me,” she said. “It was by the beach and I love the beach. He was trying to help me. I came out worse. I learned about street drugs there and started using those. I kept relapsing and relapsing. They never knew what they were going to find when they got home. Some days I’d be OK, some days I was out of my mind, slurring and stumbling.”
By the time her daughter was 11, Regina said she was fully checked out. “She had a mom, and then she didn’t.” And after 17 years, her marriage ended. “He tried his best, but he just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Over the next 20 years, Regina remained in her addiction. She tried more than once to end her life. “I know I should be dead,” she said. “The doctors said they didn’t know how I was still alive. I do. God had other plans for me.”
After surviving her most recent attempt, Regina was sent to a psychiatric facility in Ventura where she met a man and moved in with him. “He was a drug dealer,” she said. “It was abusive, tumultuous, horrific relationship. It was awful. The relationship was just built around drugs. He strangled me and went to jail for a week, and that’s when I left.”
Regina lived in her car off and on for eight months. “It was awful. You shower at the beach. You try to change your clothes so people don’t know you’re homeless. Even trying to find a place to use the bathroom … Thank God he took care of me while I was out there. I just lived in fear. I went back on pills because I was so anxious. It scared me so much being in my car all night, I started using to stay awake because I was so frightened.
“At that point, I’m 50 years old. I’m a grandmother to four boys and I’m living in my car doing drugs. How sad is that? But God was slowly but surely bringing me here. Finally, I hit my knees and just said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I was so scared. When I got here, they called me ‘Chihuahua’ because I shook so badly.”
Regina said she was scared at first to come to the Lighthouse. “I had to think about it. Isn’t that crazy? I was that sick. I had to think about, do I want to live in my car, or do I want to get help?
“My daughter said to me, ‘If you go to a program for a year, I’ll allow you to see the kids. I’ll allow you to be in my life again.’ And this is years of this poor girl having me in and out, in and out, just seeing glimpses of sobriety. She gave me another chance and she drove me here. I prayed and I prayed. As time went on, I realized that God was ever-so-present here. He started changing my mind and softening my heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says ‘I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ And that is what he did for me.”
Thirty days into her stay at the Lighthouse, Regina’s sister, who also struggled with drugs, took her life. “We were really close. I remember thinking, ‘I want her to have what I have. I wanted her to see me have success.’ Now she’s seeing me from heaven. The girls here gave me this (note) that said ‘You’re right where you’re supposed to be.’ That to me was really God speaking to my heart. I knew my parents couldn’t lose another daughter.”
Regina stayed in the program for 11 months. “God and the Lighthouse and what they offer here completely restarted my life, completely gave me a life I never knew I could have,” she said. “For the first time in my life, I felt true joy; I felt true peace.”
Regina was baptized last August and graduated in November before moving into the transitional living program. In March, she was asked to return to the Lighthouse to intern as the house manager. “I’m grateful that I get to be here, that I get to serve here,” Regina said. “It’s a privilege to serve as the house manager, and I don’t take it lightly. I feel so blessed. I love these ladies so, so much. Every day I say to God, ‘You monitor my steps. You tell me what to do and who I can serve.’ Because I served me for a very long time.”
Now Regina plans to take biblical counseling classes and go back to school. “I want to work in ministry,” she said. “I want to help counsel ladies going through what I went through. This is the only thing I see myself doing now. I relate and I understand what these ladies are going through. I had a girl say, ‘How can you love me? You haven’t even known me that long.’ I told her, ‘God loves you.’ He calls us to do that. It’s with a genuine heart that I tell these ladies I love them. You really feel his presence here. He works through me every day.”
Regina praised the donors who give so that the Lighthouse can operate. “How they just have it in their heart to help us and do what they do for us … I came here with no clothes. When I got here, I had nothing. Now, I have everything I need. There are so many amazing people out there and they’ve touched my life so genuinely, and I don’t even know who they are. We are so grateful. I can’t say thank you enough. Without them having it on their hearts to help us, we couldn’t make these changes.”