Jose Carrillo said the turning point for him in his battle against drugs was when he sought shelter with friends but was turned away. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
Freshly showered and neatly groomed, polar opposites Jose Carrillo and Gerald Williams sat in the dining hall at the Lighthouse Mission and recounted their substance abuse problems and what led them to seek help.
The talkative and energetic Carrillo readily spoke of the horrific years he was addicted to drugs. The 28-year-old said he spent years strung out on methamphetamine, stealing often to support his crippling addiction.
Humble and quiet, with downcast eyes, Williams, 50, told of his personal struggles, his spider web-tattooed hands tightly clasped before him.
Carrillo and Williams are among 13 men who voluntarily belong to a new Lighthouse Mission program focused on Bible study, good morals and job skills.
The participants eat, live and work at the mission as members of the Lighthouse Discipleship.
The purpose of the 12-month program is to assist former substance abusers in building the necessary skills to begin a new life, according to Mission co-director Richard Gomez.
“We (Lighthouse Mission) know how important it is to get these men on the right track with Jesus,” he said.
Carillo said he eventually spent five months in jail. Upon his release from the Curry County Adult Detention Center, he said he was crushed to discover he had lost custody of his children.
“I just knew there had to be something better,” Carillo said.
Even after losing his wife, children and freedom, he said he had still not reached the point of needing to seek help.
“I heard about the program (Lighthouse Discipleship), and I even went and checked it out,” he said, “but I left because I wasn’t ready to give up the life I was used to.”
The turning point came for Carillo when he sought shelter with friends but was turned away.
“I felt so alone,” Carillo said. “I felt like God was calling me to join the program.”
Williams said he moved to Clovis to care for his ailing mother. Boredom led him to begin using alcohol and drugs, he said.
“I just did it (drugs and alcohol) whenever I had the money,” Williams said.
With tear-filled eyes and a pained expression, Williams said a family member reported his drug use to the authorities, which eventually led to his arrest. The relative also accused him of selling his mother’s possessions.
“I would never do that,” Williams said with an emphatic shake of his head. “My mother was in a wheelchair, and I gave some of her things to a needy friend.”
Williams said it took his mother’s dying on Christmas Eve while he was incarcerated to realize he needed a major life change. “I had been goofing off for 20 years,” Williams said. “I wanted to change my lifestyle.”
The men participate in the four-phase program voluntarily; each phase lasts 90 days.
The phases are:
• Phase 1 — The men are required to live in a group setting at the mission and are always in the company of a counselor or staff member. They must attend a 12-step recovery program, Bible study classes, four hours daily of job-related skills training and prayer sessions.
• Phase 2 — The men are allowed to get a part-time job and move into a Lighthouse Mission-owned apartment. They must attend Bible study and prayer.
• Phase 3 — The men are allowed to become employed full-time and attend the church of their choice.
• Phase 4 — The men move out into their own apartments away from the Lighthouse Mission and begin three months of personal counseling.
Assistant program director Joe Padilla calls the program a true blessing.
“Slowly and patiently we are teaching these men they can do anything through the Lord,” Padilla said.
Gomez said the program, which is men only at this point, is funded strictly by donations.
“We hope to add a women’s program in the near future,” he said, “but we estimate a cost of $190,000 annually for both.”
To help defray program costs, the participants hold donation car washes and are required to give 25 percent of their paychecks to the Lighthouse Mission once they begin phase two of the program.
Although still in the first phase of the Christian-based program, Carillo and Williams credit it for saving their lives.
“I didn’t want to live,” Carillo said, “but I’m not scared anymore.”
Williams echoed Carillo’s sentiment. “I didn’t even want to go on (with life),” Williams said, “but now I have hope for my future.”