Their Stories: Pilar Montesino

It took me a long time to finally get to SFI!  In 2009, my teenage sons were doing community service at Anaheim First Christian Church and we were attending occasionally. In 2010, they referred us to the Anaheim Harbor Family Resource Center because some domestic violence issues at home were getting really bad and my boys were not doing well at school. MSH staff reached out to me then, but I just kept putting them off. I was good at thinking of excuses not to get involved.

I’m so glad they were persistent! In late 2013, I finally gave in and signed up. I didn’t really know what to expect, but as the class began, I started to see why it was going to be so good for me. By the 2nd quarter, I was being pressed to really look at myself and to assess the difficulties I was having with my partner and with my sons. During that time, both of my boys left…one to Mexico…and neither of them even said good-bye. It plunged me into a deep depression and all I could do was cry all day. I didn’t want to do anything and felt like a total failure. Thankfully, my SFI facilitator encouraged me not to give up. It was my salvation! Being back with the group helped me to get focused and I found such support and it reminded me that my boys may be gone, but my daughter was still at home and watching me.

By the 3rd quarter, I was depressed for a different reason…I realized how much grief I could have saved myself if I had started SFI two years sooner! The communication skills, the conflict management skills, the confidence to be in charge without having to control; these tools could have saved our family so much heartache. I felt so bad about it and had so much regret. But, once again, my classmates stepped in and reminded me that I couldn’t do anything about the past, but there was plenty I could do about the future. They urged me to get more involved with my SFI volunteer hours and it was a great tonic for me. It distracted me from my own problems because I was able to see there were others struggling, too, and I could relate. As I listened and encouraged others, I found encouragement myself. I don’t know what I would have done without the constant and consistent support of both my SFI “sisters” and the MSH staff throughout the entire experience. They believed in me more than I believed in myself!

The other thing that impacted me was really confronting my spiritual health. We were involved at the church, but I realized that I was not really connected to God or working on my relationship with Him. What a difference that made!  When you finally give up control…especially of things you can’t control…it’s amazing how much relief comes into your life.

It’s been a year now since I graduated and I continue to be amazed at how different I am. I’m so grateful for all who invested in me and were patient with me. MSH is really a labor of love that is making such a difference in this neighborhood. I still wish that I had done SFI sooner and avoided issues in my own family, but we have come so far and I’m committed to helping other mothers make better choices and avoid the heartache of an unhealthy family.