I had attended outpatient counseling sessions off and on since 2001. I divorced for the third time, from another abusive marriage in 2002. I got sober and have a member of a 12 step program since 2005. It wasn’t until 2007 my therapist asked me to apply for a position at the county clinic I was attending. He said it was a brand new idea to hire those who had lived experience to help people seeking mental health recovery. I was hired on lived experience alone, (imagine that, me!) as one of the first dozen Peer Supports working for my county mental health program.
I had no idea what PSS even was, had never even heard of PSS. I was then trained as a PSS and was the only employee with my title for a 2-
Hour drive in any direction. Advocating for how we as mental services recipients were treated was brand new information to the staff, needless to say, I was in for an uphill battle. We went from the medical model to the recovery model.
I went to many out of town trainings, I was met with open arms by Peer Supports there and, we persevered. The over 200 adults on my case load kept me very busy, we empowered each other! We were agents of change. I am honored I was able to help those requesting services for many years. I went from there to other cities doing more work in this field that am forever grateful chose me. Besides offering one on one support, I am also certified to facilitate groups to assist with getting a good foundation in recognizing and building your strengths. Note that any of these groups can also be facilitated one on one.
In this one, I am certified to train facilitators as well as facilitating for those seeking services. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (W.R.A.P.). This group helps you to identify what things look like in your mind’s eye in 3 areas. When things are going well, are not so well, or not great all together, and how you would like the people around you to ideally help you in the midst of it. This is a great tool to identify and be a head of things. There is empowerment in being prepared. I am also certified to facilitate a group called Seeking Safety. This is for those of us that have experienced trauma and addiction. We don’t dig deep into the trauma, that is something for therapists to do, with this process, we will work on empowering you to help with what’s going on today as a result of all that. It‘s a great way to accomplish a lot in this area.
I am also certified to facilitate, anger management, criminal thinking, family dynamics, I have also been afforded training in mental health pharmacology, co-occurring and mental health recovery methods, cultural competency and addiction recovery.
My anxiety, ptsd, and, depression was caused by a series of traumatizing events that I was afraid to talk about to anyone. Due to the stigma at the time surrounding mental health, I wasn’t able to go get help in a clinic setting either. I didn’t know about various treatments etc. I did what was modeled around me and took advice from the wrong sources. Being resourceful, and creative, I treated my symptoms in various ways, some helpful some not at all helpful. Traumatized and in survival mode, I self-medicated with everything I could get my hands on. I was only abstinent when having and feeding my children that would be about 2 years at a time, I always felt better that way. Not possessing much self worth, I did not choose well the people I surrounded myself with. Even though I tried to fix things, I was so sick medically and mentally and so emotionally exhausted I just could not trust my own choices. It wasn’t until everything was so out of control and I had lost everything did I realize I could no longer go on that way. I needed help! I ended up in jails and institutions, looking at least 3 years in prison, I had 3 agencies to report to, it was a mess! At one point, I really believed I would be better off gone, if it wasn’t for my children, I would not be here. I did this for me because we deserved better. It was desperation that got me into recovery from addiction in 2005 and inspiration through being helped and helping others as a Peer Support Specialist since 2008 like you and me that I was able to thrive and stay in recovery these 15 years.
Peer Support gives me another way to be of service. I feel at my best when I know I’m being helpful to others. It was Peer Support that showed me how what I thought were failures were actually strengths, and how to use them to make better choices for myself in recovery and become my authentic self. It is fulfilling to sit with someone and witness their own growth, empowerment and self efficiency while they too realize their strengths and abilities.