By Anthony, a Certified Peer Specialist, SCI Albion, Pennsylvania*
My name is Anthony M. I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPS) who works and lives at SCI Albion. I’m going to share a fraction of my story with you. My hope is that it will offer some sort of empowerment in your life, when you’re down and out.
I grew up in a lower middle class household that was driven by drugs, meshed boundaries, and unhealthy coping skills. By the age of 12, I was diagnosed with a list of things. To name a few: myotonic dystrophy, ODD, ADHD, severe anger issues, etc. Around 13-14, I was drinking regularly and running around with a very violent organization.
Before I turned 16, I found myself doing 2 ½ years in juvie for assaults and endangering others. Although I was release at 18, I still managed to graduate high school and enlist in the Marine Corps. After all this, I found myself in and out of jail for drug use.
Pretty girls and late night bards turned into my line of work. A rough house and good time sleep “arounder.” However, through all of my pain, I always see clearly my purpose in life—to helps others make it past their pain and tribulations.
Now that I’m doing 7 ½-15 years for all that lovin’ and druggin’ I was doing, I had the change to become a CPS and it taught me how to deal with my ghosts and face all of my demons. And letting go of my past allows me and my future to grow past my past.
Now I live every day like a gift and embrace all it brings because I am the example that someone with a muscular disorder can still stay in good shape. I am the example that someone with ODD can handle the word “No.”
I, as well as you, are the example that our diagnoses or short comings in life do not define us.
A person is not finished when they are defeated. A person is only finished when they decide to stop.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made “less than.” Accept no one’s definition of you and your life… define yourself… and always remember… You are the example!
This story was submitted to ITE/MH through Supporting Incarcerated Veterans Training, a collaboration among the PA Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association, and Drexel University.