Abe B. – “Human spirit: One. Depression: Zip!”

Abe with box

“I don’t have depression… not me,” says Abe B., recalling his resistance toward accepting his mental state.

“I am a guy who ran two businesses and had a family and a marriage,” says Abe. “I had to solve problems for everybody else all the time,” he emphasizes.  Abe has always felt an obligation to remain strong during stressful situations, ultimately blinding him to his own symptoms of depression.

Statistics show that 1 in 10 Americans experience depression at least once in their lives. Many do not report their symptoms out of fear of stigma and perceived weakness.

Over the span of a few years, Abe experienced large amounts of stress and loss.

“I found myself with a full plate,” he says, listing all of the things that changed in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  Abe lost his father, his business, his home, his marriage and was quickly losing his own health.

Like his father, Abe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which greatly affected his mobility and functioning severely enough that he had to have brain surgery.

Abe knew that he needed to find a way to cope with all of these transitions. “I started seeking support and put together a network.”

Abe came to CODAC. Soon after, he began the Retail Training Program offered by CODAC’s Center for Recovery & Independence.

“When I first came [to the CODAC Closet] I thought that this place was just about dollars and cents, but I realized that this program is really about people. The staff here are special, extraordinary people who have incredibly large hearts,” Abe says.

With the support of CODAC staff, Abe is learning to manage life at its most challenging. He has a renewed motivation to find employment and make a difference in the lives of others who are enduring similar circumstances.

Abe“I learned to admit to myself that I am doing the best I can, day by day,” says Abe. “I hope to show someone else that they can too.”

Abe’s advice to someone who may be experiencing hard times in their life and symptoms of depression: “Address it. Seek Help. There are people who are here for you.”

Though the process of recovery is new for Abe, he possesses one of the most important qualities in recovery: Hope.

“I know that I am going to make it.”

 

Click here to view the poem Abe shared at the Retail Trainee Commencement Ceremony.

Melissa F. – Taking Recovery One Step at a Time

July 8th, 2013

Melissa“Trauma takes a great toll on the way you look at yourself, the way you see the world, and the way you think the world looks at you,” said 22-year-old
Melissa F., client of CODAC’s Young Adult Team.

Melissa didn’t have the opportunity to experience childhood the way most children do. In place of carefree, playful days, she experienced abuse and neglect. She adopted the role of parent to her siblings at a very young age. Both her mother and father struggled with addiction.

Growing up, Melissa was responsible for most household responsibilities. She was the person to cook, clean, and help her siblings with schoolwork. “I took care of my little brother and sister and saw them more as my children than my siblings.”

At the age of 14, Melissa’s father died from a drug overdose. At the time, she and her siblings were living with him in Alaska. As a result, she and her siblings had no choice but to move back to Tucson to live with extended family: a transition that was difficult for them all.

In the years that followed, Melissa began to slip into risky behavior patterns. She started skipping class to drink and do drugs. Though her drinking was slowly escalating, Melissa didn’t see it as a problem. “At the time, I never really thought it was a serious issue or that it would affect my life,” she said.

Ready for a change, Melissa eagerly anticipated going to Hampshire College in Massachusetts where she received a full-ride scholarship. What she didn’t anticipate was the even further escalation of her addiction to alcohol.

She started drinking nearly an entire large handle of vodka every weekend. Occasionally, she would mix alcohol with benzodiazepines, a sedative used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

“I did it to cope. I had developed this cycle of finding myself very comfortable when I was drunk,” she said.  “As long as I stayed drunk, there were no real feelings.” This pattern eventually landed Melissa in a life threatening situation where she was found lying in a bathroom unconscious by a friend. “I almost died,” she recalled.

It was then that Melissa realized that she had been carrying the burden of emotional and traumatic events for a long time. Everything was beginning to surface.

“I had always been the caretaker to everyone in my life. I had been a wall to lean on… I never thought I would be the kind of person who fell apart and got sick.”

With slipping grades and many absences, the University’s Assistant Dean gave her two choices: go to rehab or risk being expelled. Fearing for her future, she entered treatment.

Melissa was in inpatient rehab for an entire month for her alcohol addiction followed by inpatient treatment for an eating disorder. Throughout this process, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety and PTSD along with bulimia and alcohol addiction.

Melissa felt relief after receiving these diagnoses. “Just knowing that I had a diagnosis let me know that at least there is something that I can start working on.”

Depression is something she experienced throughout her life, but it was always brushed under the rug. “Buck up,” her family would say. “If I had dealt with some of those problems when I was younger, a lot less damage would have happened as an adult,” she stated.

After her treatment and out of school, Melissa moved back to Tucson. She experienced what many recovering from addiction do: relapse.

“This period of my life was a very negative experience for me. I was not around a lot of positive influences and most of that time is a blur,” she shared.

When Melissa turned 20, she went to visit her primary care physician and discussed her symptoms of anxiety. She was referred to CODAC and after explaining her needs to a care manager, she was referred to CODAC’s Young Adult Team (YAT).

Young Adult Services at CODAC provides intensive outpatient services for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders geared specifically for ages 18-21.

“I did not expect for things to be as life changing as they were going to be,” said Melissa. The one-on-one approach that the Young Adult Team provides is exactly the type of intervention she needed.

“YAT helped me take small steps to pull things together, which was really good for me because I was at a point in my life where I felt like I was going to die… like my father.”

It took time, but slowly things started to improve in Melissa’s life. “Things started to get progressively more positive because of the more positive outlook I was gaining from going to groups and talking to [my care manager].”

Recovery has been a continual process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. She has learned that even if she has set-backs, she will still have the support of CODAC staff who will guide her through. “YAT gives you a place to go where you can rethink your goals and what it takes to do the right thing,”

This mixed media piece titled "Speak," won a prize at the Community Mental Health Arts Show last year.

This mixed media piece titled “Speak,” won a prize at the Community Mental Health Arts Show last year.

As Melissa looks towards her future, she plans to return to school to study child psychology. She is in the process of applying for the Recovery Support Specialist Institute where she can serve as mentor to others in recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders.

“I think I can use those negative experiences to be someone with a lot more insight and strength,” she said in reference to helping others in a similar situation.

She continues to promote the message of self-acceptance through art, a passion she has had since childhood. “Art is a release of a lot of emotional tension,” said Melissa.

Though she didn’t initially have confidence in her work, the YAT nurtured her creativity and encouraged Melissa to enter her work into the 13th Annual Community Mental Health Arts Show where two of her pieces won prizes.

Melissa continues to work on her recovery daily and utilizes the tools she has been taught to live a healthier life. She hopes to one day do the same for others in her career and through artwork.

 

 

 

 

Amber B.

December 10th, 2012

Once Broken, Now Healing

Amber B.In one of her most hopeless moments, Amber found herself homeless and huddling for warmth under a blanket; tired, hungry, pregnant, and alone.

Amber had just been evicted from her home for the second time. Her children had been taken away and she grieved the loss of two people close to her.  She wondered if it was even possible to live a better life.

“My past has not been pretty,” said Amber. “My mother was a prostitute, drug dealer and addict. I have been beaten, and – before I was 15 – I had been raped by more men than I have fingers on my hands. It was a horrific nightmare.”

Amber was raised in a life littered with drugs, abuse, and violence. At the young age of 14, when most teenaged girls worry about makeup and boys, Amber was worrying about how she would make it completely on her own.

For years, Amber dealt with the repercussions of drugs and violence. At twenty-nine years old, she decided it was time to find help for years of trauma and addiction to methamphetamine. She came to CODAC.

Amber was placed in CODAC’s Las Amigas residential drug addiction treatment program for pregnant and parenting women. She arrived with nothing but the clothes on her back.

Choosing to come to CODAC for treatment was not an easy decision for Amber. At the time, she thought little of herself and did not anticipate a promising future. “I thought that this was how I was going to die…. an addict,” she said.

“When I first came to Las Amigas, I needed help with grief, loss, and anger.” Amber did not know how to deal with these difficult emotions in a healthy way, as she previously used drugs to escape her pain. At Las Amigas, Amber learned the tools and resources to work through her traumatic past.

During Amber’s intensive treatment at Las Amigas, she participates in one-on-one and group therapy sessions, learns relapse prevention techniques, parenting skills, and so much more.

Amber B. “If I didn’t have Las Amigas, I wouldn’t have had a chance to get my kids back and I probably would have died,” said Amber.

Amber is one of many women who walk through the doors at Las Amigas. Participants in this program receive comprehensive treatment to meet the social, psychological, and physical needs of the clients in a safe and supportive environment.

“There are so many broken women out there that need help. They need love and acceptance,” said Amber. She emphasized that the public’s perceptions and stigma of those addicted to drugs is not always accurate. “We actually have big hearts,” said Amber tearfully. “We just don’t always know what to do with them because they are so broken.”

Amber is learning love and acceptance of herself and others. “I can now acknowledge that I have so much to offer this world,” she said. “I didn’t think I had anything to offer before, but now I know in my heart that I am worth more and I deserve more.”

Amber plans on extending her newfound passion for recovery and sobriety onto others when she finishes treatment. Her goals include enrolling in college and attending the Recovery Support Specialist Institute where she can become a mentor for others coping with addiction and trauma. She hopes to increase awareness of mental illness in our community.

Though Amber’s recovery journey is not over, she is thankful for the experience Las Amigas has given her. “We are safe here. Las Amigas is a safe environment that gives us as long as we need to, to do as much work as we need to, so we can be responsible members of society and human beings again,” Amber concluded.

Las Amigas is a supportive residential community for women in need of substance abuse treatment. Las Amigas uses a comprehensive treatment approach to meet the social, psychological and physical needs of the clients in a safe and supportive environment.

Las Amigas is for women age 18 or older, with priority given to those who are pregnant, recently gave birth or are parenting children while actively abusing alcohol or other drugs. Special consideration is also given to women who are homeless, have histories of sexual or physical abuse or are in the criminal justice system

 

 

 

Healthy Families Provides Support, Produces Results

December 2nd, 2011

Mom and Dad, Monique and James, with their daughter.“As a young mother at the age of 21, my boyfriend and I had no experience raising a child. I was a stay-at-home mom with no family support here in Tucson to help with my daughter,” says Monique R., a participant in CODAC’s Healthy Families program.

Monique struggled with Postpartum Depression and anxiety a few months after her baby girl, Nariyah, was born.

“I was referred to the Healthy Families program and our Family Support Specialist, Jennifer Placencia, has helped our family emotionally. She brings us information about activities to do with our baby and even about my depressions,” Monique continues.

“Having no experience with child development or depression, the Healthy Families program helped increase my parenting skills and made me more confident.”

“Our family has grown and learned so much. And our two-year old has never been more happy, healthy and extremely intelligent.”

Monique and James now feel more comfortable caring for Nariyah’s basic needs and have learned the importance of communication, bonding and attachment with their baby.

They have learned many parenting skills, including appropriate – and effective – discipline. And, whenever they have a question, they can always ask Jennifer for advice.

Holding her daughter, Monique beams when she talks about their progress. “We’re so thankful for Jennifer and the Healthy Families program.”

Healthy Families is a national Best Practice program that offers parents-to-be and new parents vital support to promote healthy child development and prevent abuse and neglect. Family Support Specialists provide free in-home support to parents until their youngest child is five years old.

CODAC is one of the original partner agencies that brought Healthy Families to Arizona in 1991. We are currently a sub-contractor of Child & Family Resources and serve on Advisory Board of Pima County Healthy Families.

If you know of a family who may benefit from the Healthy Families program, contact Lupe Ricardez at Child and Family Resources to schedule a family screening. Phone: (520) 321-3754.

Pennie

October 17th, 2011

Working on Her Future

In October of 2005 life changed dramatically for Pennie, a recovering meth user. Her life of sobriety began after an abrupt call to reality when her three children were removed from her custody by Child Protective Services. “It was one of the worst days of my life, I had hit rock bottom” says Pennie now ten months sober.

Pennie began using meth in 2003 when she was a working mom and raising three children on her own. She never had enough energy to clean her house or help her kids after she finished two or three shifts at the local convenient store. Meth gave her the added boost of energy she needed. Little did she know, this lifestyle would take her down a path of pain and difficult times for her and her children. In April of 2005 Pennie was arrested in front of her children for possession of meth. “My daughter still gets upset at the sight of a police car,” says Pennie as she recalls the day her children will never forget.

Pennie found herself at CODAC thanks to a friend also in recovery. Since October 31, 2005 Pennie has been sober and getting her life back with the help of CODAC’s Recovery Support Center. She attends group meetings, AA meetings and is doing her community service at the center. Finding a two bedroom apartment and taking parenting classes are the final things Pennie has to complete before being reunited with her children.

“Lot’s of good things are happening for me.” Pennie has gotten a part-time job and is creating a network of support from family and friends. She is looking forward to a life of recovery and a life of joy with her children, “My past is my past. I’m working on my future.”

Chris

October 17th, 2011

“Sobriety is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

A few years ago, Chris never thought he would be able to say that sobriety was the best thing that ever happened to him. Alcohol and cocaine were the words he uttered the most.

Chris started out as a social drinker and slowly it turned into a dangerous addiction. Eventually he found himself drinking and snorting cocaine everyday. “All I cared about was getting high” says Chris, now sober for over a year.

Many nights were spent sleepless unless he ran out of cocaine. Any money that found its way to his pocket was spent immediately on his drug of choice.

His sobriety was triggered by a life threatening auto accident that occurred while under the influence of alcohol. He was given his second DUI and sentenced to two months in jail, probation and drug rehab. While at CODAC he started to realize the mess he had made with his life, family, financial situation and his emotions. One step at a time he began cleaning things up and getting back on track with his goals and life. Chris now works for CAT and has a career ahead of him. Chris works hard everyday to stay sober and make the right choices. “I’m happy. I’m a good person now and I don’t miss the life I had.”

Suzette A.

October 17th, 2011

Practice What You Preach

Seeing Suzette A. today, you would never suspect she had been addicted to methamphetamine. Suzette has a steady job at a local social service agency as a parent aide, her daughter is starting kindergarten this fall, and Suzette hopes to get her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Her desire is for “people on drugs to see [her] and realize there is hope.”

April 22nd, 2006 was the last time Suzette “used.” She enrolled in CODAC’s Recovery Bridge program on May 3rd and CPS took Antoinette for 37 days. Suzette credits CODAC as being integral to her recovery.

Suzette’s greatest supporters at CODAC were Darlys Heydon and Mike St. Ores. “Darlys was the hard-ass,” Suzette says. “More like my Dad, Darlys knew which buttons to press to get me to confront the issue. Darlys helped me slow down and concentrate on recovery.” Heydon’s guidance helped Suzette to process issues she had with her dad which motivated much of her drug use. Mike St. Ores became a key resource in Suzette’s journey. St. Ores’ guidance and Heydon’s discipline were the “perfect combination,”; she says.

Suzette is the co-leader of a 12 step program, part of a filmed project called The Breakthrough Series: a unique approach to substance abuse and recovery, and an active member of her church, the Victory Assembly of God. She is dedicated to taking care of her energetic six-year-old daughter and her pursuit to rebuild her marriage. No matter how busy she gets, she always remembers to “practice what you preach.”

Leah H.

October 17th, 2011

“Welcome to Being a Grown Up”

Leah H standing in front of a wall on 4th Avenue“You can take two roads when you have a mental illness and you’ve grown up rough. You can either go down the path your parents went, or you can turn over your own new leaf.”

At just 19 years old, Leah H. sits tall, speaks confidently and tells us about her life. Mother struggling with alcoholism and resulting health problems; absent dad. Leah had to grow up at a young age, and the emotional effects finally caught up with her.

“One day I was just like ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen to me for one more week if I don’t get help…because I was just at the point where I was almost suicidal. I was having negative thoughts and felt so doomed.”

Leah had to decide which road to go down: turn to alcohol and drugs or turn to treatment.

After visits to the ER and SAMHC for severe anxiety and depression, Leah started coming to CODAC’s Young Adult Services where she receives case management, therapy and medication management services. She looks forward to attending groups to build relationship and anger management skills that she didn’t learn from her family.

Leah H shows us her planner

Leah proudly shows off her day planner, which she uses to keep track of her responsibilities.

“It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. It honestly is,” she says. “Everyone has been so nice here. It has completely turned my life around. I’m not a victim anymore.”

Leah got her GED and is now going to Pima Community College. “I love to just hang out. Simple things make me happy now, like laying out by the pool and going shopping.

“I learned very quickly that you can’t expect life to go how you wanted it. All you can do is make the very best of it. This is life,” she finishes. “Welcome to being a grown up.”

Ida L.

October 17th, 2011

“Peeling Back the Onion”

Ida sits by the pool

Ida enjoys the pool at her apartment complex.

Hopefully, everyone at one point can say “I really love my life.” For some, it’s a harder, longer struggle to get there than for others. Ida L. struggled for over 30 years to overcome horrible effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Schizoaffective Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Ida is an incest survivor. The emotional pain of this led her to make numerous near-fatal suicide attempts. When Child Protective Services (CPS) realized she was too unstable to take care of her only daughter, they took her away. “I was very self destructive. I was cutting, overdosing…not a happy person. I felt like I was in a dark tunnel and there was just no way out.”

Her PTSD from incest caused Ida to be startled by sounds and very scared of male figures. Angry voices would throw her into a panic attack. When her mother – her protector – her “rock” – passed away, Ida spiraled into her most difficult time. Her father also died within three years after her mother’s death. Ida was going back and forth between hospitals and spent three occasions in the Arizona State Hospital. “The last time I was there, I was there for nine months. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I was very sick.”

“All of the sudden things started to change,” she says. Ida’s desire to not want to be depressed all the time fueled her road to recovery. “You have to take a step back and say ‘when is the time to stop all this and move on?’ I had that time.”

Ida has been a CODAC member for over two decades and attributes her success to CODAC’shelp. For most of the time she was part of Intensive Community Services (ICS) as she worked on her recovery.

Ida shows the DBT book that has helped her in her recovery

Ida points to a section of a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy book that really made an impact in her recovery.

ICS serves members experiencing acute symptoms of mental health disorders. The program provides frequent medical and case management as well as intensive outpatient therapy services. Ida attended group and individual therapy sessions as well as classes for job training. All of this plus the right medication combination made Ida’s recovery a success.

“I call it peeling the onion. You have to really go inside of yourself, start taking out all that pain and bring it out on the surface and deal with it, and not inflict it on yourself.”

Ida has been living on her own for two years. Her three cats have made living alone possible. “I tried to live on my own before but it just didn’t work. It was too much and I couldn’t handle it. And now I love it!” Ida has also gained more independence by having her own car again. She also has plans to go back to school to become a Registered Nurse.

Ida goes to church, enjoys reading and making friends. She also has a great relationship with her daughter who lives in California. “I realized the only way I was going to get better is if I worked on it for myself.”

Ida’s story is one that demonstrates the power of hope and the human spirit. “I’m so excited to survive what I have survived and keep going and know I can do it…I love my life now.”

Ricky R.

July 20th, 2011

A Softened Spirit – Letting Go of Anger
Ricky R. stands outside his apartment

Ricky R. grew up making trips to the hospital with his mother after she was beaten by his dad. At school, he was the one being bullied. “I used to get pushed around, threatened, rocks thrown at me; it was like an everyday thing,” he says.

In 8th grade when Ricky came out as being gay, the bullying increased. He became more angry, argumentative and verbally abusive with his mom. He got involved in risky behaviors including prostitution, eating disorders and heavy drug use. “My mom never understood why I had so much anger,” he says. “Looking back at it, it was really never her, or anybody. In fact, it was everything I was holding in.”

At age 24, Ricky’s rage took over during a drug-induced breakdown. He almost killed his mother. Sentenced to three years in the Arizona State Hospital (AzSH), and additional years of closely monitored after-care, Ricky says that’s when his life started to turn around.

At AzSH, it was mandatory to attend groups. At first closed off to therapy and recovery, Ricky started coming out of his shell. “I really started participating more,” he says.

His recovery continues at CODAC’s Intensive Community Services program (located Downtown) where he meets frequently with a care manager, psychiatrist and therapist.

Instead of being consumed by his anger, Ricky now is in control. “I was the type that when I got mad I was a very violent person.” He now remains mad for only a couple of seconds before realizing it isn’t something worth being mad over. “You waste that time of your life for what? You aren’t going to get any [of that time] back. You just have to let it go.”

Ricky now has a great support system and credits community as a positive influence to his recovery. He says one of the best parts of his life now is the friendships he has. His best friend and neighbor, Renee, has been one of his biggest supporters. Instead of holding on to anger, he turns to Renee to vent and get feedback. “She tells me things I need to hear.”

Ricky working at computer

Ricky likes to help others in his apartment complex with their computer problems.

“I have been blessed to be working with Ricky for over two years,” says Pam Rada, CODAC Care Associate. “He is very dedicated to his recovery. It is inspiring to watch Ricky turn his prior anger issues into a helpful spirit in which he derives pleasure from helping others,” she adds.

Ricky has been sober for more than seven years. He lives in his own apartment, has a job and looks forward to future career possibilities.

Secure with the person he has become – regardless if his mental health diagnoses – Ricky has learned to advocate for himself. Instead of being the shy boy, silent in the back of class, Ricky is not the outspoken one in the group. “I am open about a lot of things when I meet people. … I am comfortable with who I am now,” he says, smiling.