It was a very tightly-knit group, even though their backgrounds vary quite a bit: a self-described “trust fund baby” from a powerful political family; two young women, one a local, another from California with no relatives here; a man adopted as a child after being born to an addict mother. What binds them together is their common struggle against addiction.

Names of some participants have been changed at their request.

The fledgling Grace Ministry is a haven, a safe space and “no judgment” zone where they can gather to support each other as each works to rebuild lives destroyed by addiction to meth, alcohol, heroin and other drugs.

The ministry was started by Dorothy Rivera, who has some 20 years working with law enforcement—she is married to the Torrance County undersheriff and runs the dispatch center—has seen firsthand the toll drugs can take. Her son is addicted to heroin, and is part of what drives her.

A group of five addicts in recovery sat down for an interview with The Independent, three of them with their children in tow. In their mid-20s and 30s, this group has known each other most of their lives. They have taken drugs together and saved each other’s lives—literally.

They are quick to jump to each other’s defense, and they finish each other’s sentences. One man, Spyder, remains very close to the streets. “I love the streets, and the streets love me,” he said. Spyder also said, cryptically, “I love heroin, and heroin loves me.”

Spyder is the one who describes himself as a “trust fund baby,” and said that even though he can afford to buy any drugs he wants, part of what he likes about it is the rebellion against his family in the activities of stealing or gangs. “I don’t know how many Porsches I’ve thrown up my arms,” he said, referring to heroin. Spyder estimated half a million dollars, saying he “blew through” an inheritance of $350,000 in a matter of weeks.

Then there’s Andy, who was married with a child, and sober. When he broke up with his wife, they both spiraled into massive drug use and bad relationships. The two remain friends, and both were at Grace Ministry for the group interview.

Andy said he has been clean for about a year, and left New Mexico to do it. That took him out of his habitual haunts to a place so he didn’t know where to get the drugs he was detoxing from. “Pain and tears” is how he described the process of getting clean from heroin.

In addition to leaving the state, he adopted a new name, his middle name, and a new identity free from drugs.

Then there’s Kelly, a young woman who has lived in Moriarty her whole life. Sometimes when things have been bad and she was on the streets, many of the people passing her by were her own family members, perhaps afraid to try to help, or who had been burned by her in the past.

Kelly now pours her heart into Grace Ministry, and said she wants to change the world. She described the space as her “safe space,” because inside the walls of Grace Ministry, she knows that nobody will hassle her, or offer her drugs. Rivera said she works tirelessly to recruit addicts the ministry might be able to help, to solicit funds and donations, and as a resource to others in the group. “This is my family,” Kelly said. “We made our own family.”

Another man said he was born addicted and later adopted. He said he was an angry child, and he described feelings of overwhelming rage as an adult. He is also estranged from his wife and children. He is facing jail time and he misses his children.

Jessie—in the space of a week—landed in jail, lost her children, was evicted from her home, and lost her vehicle. She said she hit rock bottom and decided to change her life. She also was using meth, alcohol and heroin. She has been clean for about five months, and relapsed while coming to Grace Ministry.

That meant she had to admit this to Rivera.

“No judgment” means seeing each of these people as individuals, not merely addicts, Rivera said. The group agreed that this seemingly small act of compassion makes a huge difference.

“You see somebody like me walking down the street, with tattoos on my arms, scars, maybe tattoos on my face, and you make a judgment,” Andy said. And those preconceived ideas carry into interactions with police and the courts.

Part of what she brings to the ministry is her credibility with authorities, Rivera said.

“We want to create what we needed,” Kelly said. “A safe space, a hand reaching out. Just because we’re addicts doesn’t mean we are bad people.”

The group meets weekly at the space on Route 66 in Moriarty, where they might watch a movie, or videos about addiction, or hear a message from the Bible from Rivera. They are also constantly in each other’s lives, as a support network to help each other stay off drugs. “It feels good to know I can call, be it 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning,” Jessie said.

Grace Ministry is holding an open house July 8 at 5 p.m., and will be serving hamburgers and hot dogs. “We are hoping to raise some money for the ministry and let people know we are here to help,” Rivera said.

The group has a Facebook page and has started a account in hopes of purchasing a van. Grace Ministry also has a small thrift store in its Moriarty space to support its efforts.