Carmen Murillo could hardly believe her eyes. She had seen many things during her decades of abusing heroin, cocaine, opioid pills and alcohol, but this sight shocked her: a young woman, completely strung out on drugs, her mind gone, naked on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
It suddenly dawned on Murillo that she, too, was on the road to destruction. Her daily routine for the past two weeks had been:
- See her husband off to work in the morning.
- Drive downtown to buy pills and heroin on the streets.
- Drive back home to Pasadena to get high.
Sometimes she didn’t even wait to get home. “I would even be using it in the car while I was driving—holding the wheel while shooting up,” Murillo recalls.
Born in Mexico, Murillo came to the U.S. with her family when she was about 9. As a teen in Van Nuys, Calif., she got involved with “the wrong crowd”—young people who would party, smoke and sniff paint. Among them was a 21-year-old man who would become her boyfriend and the father of her two children by the time she was 17.
One day when the children were small, Murillo found some cocaine in her boyfriend’s belongings. When he came home, she held it up and said, “I’ll give it to you, but I want to try it.” After she snorted the cocaine, he pulled out some heroin. “We injected it right away,” she said, and the addiction was immediate: “I just wanted to feel that all the time.”
For most of the next 12 years, she did. “I would wait for my kids’ dad to come home,” she recalls, “and hope that he would bring something. We grew marijuana in the backyard and sold it so we could get a fix. Then I started prostituting myself to support our habits—I’ve been to jail so many times for prostitution and for being under the influence. That continued until I was about 30.”
Knowing she needed help, Murillo went through a 12-step program, and she stayed clean for nine years. But one day while exercising at a gym, she suffered a torn meniscus that required surgery. The doctor prescribed an opioid for the post-surgical pain, and soon Murillo was in a freefall.
“The pills felt just like heroin to me,” she says.
Before long, she was taking 20-30 pills a day in addition to heroin.
“I felt hopeless,” Murillo says. “I couldn’t believe I was hooked on those things again, after being clean for nine years.”
Finally, after her two-week binge on the streets of L.A., she confided in a friend who convinced her to go through detox at a local hospital. Murillo knew she would not stay clean on her own, so she contacted the Walter Hoving Home.
“When I first entered the home and walked into the dining room, I was so broken, I didn’t really want anyone near me,” Murillo says. “But I saw that they had my name on the board, which was nice, and then I saw how the girls cared for me. I was feeling very cold, so someone came and put a sweater on me. It was a loving thing to do.”
What Murillo thought would be a short stay at the home has turned into months as she has decided to complete a one-year program that is scheduled to finish in May. She has committed her life to Jesus Christ, and she sees hope for her future.
“I’ve been here eight months,” she told Decisionin January, “and I feel like I’ve been healing. I’ve learned a lot about myself. And I have Jesus Christ. The other programs don’t have God. Jesus Christ is here. I’m trusting that He’s going to heal me, and I am depending on Him.”