Participants: Cheri Peters (Host), Sandra Santos, Virna Santos
Series Code: CLR
Program Code: CLR00092A
00:11 Welcome to Celebrating Life In Recovery, my name is
00:13 Cheri Peter's and recovery is a family affair.
00:17 So were going to talk to Virna and her family.
00:19 It's going to be so exciting, come and join us.
00:22 You will have a blast.
00:51 You know what really is fun, it's amazing to me our
00:55 recovery, it is amazing that God just reaches in
00:58 and changes everything.
00:59 When recovery becomes a family affair, it's so incredible to
01:05 watch each journey and be a part of each journey because
01:08 it is so different.
01:10 Today we are going to look an entire family who is in
01:12 recovery, not the everyone family but enough of them.
01:14 You're going to be blessed, I was when I first heard
01:17 this story, so Virna I want to first start with you.
01:20 You are the first person that somebody sent my direction
01:24 that talked about your own recovery and some of the things
01:27 you were doing in the community and I was blessed.
01:32 When we met I was even more blessed.
01:34 I want you to start at the beginning, just what it was
01:39 like growing up, what it was like to be in your own skin
01:43 and then we will get to the issue everybody
01:45 wants to get to.
01:47 Right, well I think from the beginning I would say we
01:52 immigrated from the Philippines when I was two and
01:56 half years old and lived in Southern California for
01:58 20 something years, but I don't know if
02:01 I ever knew my own skin.
02:03 - oh, that is a big one. - yeah - even from the time
02:06 you were little? - yeah. I think from the time I was
02:10 little I was molested by a relative from the age of four
02:18 until I was about six years old.
02:20 So I didn't know my own skin.
02:22 Sometimes with the molest we don't even want to be in our
02:24 own skin, for some reason something I did make me unsafe
02:29 so we take the blame on ourselves.
02:32 Definitely I think for years I blamed my own mother. - why mom?
02:37 I felt I was supposed to be protected by her, by my
02:42 parents, both of my parents.
02:44 I built a wall I think most of my adolescent years.
02:49 Did they know when you were little why you build that
02:52 wall or was it I just built it, you are just now out?
02:55 Well when I came into my adult years I'd have had these
03:03 fantasies since I could remember, so these fantasies
03:08 were like my own skin to say.
03:10 I was living my life through these fantasies.
03:12 - okay let's go back, you go through the molest, you start
03:16 to pull away from family.
03:18 The fantasies that you started to develop was a place
03:22 that you could be safe within your own head and what were
03:25 the fantasies? - Fantasies of being with the same-sex.
03:28 - okay being with other women?
03:30 - being with other women romantically.
03:32 - was your molest with women or men?
03:33 It was by a man. - okay and so men were unsafe.
03:38 So when you fantasized it, it was always to be cared for
03:41 and taking care of by a woman. - yes.
03:43 Let me just say, were you in a Christian home, were you
03:46 raised in a Christian home? - yes, we were raised to
03:50 fear God, we were raised as Roman Catholic.
03:54 In 1985 is when we baptized into the
03:58 Seventh-day Adventist church.
03:59 - so let me just say so when you are having these
04:02 fantasies about other women, whether you are in
04:07 Catholicism or Adventism or most Protestant churches
04:10 would say that is wrong.
04:12 So what did you do in your head about that?
04:14 Because were not even, we don't even say that in a way
04:18 can I help you, we just make a judgment and it is a
04:21 very harsh one, so as a kid when that is in your head
04:25 what were you thinking?
04:27 Um, there were something definitely wrong with me.
04:31 So growing up with that there was something definitely
04:34 wrong with me and I was conflicted inside all the time.
04:37 I'm condemned but this is what I feel, I'm inclined and
04:41 I was already have crushes on other girls in school.
04:44 Hidden of course so I kept that. - nobody else knew?
04:47 Nobody else knew - you didn't share it with anybody?
04:49 - no one - no friends no family? - no.
04:51 What I want to scream out loud is that nobody should have
04:57 to be struggling with those issues by themselves, but we
05:01 are so quiet and locked down in that area that even if a
05:04 child came to us will be going like, oh don't go there.
05:08 I don't know how open any of us are to just say come
05:12 sit-down and process the molest and process those
05:15 feelings of never fitting in, or never liking your own
05:18 skin and all that stuff.
05:19 But now you are fantasizing about other girls in the
05:22 same-sex situations, when did it finally go from a fantasy
05:26 into acting out? When I moved up to the bay area in 1992.
05:30 I sought it out. - in the bay area is everywhere.
05:34 You talking San Francisco. - oh yeah Castro district.
05:37 - did you move there for that reason? - mainly yes.
05:42 And mainly for work and to be independent and move away
05:45 from home. - how are you? - I was 21.
05:48 And that was the community were I found a counselor who
05:53 helped me through my issues and I did find some healing
05:58 around the molest and to learn to love my parents again.
06:05 Understanding - because by this time, I just want to say
06:10 by this time you are angry.
06:12 And to me I have to say I love you because not only are
06:19 you angry your out there but you are actually speaking up for
06:23 gay rights and you are in that community, and talk about
06:26 that because you jumped in with both feet.
06:29 Yeah I dove in and became a counselor for domestic
06:33 violence victims in the gay community and was an advocate
06:38 and worked in the HIV AIDS organizations so I became
06:44 very active in the gay community.
06:46 If there's a parade through San Francisco would you be
06:50 there? - oh I was, yes, I was there.
06:54 - you were the head and not the tail. - yeah.
06:56 I would like to be in the parade.
07:00 So to me what was interesting is that you said I'm this kid
07:04 and I don't even know what skin I had supposed to be in.
07:07 I don't even know who I am, I don't fit anywhere in the
07:10 molest really robbed you of any sense of identity you had
07:13 an now I find my identity right here and I fit.
07:17 I'm going to be loud about it, I'm going to be in your
07:21 face. - oh yeah I was out loud and proud.
07:24 I was in people's faces in the year 2008 came when
07:30 proposition eight came along, I was out there.
07:33 - tell people what it is for those who do not know?
07:35 So proposition eight was an initiative put out to protect
07:40 marriage, however the other side of the gay community was
07:45 fighting for marriage equality, meaning for same-sex
07:48 couples to be able to marry.
07:50 - right and have it recognized. - have it recognized.
07:52 So you are fighting for that. - I was fighting for that.
07:55 Of course it was disappointing and at the same time
07:58 that's when the Lord
08:01 - did you get married during that time?
08:03 no, I never married another woman, my ex-partner we were
08:09 registered domestic partners in the state of California.
08:13 But that is far as legal as we went to.
08:16 So now you are in the lifestyle and you are fine.
08:21 Was there any questioning, anything in your head,
08:28 come up spiritually, what does God think about this?
08:31 Did it matter to you? Did you go there at
08:35 all at this time?
08:36 It would come back to me certain studies we had in
08:41 the 80s, when we had this process of conversion in
08:45 the Seventh-day Adventist church and
08:47 I would remember certain things.
08:49 The one particular message I remembered was the
08:50 sanctuary and that would come to my mind constantly.
08:54 What about the sanctuary, that is interesting to me?
08:56 It was something I fell in love with, it was such a
08:59 beautiful message of we come to the courtyard and we give
09:03 our offering for our sins, and the high priest took it on
09:06 from there, you know Jesus was our high priest.
09:09 I never forgot that message, I actually even shared it
09:12 with friends. - you know it is really incredible
09:16 recovery message, so if you could go from the very beginning
09:21 of that because what is amazing to me, or does it come back
09:24 later on in your story?
09:26 It comes back later on - okay when it comes back I want
09:30 you to explain the whole thing because for somebody that
09:32 is an addict that comes back to God or comes to God for
09:36 first time there is some incredible blessings
09:38 in the sanctuary message.
09:39 So you are a little bit coming back and you are really
09:44 looking at I did learn this and I didn't know this and
09:49 I do know who God is.
09:50 So that comes in and out in weaves in an out of this angry
09:53 march, for this angry march for recognition, for equality,
09:59 for someone to recognize that I have the right to be.
10:03 Exactly, exactly and then I was in a relationship for
10:08 eight years with a woman and we ended up having a daughter
10:10 together and we broke up with my daughter was only 10
10:13 months old, this was in 2002.
10:16 So someone says two women just don't have daughter together
10:19 unlike wait a minute you have to explain that to someone.
10:23 That is really common right now.
10:25 Exactly, we looked at profiles of anonymous donors and
10:31 we artificially inseminated at home and had our child at
10:35 home with 2 midwives, so I delivered my daughter so it was
10:38 a beautiful experience and I never will forget it.
10:41 I will never forget it and then we broke up.
10:44 She is an incredible kid? - and then you broke up and
10:49 she's dealt with a divorce, not a legal divorce, not
10:53 a legal divorce but she has had to deal now for all her
10:56 life since she was 10 months old going back and forth
10:59 to two separate homes.
11:01 So what brought you from that lifestyle, from that lifestyle
11:06 where you are coming back into a right relationship with
11:11 God and exploring, not only the gay issue.
11:15 Because when somebody you talk about major things for
11:20 somebody and they say ah that's wrong, they don't
11:23 realize it's never one issue with any of us.
11:25 I had a drug addiction but I also had lying, manipulation,
11:29 sexual addiction, I didn't know who it was, I had rejection
11:33 issues, so it's like if you point to any one issue
11:36 you would miss my recovery journey.
11:38 So I don't want to point to any one issue you struggle with
11:41 because I know that you had all of that from the early abuse.
11:45 What happens is to become very so focused along the
11:48 journey, so I can't see anybody's pain but my own.
11:51 I can't see anybody's anger but my own.
11:53 Exactly, I mean growing up I couldn't see the pain that
11:57 my mother went through, as a mother seen her daughter
12:01 go through what she did when she was really young.
12:03 I was really self focused, it had to be about me.
12:07 I think having a child, I legally adopted my daughter and
12:13 that really changed it for me and I fell into depression
12:16 and at one point I was suicidal. When I got out of that
12:23 relationship I fell into another relationship that was outwardly
12:26 more abusive. - incredibly abusive? - incredibly abusive
12:29 physically, sexually by another woman and that was really
12:33 rough and I was isolated and again filling those feelings
12:37 of very depressed and suicidal.
12:40 Sometimes I would look at the phone and just wish that
12:42 someone would call me to get me out of this.
12:44 So after that in 2008- so were you talking to your folks
12:49 at all? Were you talking to family members about this
12:52 relationship or were you just holding it yourself?
12:54 I was holding it all in and wouldn't let them know a lot
12:57 of the details that was going on.
12:59 As a result of that second relationship
13:02 I was homeless for a year.
13:03 I slept in my car in front of a 24-hour Starbucks.
13:06 And when I had my daughter we would stay with relatives
13:11 and stuff like that, my daughter didn't know we were homeless.
13:14 And then about 2008 during the proposition eight with
13:18 the Lord really did something different to my heart.
13:22 - what did He do? - well I was in the bathroom and I was
13:25 cleaning and I guess I was talking to the Lord out loud.
13:28 And Lisa was visiting me at the time.
13:30 - Lisa is your sister. - Lisa is my sister and she was
13:33 visiting me and she heard me talking to myself and I was
13:37 cleaning and saying Lord this can't be right, why is
13:42 there so much hate in this world, I am who I am and
13:45 you made me who I am and for some reason I just started
13:49 remembering all the scriptures around the sanctuary and
13:52 I started seeing furniture from the sanctuary.
13:56 Altar of incense. - and that's in the Old Testament.
14:00 It's in the Old Testament yah, in Leviticus.
14:03 It actually starts an Exodus and goes all the way
14:05 through Leviticus - that's right.
14:07 Leviticus goes into all the different types of offerings,
14:11 but the measurements, instructions on how big the
14:16 sanctuary was to be was given to Moses in Exodus.
14:19 So what is it about that when you're thinking about that
14:24 and you are in the backroom what does the sanctuary
14:27 service mean to you? It is amazing to me.
14:29 I think what I fell in love with the sanctuary message
14:32 was you come as you are, you come recognizing - you come
14:35 with your offering. - you come with your offering
14:39 in with your offering you are recognizing
14:41 your need of forgiveness.
14:42 - what was your offering - my offering at that time
14:45 in the bathroom I didn't know.
14:47 I really had no clue, I didn't know what was happening.
14:50 It happened another time and I shrugged it off,
14:53 it actually scared me, I didn't know what to do with that.
14:57 All I remember is that maybe a couple of weeks later
15:00 I started to have this craving to go to church, but on one
15:04 condition, like I was having this conversation in my head
15:07 with God and I'm going to go but I'm going to go as I am.
15:11 This is who I am, You love me and I'm going to go.
15:14 I want my daughter to learn about Jesus and
15:16 that is why I'm going.
15:17 I love our arrogance with God, and if you don't accept
15:21 this condition then I'm not going.
15:23 And God is just like oh I love her, I so love her.
15:28 We have all these conditions and God heart says, I don't
15:32 care why you come, I just want you to be safe and to come
15:35 back to Me. - so my arrogance gets worse. - does it?
15:39 Yeah it gets worse. - I like shut up. - yes seriously.
15:43 So that started in November, I'm going every Sabbath and
15:48 every other Sabbath I'm bringing my daughter with me and
15:50 we are enjoying it, my daughter is enjoying it but as
15:53 soon as the service is done I'm out.
15:54 Don't talk to me. No one is going to know anything about me
15:58 they don't need to know, I'm here that's it.
16:02 I'm gone when service is done.
16:04 I didn't socialize much, I always set the back pew so
16:06 there would be a quick exit.
16:07 Around the first Sabbath in January was communion and
16:16 I'm standing there and I'm like I'm not going to do this.
16:20 I know what communion is about and I'm not ready for this.
16:24 - I can even imagine what you must've been feeling.
16:26 - like here I smoked two packs a day and I'm a lesbian,
16:31 I can't do this, you know. - even when you're saying
16:35 that is that I remember being there as a heroine addict
16:38 and I lie and manipulate I'm on the street and working
16:41 in the clubs, I sell drugs and then in the same kind of
16:44 thing as I'm coming to God, how do you do that?
16:47 How do I do communion those two basic things were
16:50 people don't know Communion is explain what it is
16:52 and what did you do?
16:54 Well I knew what communion was and it is somewhat a mini
16:58 baptism, it's committing your life and I was not ready
17:02 for that, and as soon as I was having these thoughts.
17:05 As soon as I had that thought the Pastor suddenly said
17:08 take a leap of faith and watch what God will do,
17:12 not you. God, and I went, okay.
17:18 And I got so arrogant and said okay it's all on You.
17:21 It's all on You, I'll do it, but it's all on You.
17:27 So I went downstairs and had my feet washed by the
17:30 Pastor's wife and came back and left and
17:33 I was feeling really happy.
17:34 I light up a cigarette when I was about two or three
17:37 blocks away from the church and went home and waited
17:40 until sundown, my friends called me and asked me to go
17:43 out - go out clubbing - go out clubbing to a lesbian
17:47 bar and so I went out with them.
17:49 The topic of conversation was I was telling them about
17:54 my church, I'm here in the middle of a lesbian bar and
17:58 I'm telling them about my church and how great it is
18:00 and that they should come. - don't you think God,
18:02 He is so, He just says you know what do you think any of that is
18:07 going to get in My way, I love you.
18:09 Thank you for today and you know I'm not going to
18:13 address all the issues that are involved here.
18:17 The only issue I'm going to address is we have a Father
18:20 a Heavenly Father that says I want you home.
18:23 I want you home, I talked to somebody the other day and
18:27 they were talking about there's a story in the Bible about
18:30 the prodigal son, and you could be the prodigal daughter,
18:33 he goes out and spends all his money and ends up losing
18:36 everything and he ends up homeless and he comes finally
18:39 back to the father and he said at least here
18:41 I can work as your servant.
18:43 I can at least get fed and work in the fields or whatever.
18:47 The father sees him from far away and runs up to him and
18:51 puts his robe around him and gives him a ring.
18:53 But this person's take on it is when he put the rope on
18:57 him is he didn't want people to continue to look at his
19:00 shame, you know what I mean?
19:03 I want to cover that up, I don't want anyone to ever
19:06 look at my son my daughter in their junk.
19:09 I want them to see that My robe is on them.
19:12 That they are my child, that they are covered up, they are
19:16 clean and I'm thinking God Himself says let Me cover you.
19:19 You know your same sex stuff wasn't the only thing you
19:23 did, because you were an arrogant little fool.
19:26 You know what I mean? Because I was too, I know what
19:30 that feels like because in our arrogance and our anger we are
19:33 like Na-na-na-na and God says you know what, I want to heal
19:36 all of that. - - oh and He did and He still is.
19:40 He still is, one of the things He took away for me that
19:44 I never thought that I would be able to give up was my
19:48 smoking and He took away that night when I came home
19:52 from the club. - Wow!
19:53 I had one last cigarette before went to bed and - I have
19:57 to just say I laugh at that because we're doing this
20:01 whole program and people are hearing all the same sex
20:04 stuff and you are saying one of the things He took away
20:06 that I never thought, and they are waiting for you to say
20:09 same-sex stuff and you go smoking, because that is a
20:12 horrible addiction. - it is, it was and I didn't feel
20:15 I was addicted I just enjoyed it.
20:17 - even though it's killing me. - yeah.
20:20 So now you are understanding that God is bringing you back
20:25 one step at a time and you go back to the sanctuary thing
20:31 is that you are coming into the sanctuary with your
20:35 offering and you come up to the first place in the
20:38 sanctuary is what? The first place the sanctuary is
20:41 where you give your offering to be burnt.
20:46 You come to the priest and bring your offering and the
20:50 priest says, he takes over and leads that sin all the
20:54 way through the sanctuary. It's amazing to me.
20:57 But what is amazing in your story is that you were coming
21:02 to that place in your journey and you are coming with
21:06 things that most of us don't even think does God actually
21:10 heal that? Is He going to let her come in?
21:15 And I'm thinking yes He is, of course He is. - right.
21:19 Of coarse He is, how cool are you? How cool is God?
21:24 God is amazing, when He took my cigarette smoking away
21:29 four hours basically, I had that one last cigarette and
21:33 I suddenly had a sharp pain in my throat and was like
21:37 what is going on?
21:38 This is the same cigarettes I have been smoking all night.
21:41 He was given the evidence, because one of my prayers when
21:44 I started going to church was is this real?
21:47 Am I really going to church now? This is weird.
21:49 - Are You communicating with me? - Is this really God?
21:52 When I first started going to church I had opened up my
21:56 closet at and pulled out my 25-year-old Bible and all this
21:59 literature I had that my mother secretly planted in my
22:02 home for 20 plus years. - that's funny, because
22:07 I remember you said to me one time that I would get mad
22:09 at her, she would stick it under the coffee table in a
22:12 book somewhere or a magazine and it would fall out.
22:14 I was like don't do this, don't secretly hide things in
22:17 my house, just give it to me and I was upset with her
22:20 a couple of times. But I kept every single thing she gave me.
22:24 I never threw anything away and when I start going back
22:28 to church it all came out of the closet. - Amen.
22:32 Amen, I love that and you came out of the closet with
22:36 all this stuff. - yeah.
22:39 So I would like to have you talk about, you are really
22:43 addressing all kinds of issues when you are healing.
22:48 The smoking gave you evidence that God is God and can
22:52 address those issues, but now all about the sexual
22:55 issues, your attraction issues, people say when I come
22:59 into my spirituality am I still living in the gay
23:03 lifestyle, am I celibate and not gay, am I healed from
23:08 that? What happened in your case?
23:10 In my case I think after He gave me that evidence with
23:13 smoking my prayer became more serious.
23:18 I think my prayer started to change and I started to really
23:22 ask the Lord sincerely. - because what if I am talking
23:25 to God? What if this is real? - exactly, so I started
23:29 talking to God more seriously and said is this really
23:33 happening? If this is really what needs to happen then
23:38 You do it, show me more evidence show me more what's next.
23:42 In a couple weeks after I quit smoking He did show me the
23:47 next step and that was identified with Mary Magdalena
23:51 through You Tube video. It was a Heritage singer song,
23:56 We Are the Reason and as I saw this clip from the movie
24:00 The Passion of the Christ, and Mary Magdalene on the
24:04 ground looking up to Jesus, I just fell to my knees and had
24:10 that conviction laid on my heart.
24:12 Conviction was if Sunday my child, if Sunday is a
24:18 counterfeit to my Sabbath what would then be a counterfeit
24:22 to my creation? So I realize then that the life
24:30 I have been living has been a counterfeit to what He ever
24:34 intended for me and not only that I just felt His love.
24:38 He didn't say that to you and in condemnation?
24:42 No! I did not feel condemned, I felt loved. - Amen.
24:46 That is what I have been searching for all my life was
24:50 the feeling to be loved.
24:51 I would like to, because we have your family here.
24:55 We have your mom here, your sister here so I would like
24:59 to take a break at this point and I would like to talk
25:02 with your mom about her journey and what happened to her
25:05 during this time and then I want to bring you back up
25:08 and talk about what an incredible God we serve.
25:12 Has that continue to make a difference in your life?
25:16 Where are you at in your journey today?
25:18 I just think we're going to be wowed by that so we are
25:23 going to break, we are a great talk to Virna's mom and
25:27 I want you to just, I don't know what your stuff is,
25:31 I don't know what you struggle with but nothing is too big
25:35 for God and I hear it over and over and over again and as
25:39 we travel around the world is the one thing I know is
25:43 that God says, I am not ashamed of any of you.
25:46 I love you beyond what you are capable of receiving,
25:50 beyond what you capable of even knowing and you have to trust
25:53 that and when you trust that we are going to have a
25:56 great time in our journey back.
25:58 I will cover your shame and I will cover your stuff and
26:01 I'll cover all the things you struggle with and at the end of
26:05 the day you will be smiling.
26:07 I love that about God and we will be right back,
26:09 stay with us.