Hope for the holidays: People fighting addiction spend Christmas in recovery

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - When you're working to break addiction and turn your life around, there are no days off. That includes Christmas.

Ernie Garcia

After signing up for the program at Youth Challenge, you sign up for a year of flipping your life upside down to break free from addiction.

It starts with moving to their Hope Center in Newport News. For the people there now, that means missing Christmas at home.

Ernie Garcia reads a Christmas card sent from his 19-year-old daughter. Her picture sits on his desk.

Christmas gifts and clothes sit on his bed at Youth Challenge. Garcia is in recovery from a drug addiction.

"It grips you and it starts not to be fun anymore," he told us. "This is my third rehab."

This one took him thousands of miles from his home in California.

The 41-year-old is eight months into his year at Youth Challenge, a faith-based addiction program in Newport News. Men and women in treatment are required to live at the facility.

"I can get a little emotional thinking about how my wife and kids are back at home, but I need to take a break from how I was living and allow God to change me," Garcia said.

Men's home director LaVon Reynolds knows the feeling.

He was in treatment at Youth Challenge 10 years ago, but he says leaving the program during the holidays could threaten the recovery process.

"The holidays are kind of the time for guys to get out and get into their addiction a little bit more. We try to encourage them that this time away is a time to better yourself," Reynolds said.

But they won't be alone.

On Christmas Day, family can visit for a few hours in the afternoon.

While Garcia's wife and kids are living across the country, he says his brother who lives in Chesapeake will be here.

"First and foremost, my family is really for my sobriety and they're my biggest fans," he said.

But even those who don't have family visiting will still have their Youth Challenge family to lift them up.

On Christmas Eve morning, the men's home director and Executive Director Travis Hall made all the guys omelettes. They also celebrated Jesus' birth.

Click here for more information about Youth Challenge.

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