How I Became Who I Am
I feel as though I have lived for one thousand years. I have lived through an unsuccessful marriage, domestic violence relationships, and many deaths of both loved ones and animals. I have endured natural disasters and intense failures. And I survived childhood sexual and emotional abuse.
Over the years, I got myself into relationships that put me at risk of being hurt, abused and re-victimized. I was a robot. I went through each day numbing myself and avoiding feeling anything. I wasted what should have been the best years of my life by getting drunk and trying to forget the past. When I exhausted the avoidance technique, I tried geographical moves, but found that my “self” always came too. At 40, I left Florida penniless, homeless, and psychotic.
When I came to Washington seven years ago, I had no goals and I was living on the streets of King and Pierce counties. I spent my days panhandling for beer money and my nights avoiding the police. It seemed every month I was either in a jail or in the hospital because of my “condition”. I was receiving food stamps and financial assistance from DSHS. I was therefore required to obtain a mental health and chemical dependency evaluation and follow the resulting recommendations. I was required to attend outpatient treatment. I tried many programs that were funded by the social service system of Washington.
It took two more unsuccessful years of inpatient rehab centers and outpatient programs before I found my current mental health organization. Those that I tried were proficient but I was not ready to face my fears or deal with the feelings associated with my child abuse. It was not until I found my current mental health center and entered their co-occurring disorders program that I began to learn about my symptoms and why I behaved the way I did. AND I was ready to change.
So three years ago, I began to work with the system instead of against it. I attended all the groups and educational classes they offered and I learned skills and techniques to battle my symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. After a year of experimentation, I got stabilized on meds and was able to refrain from drinking without relapsing. I obtained clean and sober housing and was matched with my service dog, Kokomo. She helps me with my mental health symptoms of anxiety and isolation. I rely on her to keep me in the present and to promote interaction with my peers. She accompanies me everywhere.
Through my mental health center, I was referred to the division of vocational rehab for exploration of employment opportunities and assistance with barriers to re¬entering the workforce. And so, I began volunteering at the doggie daycare center that I continue to work at today. DVR paid for me to return to school and attain a certificate related to my goal of training dogs.
Today I work as a peer support specialist at a mental health facility. I share my story of recovery from psychosis and alcoholism and offer encouragement to those still struggling with these types of challenges. I am also still a dog handler at the doggie day care center. I have a goal to eventually raise and train dogs to be service animals for people with mental health and chemical dependency issues.
Because of the programs that were available to me, I was given the HOPE and support I needed to recover and manage my life. I began building a life worth living. Now I live in my own apartment, drive my own vehicle and work two part-time jobs. I no longer receive any assistance from the state. I have not been jailed or hospitalized since 2008. AND I had three years sober on January 9th, 2012.
I was able to attain sobriety and learn to manage my mental health. I continue to participate fully in my recovery by attending counseling and medication management. It is an on-going commitment and it is a challenge BUT I am worth it; and since beginning my recovery journey, I strive to be a law-abiding and contributing member of this society.
I am using tools that I have learned like grounding, relaxation, and reframing. I am learning to feel my feelings without substances to numb them. I am learning to stay present while telling my story. I am learning how to have inter-dependent, not co-dependent relationships. I am learning to trust again and to take risks to make friends. I am learning that loving myself everyday can become a reality. I am learning and growing, and becoming the kind of me I truly want to be.
I am a strong, independent and resilient woman who is living in recovery from alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder.