The love a parent has for his or her children is one of the strongest bonds in the world. One of the most destructive bonds, on the other hand, is a drug addiction.
Ruben Vargas is not even 30, but has experienced a great deal of extremes in life — too many, he would say. “It’s been a long road. Time just flies when you’re not doing anything with your life.”
Forced to navigate his way through drugs and gang life as a teenager, Vargas’ main worry was where he would sleep at night. Parks, drug houses, and even people’s backyards were common places he would stay. “It’s more comfortable than sleeping on a sidewalk,” he said.
Even though he spent much of his teen years drifting from place to place with nothing to call home, Vargas would have bigger obstacles to face later in life.
From 2008-2011, Vargas was again homeless — only this time he had lost custody of his first two children.
“That was the hardest thing,” he said. “They would come and want to spend the night with daddy, but daddy didn’t have a place for them to stay in.”
Everything else in Vargas’ life also hit rock bottom. He lost his job and house, and was basically hanging out anywhere he could. This was all due to his addiction. “I didn’t know how to quit,” he said.
After serving a prison-based drug offender sentencing alternative in Chehalis, Vargas was sent back to Wenatchee. Despite wanting to stay out of harm’s way, there was no safe place for him to stay. “The only places I knew where I could go were dope houses,” he said.
Vargas eventually found his way to the Chelan County Regional Justice Center, where he was given the option to stay in the organization’s halfway house, though with a caveat. Due to the high number of applicants, he was told to stay off of drugs for one weekend, and to come back the following Monday to proceed with the paperwork.
That weekend, he stayed at his ex-wife’s home. She had custody of their two children, but that didn’t stop her from using drugs. Vargas managed to stay clean. “I just focused my attention on the kids, and the whole weekend, that’s all I did. We played. We had such a great time,” he said.
From that point, Vargas’ life slowly got better. A new home, along with a new family, graced him. Though Vargas has since stayed clean, his main concern right now resides with his children. “[I’m going to] try to give them the best life I didn’t have.”
Jeric Quiliza was an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Eastmont School District the past year. He’s writing a series of profiles on people who are homeless. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.