Teenage trauma led Amanda Lunsford to a path of service

Amanda+Lunsford%2C+the+local+chapter+leader+of+the+Young+People+in+Recovery+group%2C+on+East+Campus+at+City+College+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+Calif.+Lunsford+hosts+Rainbow+Recovery+and+other+LGBTQ%2B+YPR+online+support+groups.

Desiree Erdmann

Amanda Lunsford, the local chapter leader of the Young People in Recovery group, on East Campus at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Lunsford hosts Rainbow Recovery and other LGBTQ+ YPR online support groups.

Heidi Hutton Rigoli, Staff Writer

Stuck in jail, City College student Amanda Lunsford realized she had to stop her cycle of addiction.

But she didn’t know how.

Lunsford started using alcohol and drugs as a 17-year-old and years of rehab, jail, and sometimes living out of her car led to despair.

“I had a moment where it hit me,” said Lunsford. “If I kept doing what I was doing, I was always going to wind up in the same place.”

That “moment” came when Lunsford was arrested and called her mother to bail her out. 

Her mother, who usually came to the rescue, refused to come.

“It’s on you now,” Lunsford’s mother told her.

“Looking back, I see she wasn’t enabling me anymore, which was what I needed,” Lunsford said. “It was up to me to make a change, but I didn’t know if that was even possible.”

She found how it was possible because Lunsford, now 26 and a psychology major, shares her road to recovery to Santa Barbara through Young People in Recovery meetings.

But her recovery was a slow and difficult one.

After three months in jail, Lunsford then went to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Bethel House, a faith-based, 12-month residential treatment facility for women.

“What kept me there the first few months was fear,” she said.

After a few months, she noticed she wasn’t angry and miserable all the time.

“I was starting to trust myself again,” she said.

After Bethel House, she lived for ten months at a sober living home. It was then that she was ready to move out on her own.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping people,” said Lunsford.

She found a position with YPR, a national organization with chapters throughout the U.S.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping people,” said Lunsford.

When not online due to the pandemic, meetings are usually held at various locations. YPR is open to all paths of recovery.

“Recovery is different for everyone,” Lunsford said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

After a few weeks of training, Lunsford became the Santa Barbara Chapter Lead. She hosts meetings, plans events and runs workshops.

In January, she started an LGBTQ+ community meeting called “Rainbow Recovery.”

“We identified a need for the LGBTQ+ community, who are disproportionately affected by substance abuse,” Lunsford said. 

A report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that almost 40% of the LGBTQ+ community use illicit drugs compared to 17% of those who identify as heterosexual.

Lunsford joins The Anchor Program at City College to hold YPR meetings every Monday at 6 p.m. Meetings have ended for this semester but will resume next semester.

“YPR has a wonderful mission to help provide life skills and help people recover from Substance Use Disorder,” said Lacey Peters, personal counselor and coordinator of The Anchor Program. “I  like that these meetings are for everyone and all are welcome.”

Meeting information can be found on the YPR website, Facebook and Instagram.

“I never thought I could be happy in recovery,” Lunsford said, “but there’s always hope.”