My Name is Craig, and I am More Than My Past

Do you know what it feels like to come back from hopelessness? I do. I know how it feels to think you’ve hit rock bottom with no way up, out or through. I’m living proof that people can and do change, and all it takes is the spark of someone believing in them to kick off a healing journey for the ages.

I thought I’d lost everything

Before I moved to Denver two and a half years ago, I’d been living in Seattle. I had already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder, and I was using methamphetamines and other substances to cope.

In the five years I lived in Seattle, I don’t think I stayed in one place for more than 30 days at a time. I jumped from house to house, sober-living facility to sober-living facility, all while I was still using. Most of my family and friends had lost hope and trust in me by then, including my siblings and my grandfather, whom I was particularly close to as a kid.

As a last-ditch effort, my parents offered to let me live with them in Denver, hoping to help me get clean. I got on a bus, and when I arrived here, I was still paranoid and miserable. Between my poor mental health and drug usage, I still felt like I was at rock bottom.

I ended up being taken to the Behavioral Health Solutions Center one day, and that’s where my journey with WellPower began.

The first glimmer of hope

When I was taken to the Solutions Center, I was actually treated like a whole person – with respect and dignity. The staff there helped me start getting on the right track, especially when it came to my meds for my mental health diagnoses. The treatment I received at the Solutions Center wasn’t long-term, though, and I knew I needed more than the acute help they were able to provide.

The staff at the Solutions Center helped me begin the process to get ongoing services with WellPower, where I started counseling and met Marchell, a peer supporter on the Zero Suicide team. I learned that peer supporters are people who have lived experience with mental health challenges and been trained to talk to people who are currently going through struggles. He’s someone who’s gone through a lot of the same experiences as I have and come out the other side. Talking to him gave me hope where I didn’t think I had any left in me.

I’ve also worked with a few other folks at WellPower, like my psychiatrist, my counselor and my case manager, Tonya. It feels really good to have a whole team of people who are there to support my recovery journey in different ways.

As of a few weeks ago, I’m actually moving to a lower intensity level of care because of how well my recovery is going. It’s bittersweet because I’ll be switching to a different case manager and I really like Tonya, but I’m also so happy because it’s more evidence that I’m getting better and my life is moving forward.

I’ve been clean for two years now, thanks to WellPower.

I’ve been an avid basketball player for years and I’ve been part of multiple leagues.

A new future has opened up

When I think about my journey so far, I find myself reflecting on how much the way I think about my life has changed. While I was homeless and struggling with drugs and my mental health diagnoses, I didn’t feel hope. I didn’t think I’d ever get better. With WellPower’s help, I’ve been able to see that I can actually put my mind to something and achieve my goals. I can recover.

I have relationships with my parents, grandpa, siblings, nieces and nephews now. Honestly, the kids have been a huge inspiration for me. I want to be part of their lives while they grow up, and it feels amazing that my siblings trust me with their kids. I never got to see them when I was using, and now I see them all the time. I get to experience that cohesive family unit again.

This new future of mine feels miraculous, especially when I think about my relationship with my grandpa. We were so close when I was a kid, but when I started using drugs to cope with my bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder, our relationship was pretty impacted.

He’s 85 now, and we talk every day. We’ve completely rebuilt our relationship, and he always tells me he’s proud of me. Seeing him come back into my life, as well as my sisters, parents, aunts, uncles and others who wouldn’t talk to me before – it’s such a great feeling. It’s overwhelming when I think about it, and that’s pretty cool.

Options like never before

It’s wild to me that I have options for my future now. I’m not stuck on the same path of trying to self-medicate my way through the symptoms of my diagnoses, in and out of homes or losing the people I love. I have goals for myself.

Every morning, I take time to reflect and listen to music. I think back to where I used to be and where I’m at now. It feels so incredible that sometimes I can’t believe it’s real.

My life motto is to never give up and keep moving forward. I want to share this experience with other people who are at their rock bottoms, too, so I’m working towards becoming a peer support specialist.

If my struggles and life experience can help someone else – if it can make the kind of difference that the people at WellPower have made for me – then I’ll be achieving goals I never thought I could have in the first place.

I’m resilient, I’m proud of myself and I have a bright future ahead.

To the people who’ve been through this journey with me, thank you. And to anyone who’s read this far, thank you for taking the time to read my words.