The one question that changed Chris’ life forever

Chris with his sons, Carl, 17, and Cameron, 7.

Chris with his sons, Carl, 17, and Cameron, 7.

He’s now nearing 16 years of sobriety

When Chris is asked to recall his childhood, there’s a lot that he admits he would rather not think about. “I’m still processing it all if I’m honest,” he said. “I’m still not fully healed.”

On the outside, Chris seemed to have an “All-American” background, competing in track and cross country, working at Taco Bell, growing up in Oxnard with his three siblings, mom, and stepdad. But behind closed doors, it was another story.

Chris’ mother was an alcoholic, and while his stepdad “did his best,” Chris says the damage was done. “It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde growing up,” he said. “She was the sweetest lady when she was sober, which wasn’t a lot, but when she drank, she was evil. … No one knew we suffered at home.

“I moved out when I was 16. I worked and went to school but eventually, because of my home life, had to leave school. I couldn’t go to school and support myself, and I couldn’t stay at home because it was too hard. So, I dropped out of school and started in construction.”

Chris was a “late bloomer” when it came to drugs, he said. At 21, Chris fell into the wrong crowd and was introduced to methamphetamines. “I was never popular in high school, I was alone, so when the drugs came in the picture, all of a sudden I had friends,” he said. “People wanted to be around me. I was hooked.”

Chris’ addiction continued, leading to homelessness. One day he was approached by Pastor Norm. “I’ll tell this story ‘til I’m blue in the face,” Chris laughs. Norm asked Chris one simple question: “Son, have you had something to eat?”

“He put his arm around me,” Chris said. “That was my first day of recovery. I felt something different. I knew there was more out there. … Norm was the first person ever to show me unconditional love.”

While the start to Chris’ sobriety journey was rocky, with a couple relapses in the beginning and the death of his mother in 2007, Chris went to the Mission where he graduated in September 2008.

Now, Chris celebrates over 15 years of sobriety. He lives in the High Desert with his wife, Cherie (“the best thing to happen to him”), and their two sons, Carl, 17, and Cameron, 7. He received his GED, and is employed. Chris attributes his continued success to the tools that he acquired at the Mission.

“The program gave me the spiritual, mental, and physical motivation and (the) opportunity to succeed,” he said. “When I worked through the phases and was finally able to think outside myself and my circumstance – realizing God just wants me, my heart… even my pain – that was key.

“The Mission saved my life. Literally. If it wasn’t for that day, I wouldn’t be here. It started with that hug, with that meal, from someone who didn’t want anything from me.”