By Poncho, a Certified Peer Specialist, SCI Greene, Pennsylvania*
I mostly hid behind my mental illness and self-medicated with alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.
I never told the truth about what I felt or was thinking. I never had positive interactions with others. I was manipulative and very sneaky.
When I was released from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2006, as a result of never addressing who I was or restoring the dreams I once had, I returned to my old ways of using and living life by “any means necessary.”
I found myself progressively using. I eventually lost hope, lost desire, and lost the drive to live a righteous life.
I began to rob businesses, people, houses, and created more victims than I ever had before.
I would up back in the PA DOC with 37 ½ to 75 years. Enough time for me to see who I was and what I needed to do.
It was in July of 2015 that I learned I would be starting the Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPS) training.
I wasn’t one to talk to a bunch of people. In fact, I slightly considered myself an introvert.
I had this knot in my throat, a burn and a knot. I tried hard to inhale but I just couldn’t breathe. I swallowed hard. “I’m sorry, mom. B****!”
From that point on, I developed this notion that I had to protect my family at all costs.
What I failed to mention was that my father had actually jump on my mom an stabbed her. I watched as her blue jeans turned black, socks turned red, and how she took each step and left behind a bloody footprint.
I used to see that footprint every day. Regardless of if my eyes were opened or closed.
But I realized that I am the Evidence that recovery is possible.
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.