As my regular readers know, I began my recovery by writing an article published in NYC Voices called The Long Walk Home. In it I told my story of as of the phoenix arising from the ashes. I had crashed and burned as a result of making a lot of poor decisions including an undiagnosed mental illness. I went from successfully making a transition from being a librarian when I came to Wisconsin to becoming a grant writer. I had married fairly late in life by most standards but my behavior led to a divorce. I had even bought a house after the divorce but lost it in the early days of the home loan scandal.
I had descended into a realm of uncertainty and despair. I had even looked somewhat longingly at an overpass where I thought, perhaps, I could jump into the water and be swept away or crushed by the rocks just beneath the surface. And yet, something told me, “try one more day.” I have steered away from the ledge since that one gloomy day. But I remained vulnerable. A couple of years ago, while attempted to complete a bachelors in social work, I struggled to avoid eviction. With the support of my family I avoided losing my apartment, but they told me that I needed to stop going into crisis.
They also said that I needed to accept that I needed to take medication. I needed to find someone who believed in me. For a number of reasons, my emotional responses had been limited and one of the most difficult parts of my recovery has been working with the women authority figures that I have met. The next has been setting proper boundaries with my fellow peer specialists. And then third was setting boundaries with the women consumers I am assisting.
At some point this spring I had to decide that enough was enough. I think it was after one of my (now former) co-workers had borrowed money from me without making any attempt to repay me and then called me to try and borrow some more money. Maybe it was seeing a woman who had benefited from my work as a peer specialist when I went to take the certification test. I had been totally appropriate with her and as a result everything had gone well. I was excited and all the more determined to obtain certification.
With encouragement and support from co-workers, supervisors and case managers I grew to understand that I was ready for more responsibility. I studied hard and passed the certification test with flying colors. After years of being underpaid and living on the edge, I was ready for better things. Just a couple of weeks after I became a certified peer specialist a case manager I knew named Davide told me that her agency was hiring and I should call a woman named Chantil to find out more. Before Davide was out the door, I was on the phone and scheduling an interview.
That was six weeks ago as I became one of the first certified peer specialists to work alongside case managers an upgraded Milwaukee community health system.
My recovery has taken place in the context of a group of veterans I met in a transitional housing program. When I started writing my NYC Voices veterans I talked about the journey I had embarked upon with these men. We went to college, started careers and inspired one another by our positive examples.
One of the guys I keep running into has completed a nursing degree and begun working at the Veterans Administration. We became friends accidentally because I met him so often at the various places I have used for recovery, on the job and at a local community college. My first instinct was to become competitive and keep secrets but I realize now that those ideas belong back in high school. We are very deep into our recovery.
Veterans issues continue to touch me. The executive director at my new agency used to direct a veterans agency that was right around the corner from where I used to live. And the guy who works in the store next to our agency was at the veterans transitional housing program with me. This is a man I had not seen in 7 years. I’ve also met several veterans on the job as I provide hope and inspiration, Today I wore my United Way Superheroes tee shirt while talking with a woman about housing.
If there is anything that I hope people who read me absorb it is the value of persistence, resilience and persevering. If I had given into depression, I would not have been alive to write my story. If I had accepted my former lover’s judgment that I could never change, I would not have. If I had stayed where I was last year I would not have done all the things I achieved this year. Wherever you are on your journey towards home, the time to start is now.
- Veterans Helping Veterans (veteranstoday.com)