A Life Motivated By Purpose

September 23, 2017

 

            My motivation for becoming a counselor stems from the reality of my own life and direction it has today. Like so many others in our society, I too was dying in grips of addiction and alcoholism. I have been in recovery for 15 yrs now. Since I've been in recovery, I've been homeless, penniless, and have gone three and four days between meals. Early in my recovery, I've also suffered back to back deaths of my siblings, to the count of thirteen brothers and sisters with in the first two years. I endured all this clinging for my life to the promises and working for the rewards of recovery. 

 

This is my first time in recovery and I have never, not once had a relapse. Let me explain, I started smoking pot at the age of nine, and I started drinking hard liquor at the age thirteen, since then I've used almost every drug I've come in contact with. I owe my sobriety and my new life to my higher power, who directed me to Deloris Bocklet, a senior counselor at Access who directed me from there. I am strongly into AA and NA and I speak at a lot of meetings. I am often told that people will not like my sober mind because I am too brutally honest, and I must admit that I suspect the same.

 

You see, when I got sober in South Oaks, in a true moment of clarity, I was forced to take a fearless and honest look at myself. What I saw was a man almost fifty years old, and after a half of a century, all I had to show for my life was a thirty-three-year failed marriage, a good portion of my life spent in prison and children who were ashamed of me. I owned nothing and I had nothing, in fact, I was a drunken homeless bum. You see, the savagely brutal reality of my circumstances were so devastating to me that it became a life changing event. My circumstances today gives testimony to my life changing experience of yesterday. What needs to be understood by this is that, if I can look into the hard-cold reality of my own life, acknowledge and accept its validity upon my circumstance, talk about its soul shattering effects on me every day and use that crushing reality to empower the man I have become, then I also believe that through my own experience, others may find the strength to inspire within themselves a hope for their own lives.

 

To dig even deeper into the passion that fuels my motivation. Many years ago, when I had just become a teenager, my father said something to me and my brother Billy, that at the time, we could not understand. You see, I come from a very big family, (10 boys and 6 girls) to be exact. So, when my father said to us, that one day we were going to look around and find that we had no one but ourselves! To us, the concept of my father’s prediction was intangible. It wasn't until we had grown-up and experienced life a little, that we began to see the wisdom in my father’s warnings. I reign today as the sole survivor of my parents and siblings, everyone else has sensed passed away. I am the youngest of all my siblings, and I was raised by them, taught by them, and sought approval and affirmation from them. I love and miss my family, and I do admit, that at times I feel lost without them! 

 

But as lost and alone as I feel at times, I now believe, that this is not the (no one but ourselves) loneliness that my father was refereeing to. Through the years since my father’s death, I have come to learn, that through the many behaviors I've witnessed from my father, it would appear that he was dealing with depression. Though, in those days, not much was known about depression, or mental illness at all for that matter. As a result of this lack of knowledge, many, many people went undiagnosed. But today however, a lot more is known about mental illness of all kinds.

 

For about (20) years now, I have been diagnosed with major clinical depression. My depression is constantly pushing me to commit suicide, and it’s an uphill battle every day, for me not to take my own life. Can you imagine, your own mind being the greatest threat to your life! Along with my depression, I am also burdened with several other illnesses. I've had (2) major heart attacks and (5) minor heart attacks. I've had a major stroke that kept me in the hospital for (6) months, in which time I had to learn how to walk all over again. I have a disease in the blood vesicles in my head that causes me to constantly have a series of mini strokes and memory loss. I suffer from a lack of oxygen to my brain which is slowly causing me brain damage. I have C. O. P. D. and I was born with Asama. I have an enlarged heart, a body that produces an abnormal amount of blood clots which caused the major stroke and some of my heart attacks. I have herniated disc and disc bulges up and down my spine and degenerative bones in my vertebra, and I have also been diagnosed with diabetes. If it’s not my mind trying to kill me, it’s my body!     

 

The hardest part about it is, with all this going on, my mental illness, my physical illnesses, no one sees my pain. No one recognizes me struggling, notices my fears, hears my cries, or sees my fight for survival. People look at me, but they do not see me! One day, as I was talking with one of my nephews; I was trying to explain to him the seriousness and danger of my depression. In a serious and concerned voice, he asked, SO WHAT ARE YOU SO DEPRESSED ABOUT? A simple and harmless question, right? Clearly, anyone who would say yes, has no understanding of what Major Depressive Disorder really is, or the ramifications of its grip and effects on the human mind. 

 

For as long as I can remember, aside from going to church, my father was a loner. He would always sit alone in his room reading his bible, or just steering at the wall. His interactions with my siblings and my mother were extremely violent, I would say (7 out of 10 times)! Now this might sound strange, but aside from his isolation and episodes of violence and hostility, my father truly loved his wife and children and was a very good provider! 

 

Though, not much was known about depression at the time; and because of this lack of knowledge, my father was never diagnosed with any mental disorder at all. Like so many others from my father's era, and earlier on in history, such illnesses were never acknowledged so no treatment for them ever existed. In light of what is known today, my father’s behaviors of withdrawal and isolation, to hostel and violent, to loving and attentive, could easily be seen as manic episodes of major depression or bipolar depressive disorder. I so often wonder, that in my father’s isolation, was he also battling a compulsion to commit suicide as I do? We all inherit traits from our parents, I believe I inherited my physical illnesses from my mother and my mental illness from my father. 

 

How many people did my father come across in his lifetime, including his own family, that looked at him, walked and talked with him every day, but did not see him? No one saw his struggles, felt his pain or sensed his fears. Because of a lack of knowledge and being undiagnosed, my father stood alone, unable to talk to anyone or tell anyone about it, because he had no understanding of it his-self. So he was left to suffer in silence, standing tall and proud, but invisible to the world, hence, having, no one but himself! 

 

I still have a number of nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, and I was married to a licensed social worker, and still, I am invisible. I know my family loves me, of this I have no doubt. But still, in all reality, love doesn't give them the knowledge and understanding or the training they would need to deal with a person who has a mental illness. They're love and lack of knowledge, will not secretly stop them from holding the stigma associated with mental illness in the back of their minds. My ex-wife, a licensed professional and someone who is extremely good at her job, found it very difficult to see me as a person with mental illness. Anything she’s saw that reminded her that I do in fact have a mental illness, triggered her anger and undoubtedly her fears, and arguments would begin. When I asked her, why it was so hard for her to accept my reality? She would say, that when she saw signs of my mental illness, or me struggling to breath, stand or walk, it showed her how much I had deteriorated from the man she met and married. 

 

Now, I do understand, we had so many plans for our future, and it looked like our careers we're off on a beautiful start. But then, out of nowhere, I had a major stroke that landed me in the hospital foe (6) months, in which time I had to learn how to walk all over again, and since then my health mentally and physically has been on a constant downward spiral. I understand how this has disappointed her and upset her plans for us, but an even more devastating reality is the affects these health issues have had on my life as a whole.  

 

With this serious decline in my mental and physical health, I feel alone. No one can possibly know my pain or my fears. Unless you live this reality, you couldn't truly know how it feels to have (4 or 5) physical illnesses that could cause you death at any moment, and a mind that is constantly pushing you to commit suicide, so much so, that I have already attempted suicide twice in the past. For those who think they know or understand my situation, I ask you, what would it take for you to literally kill yourself? Now, most people wouldn't know how to answer that, or couldn't even imagine themselves doing it. But in my world, it’s like a full-time job with overtime fighting my suicidal compulsions. So, you see, trying to avoid as much of the stigma as possible, and being so misunderstood, I am left to suffer in silence. This, I now understand, is the having no one but myself loneliness that my father was refereeing to. 

 

Yet still, with all this going on, I stand here today (15  

yrs) clean and sober, and with a burning passion to help others who suffer from mental health diagnoses. I have created an organization for people with dual diagnoses, people with a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. I am at present in the process of getting founding from the state and federal government. Being a substance abuse counselor and a peer specialist, this is a real serious issue with me. You see, I believe that the mental health community as a whole is in need of this program, to reduce recidivism and promote and support holistic wellness. My organization is {The Organization for Mental Wellness And Upward Mobility}, and its target program is the {Taking Back My Dignity} program. All too often, psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, and transitional homes, release clients with no Activities of Daily Living (ADL) skills, Life Skills Training, no medication or money management skills, and in most cases, not knowing how to care for themselves at all. So, in turn, most go off their medication and begin to self-medicate with illegal drugs and alcohol, resulting in their living homeless in the streets or back in psychiatric facilities and the cycle of recidivism continues. This is not a successful integration into the community; without knowing how to live and be positive and productive members in the community, this release is simply a set-up for failure. 

 

With Co-Occurring Disorders, so prevalent in our society, the Taking Back My Dignity (TBMD) program is designed to address both mental health and drug abuse issues. It is my goal to develop groups to assist clients in learning and developing skills that promote independence as well as address issues related to alcohol and substance abuse. In this program, client's will engage in addiction education to increase coping skills and decrease symptoms related to the disease of addiction. Client's will also engage in groups for Independent Living Skills, Activities of Daily Living skills, Healthy Socialization, and Life skills Training, as well as Addiction Education on Alcohol and Substance Use, among other clinical treatments. This is a much-needed service in the mental health community, especially here in Westchester County, where a great number of the mental health population are homeless and drug and alcohol addicted. In the bible, in Lamentations 1 – 12, it is asked (Is It Nothing To You, All That You Pass By).

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