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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 7:38 pm | Fair 59º


Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Celebrates Newest Class of Rehabilitation Graduates

More than a dozen men and women honored for completing 12-month residential drug and alcohol treatment program

Graduates of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential drug and alcohol treatment program were honored with a commencement ceremony Saturday at a packed Santa Barbara Community Church. Click to view larger
Graduates of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential drug and alcohol treatment program were honored with a commencement ceremony Saturday at a packed Santa Barbara Community Church. (Dale Weber / Santa Barbara Rescue Mission photo)

Santa Barbara Community Church was filled Saturday as family and friends celebrated the latest Santa Barbara Rescue Mission graduates who chose rehabilitation over addiction.

As the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the air, 16 men and women marched down the church’s center aisle to standing ovations, cheers, smiles and tears from the crowd.

The Rescue Mission honored the accomplishments of the graduates from the 12-month, state-certified residential drug and alcohol treatment program.

With Saturday’s ceremony, 711 people have completed the Rescue Mission’s recovery program since 1997.

Sharply dressed in black, alumna Joselle N., 41, rose to address several hundred supporters at the “Tribute to Recovery” ceremony. The room fell silent as she began to speak.

Joselle had struggled with decades of addiction and alcoholism, and had received six DUIs.

“I have a disease,” she announced. “I am insane when I drink and use. I am powerless. My life revolved around mind-altering substances.

“I knew God had a plan for me and it was getting sober. God was saving my life.”

Joselle said alcoholism runs in her family, and she noted she had been verbally abused as a child by her stepmother.

In middle school, she gravitated to the marijuana crowd.

“From that moment on, my life would no longer be the same for many, many years,” she said. “I partied regularly for the next 27 years.”

Joselle’s encounters with law enforcement started with a battery charge when she was 15, and she picked up her first DUI at age 20. She was convicted of two domestic violence offenses, and has been in jail eight times and outpatient treatment seven.

Tears were wiped and guests clutched each other for support as she continued.

The 16 women and men graduating from the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission program got front-row seats for Saturday’s ceremony. Click to view larger
The 16 women and men graduating from the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission program got front-row seats for Saturday’s ceremony. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

“I’ve had a lot of raw anger throughout my whole life,” she related. “I didn’t know how to deal with it until much later.

“When I drink and use, I am violent. When I put alcohol and drugs into my body, I immediately have no control.”

Through the help of the Rescue Mission, Joselle said she now has the opportunity to live a healthy and happy life. Her solution, she added, is Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step program, and God.

“I had a spiritual awakening,” she said. “I no longer live in a dark world. I live in the light today.”

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is certified by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, which ensures participants are receiving the highest level of distinction given to nonmedical treatment facilities.

Statistics prove the longer someone is in treatment, the greater the chance of long-term success, said Rebecca Weber, the Rescue Mission’s director of communications and constituent relations.

Weber said the nonprofit mission has a 36 percent completion rate, which is better than the national average of one in five people who will complete treatment.

Because substance abuse has a sizable impact on the community, it is often a contributing factor to homelessness, she noted.

The Rescue Mission focuses 85 percent of its resources on recovery efforts employing residential modalities, Weber said.

The men and women who graduate complete 365 days in the program. The first nine months are spent in treatment criteria, and during evening hours those in the program are required to participate in local support meetings.

Program elements consist of completing the 12 steps of recovery in either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, grief recovery, relationships classes, group counseling, process groups, Christian community counseling and individualized curriculum in the mission’s Learning Center.

The last three months, while still living at the mission, the individuals are working or going to college and becoming contributing members of society, said L.B. Chandler, the men’s program director.

“They have established a new community unlike what they had when they stepped into SBRM a year ago,” he said. “They develop accountability, learn to be on time, develop relationships, participate in chores at SBRM, and are a social model of the program.”

Chandler said methamphetamine and opiates are still the drugs of choice among youth.

The trend among the population the Rescue Mission serves has shifted in the past 10 years from over 40 to under 30, he said. Genetic factors, family dysfunction, childhood trauma and social pressures all contribute to addiction.

One of the major focuses of the staff is to support the residents and secure a support system within the community to help them maintain their long-term recovery.

Along with the the mission, the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse is the only other partnership organization that works with men and women struggling with addiction, Chandler said.

Even after graduation, he said, an individual will continue to fight the life-long battle against addiction.

The Rescue Mission staff believes in after care, which means making the transition into a sober living environment, Chandler said.

Because the mission has a Men’s Sober Living facility, he said, participants can make the transition into post treatment that offers greater autonomy in the community while still maintaining accountability.

For change to occur there’s a need for greater awareness, understanding, compassion and empathy of what brings people to active addictions, Chandler added.

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission receives no government funding and is entirely supported by community donations.

The organization has served the community for 51 years, providing emergency services and long-term recovery for the homeless and addicted. It is the only emergency shelter that is open 365 nights of the year, between Santa Maria and Ventura, with 80 beds for men and 20 for women and children.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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