Dark Days and Summer Shine

Story by Kristina Valdez | Photo by Trey Honeycutt

“It is the deepest, darkest hell,” Shine said. “It is like you are trying to crawl out of a tunnel that has slime all over the walls. You can’t catch a grip to pull yourself out. It is awful.”

Addiction, for Summer Shine, felt like being chained to a wall.

Shine is the founder of Luna Juice Bar, a business dedicated to creating healthy wholefood juices, smoothies and a small variety of food options, located at Waco’s Magnolia Silos.

Along with creating “Green Goodness” and “Liquid Sunshine,” Luna Juice Bar is committed to hiring people with troubled pasts, including those who have struggled with addiction, incarceration and more.

“Addiction is the biggest blessing in myself,” Shine said. “I would have never faced life without it or had this relationship with God.”

Shine is four years sober from crack cocaine and says the forgiveness and redemption she offers to her employees were critical to her own survival.

“I thought I was broken,” Shine said. “I thought I would never ever get over this. In that one year before I got sober this time, I ended up in the ER a lot. I was in the ER this one time and this nurse said, ‘We are going to send you to treatment …’ I said, ‘I don’t think you understand. I have tried to get sober. I am meant to die as an addict.’”

She knows now that isn’t true.

Shine, who is originally from Temple, began drinking and smoking weed at an early age. When she was just 13 years old, she was suspended for bringing alcohol to school in a thermos and proceeding to get drunk with a friend.

Drug abuse and alcoholism in her older brothers and sisters made it easier for Shine to follow the same path, but nobody realized the long road Shine would have to take in order to get clean.

A U.S. Health News article explains this sibling copy-cat behavior through Dr. Katherine Jewsbury Conger, an associate professor of human development and family studies at the University of California-Davis, who found that people with siblings who are drinking, smoking or engaging in delinquent behaviors are more likely to try these things themselves.

“I believe addiction is a disease that is limited to a certain class of people who have the gene for addiction,” Shine said. “It just kicked off what was already inevitable, unless I had remained 100 percent abstinent my entire life.”

Shine said she drank to be more like her older siblings, and to be cool. She said she had always felt different from everyone else, so she drank to push those feelings away. But Shine’s addiction and alcoholism seemed to grow into a much larger problem and even resulted in her being excluded.

“The one thing that I thought was going to make me part of the group really made me apart from the group,” Shine said.

From the young age of 13 until she hit 19, Shine used everything she could get her hands on, including meth.

Then in 1998, at 19 years old, Shine became pregnant with her first son, Haigon Moon Shine, and made the incredibly tough but necessary decision, to stop using hard drugs … for a while.

“I never knew what love was,” Shine said. “There were a couple of boys in high school who I thought I had genuine love for, but then I had a baby and I got a whole new understanding of what love meant,” she said.

Following the birth of her son, Shine developed postpartum depression and began using drugs and alcohol to cope. Six months after her son’s birth, and back on the road she swore to deviate from, Shine could see the life she was creating for her and her son, and knew she needed to make a change now more than ever.

“If I keep going this way, I am not going to be able to keep this child alive,” Shine said. “I really wanted a good life for me and for him. But, even at the end of the day, my love for him wasn’t enough to keep me sober.”

Shine began rehabilitation with her son in her arms, and shortly after leaving the center married her first husband. Despite having just left the rehab program, she continued to drink each day until she blacked out. Looking back, Shine said no one could have helped her with her addiction.

“It takes this complete emptiness in your soul, to be totally scraped out like a pumpkin and then for God to fill that back up,” Shine said.

Shine said she turned away from Christ when she was 10 years old after seeing the hypocrisy of Christianity and the people who worshiped at her church.

“I viewed religion and God as the people in the church,” Shine said. “I completely denounced God and thought it was ridiculous and a bunch of made-up stories.”

It wasn’t until her son decided at 6 years old that he wanted to be baptized in Waco that Shine felt the presence of God in her life for the first time since she was a child herself. At this time, Shine had just given birth to her second son, Pierce, and had divorced her husband.

“It was my first experience with the Holy Spirit—a real, genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit,” Shine said.

Her son was baptized in August 2006 and two months later, Shine smoked crack cocaine for the first time.

“Crack takes you so quickly and it’s such a hardcore drug that you are desperate to grab onto anything,” Shine said. “I had an experience with the Holy Spirit. Two months later, I smoked crack and, two months after that, I completely gave my heart to Jesus.”

Shine said for the next few years she smoked crack consistently. She would have done anything to get her hands on it, and she did. From selling the family car to wiping out her bank account, she put her livelihood on the line to feed her addiction.

Shortly after her descent into the darkness of the newfound addiction, Shine discovered she had liver disease and was admitted in the hospital for 12 days. Shine said although it’s something she can get ahead of now by eating healthy and working out, it is something she will live with for the rest of her life.

In 2007, Shine went to the former Freedman Center in Waco a year and a half after the beginning of her addiction to crack cocaine. From 2007 to 2014, Shine would relapse between long periods of sobriety.

In 2012, Shine and her second husband split up for a year. During that year, Shine had the worst relapse of her entire addiction.

“It takes more of a toll on your spirit, on your soul,” Shine said. “You start to believe that maybe it’s not as bad as you think. You think, ‘Maybe I am not really an addict. Maybe I can use every once in a while.’ It would play tricks on my mind and I would have my family think I was fine.”

In her youth, Shine had been in rehabilitation centers five times, and in her adult life, as many as 10. It wasn’t until Shine went to Perpetual Hope Home in Victoria that she was able to see light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

“I had to completely let go of the notion that I had any control whatsoever over my life,” Shine said. “One hundred percent letting God do everything, and I mean everything.”

Shine said Perpetual Hope Home wasn’t just a rehabilitation, but that it provided women a safe environment to stay sober, interact with the world and even start small businesses.

After her first son was born, Shine became fascinated with healthy eating and health foods. She watched the late Jack LaLanne, known as “The Godfather of Modern Fitness,” sell juicers on QVC.

“Food is spiritual,” Shine said. “I mean, Jesus sat with his disciples the night before he knew he was going to be murdered. It is spiritual; it is physical. It is emotional, and it’s social.”

Shine left Perpetual Hope Home without their financial support for her business, but she didn’t lose hope, and proceeded to build her business from scratch. In early 2014, Shine got a tax return that was just enough to buy her first juicer for $350.

Shine started juicing from her kitchen. At her first farmers market in Belton, Shine had a pitcher of juice, a foldable metal chair from the dumpster and Styrofoam cups. From that single juicer, Luna Juice Bar has grown into a Waco staple and successful business.

“The ideas that I have for my life were tiny compared to what God has done for my life,” Shine said. “I thought I was starting a hobby with Luna Juice… I saw myself delivering Luna Juice in my little van for the rest of my life.”

Shine said Luna Juice Bar has been a gift, not only for her, but to everyone else who has been impacted by it.

“It was a gift for my son who gets to see me thrive. It is a gift for my husband who can trust that I am going to work every day and not blowing sh*t out of the water,” Shine said. “It is a gift for my friends and family. My mom, who never had anything to be proud of me for, Luna Juice has given her something to be proud of.”

Shine actively advocates for and hires other former addicts, no matter their circumstance or the length of their sobriety. She said it feels good to see fellow former addicts gain confidence and hope.

“I get to see miracles,” she said.

Shine hopes to change the world one juice at a time. She wants to continue to help women and hire anyone who comes to her in need of a fresh start. Amber Whitley, who has known Shine since 2004, currently works at the Luna Juice Bar food truck at Magnolia Market. She started her journey into addiction in 2001 and began using opioids in 2004. Whitley is nine and a half months sober and recently married. Along with juicing, Shine and her husband run a recovery home for women called Hospitaller 1, soon to be called Sunshine Recovery Houses, where Whitley works as the assistant manager.

“I’ve totally turned everything over to God this time,” Whitley said. “I have a great support group, I have worked all 12 steps—I am just done. It’s just different. It’s so hard to explain when you are just done. You have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.”