Gabe and Hollis met in New Mexico 12 years ago.
Hollis, originally from Tampa, FL, was teaching high school and working on her master’s degree in Geology at the University of New Mexico. While waitressing at Outback Steakhouse for extra income, she met Gabe, a phosphate miner originally from California. “We felt a connection right away. We seemed to just fit together, we became best friends. Our son was born in 2010 and we had a perfect little wedding on St. Pete Beach in 2012.”
Through a family connection, Gabe was able to get a job mining phosphate in Arcadia, FL and Hollis was a high school teacher. “He worked about 80 hours a week, so we needed to live close to the site. We lived in a beautiful home with horses and acres of land – what some would consider a dream life.”
But in a town with a population of 285, it was very easy for residents to turn to substances like methamphetamines for entertainment. “I guess they would have called me a functioning addict because I would use every day, all of the time. There was one day when I was teaching and I passed out because I had been up for six days straight,” Hollis recalls. The couple made good money, so they were able to spend up to $450 each week on meth. Their friends that used with them knew they always had it. “Towards the end, we found ourselves getting easily angry at each other, my teaching abilities declined, and I knew something had to give.”
Gabe and Hollis’ friends were around so often that they eventually ended up staying with them. This, of course, caused trouble but eventually led the family down the path of getting help. One morning in November 2015, the police raided their home in response to a vehicle that was stolen by one of their friends; Gabe and Hollis were arrested for paraphernalia found in their home and within reach of their 5-year-old son. DCF became involve but luckily, their son was taken in by Hollis’ mother.
“We entered rehab programs and stayed clean for a little over three months. After we got out, we ended up around those same friends again. One day, the girl that got us in trouble last time told the police that we were running a meth lab in our home – which we weren’t. We were only casual users, but we got charged with enough to face prison time.”
After serving some time, Hollis’ mom helped them find a rehab program that was far from their small town and would allow them to stay together – Harvest House was the perfect match. Hollis and Gabe came to the Freedom program on early release through jail diversion. They were mandated to complete the program or face a sentence violation.
“As we were about to graduate, we started to prepare for life after Harvest House. We were doing really well, especially since we had each other. We really wanted to get our son back so he could adjust to living with us before school started, so, at our six-month point, the Director of Program Services Jim Rouches helped us get permission from a judge to complete the last month of our program while living in our own place. We found an affordable home for rent about 2 miles from Harvest House. We attended classes 6 nights a week and completed weekly drug screens. We had to ride our bikes because we didn’t have our licenses back yet; it was hard, but so much easier together.”
Today, the Morantes family is doing exceptionally well. Gabe’s electrician business, Arc Electric of Florida, is booming and their 8-year-old son just won the school science fair. “I really don’t think we could have done this alone. We were together before it all happened, and we stayed together – everyone’s surprised that we made it, but we always found a way keep the three of us connected. Our family is definitely stronger because of this experience. We just redid our vows in October 2017 and we’re so excited for this new chapter of our lives. We’re eternally grateful for Harvest House.”