Aaron's Story


My rock bottom moment, the one that hurt the most, when my parents said ‘We don’t want you around anymore. Try this place [VRM] out, or be on your way.’ Knowing that we had a close bond, but I’d dug a hole so deep that I separated us so far apart. I’d heard it, saw it coming, but when it was put in my face that I’d gone too far out and caused them to not like me anymore, that was it. To have someone I love put it in my face so blatantly, and truthfully, that was my emotional rock bottom.

It sucked really bad, but it was a rude awakening to knowing that I needed to change. Since coming to the Mission, what I found is, my true self, as cheesy as that sounds. I’m learning about who I am, realizing my self-worth and that I have a lot to offer.

I was super reluctant to come here, but somewhere along the process it became about internalizing what I was learning and really applying it to myself. I was tired of doing the “I’ve changed talk” and needed to start doing the “I’ve changed walk.”

What started my addiction was, I went from one bad relationship with a girlfriend to feeling like my whole life was falling apart, so I went out and tried to cover up that hurt. At first it was just going out and doing something reckless, and then it turned into drugs, and before I knew it I wasn’t even focusing on the problem anymore. I didn’t deal with it in the right way, I let myself get out of control and didn’t deal with issues the way normal people would. But then when you hit recovery, you start focusing on the actual problem that was never dealt with.

I recognize that I let myself get out of control. Everything was so great, I can’t blame childhood, my parents, no one but myself. I broke myself.

I can’t deflect to another issue, because I am the issue. So it’s hard to forgive myself. At this moment, I need to forgive myself for wasting so many years of not becoming this person I am now, which I wish I had done a long time ago.

My relationship with my parents is getting better. I’m allowed to be around again, and that’s a huge step that I didn’t think would happen so fast. I haven’t told them a lot about what I’m learning and doing here, but trying to show them instead so they can see the change in me.

I didn’t come here with any expectations, but this program and the relationships I’ve made here have given me the encouragement I needed to keep making the changes I need to make. Support is key. A lot of times I’m not sure if what I’m doing is working, but getting that positive feedback helps because a lot of times I feel lost in “recovery”.

Recently, my mom said to me, “You had to become a heroin addict to be saved.” And I fully believe that.

Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.