Why I’m Attending ALTERNATIVES 2013: 12 Steps In Gratitude

hope1.)    I found my recovery journey in Texas after multiple failed attempts during the years 2004-2005.  I hail from Austin, Texas (ATX) where ALTERNATIVES 2013 is being hosted this December 3-6 at the Hyatt Regency by the NEC.  I’m a person with the shared life experience of mental diversity.

2.)    I thank NAMI Texas, DBSA Texas, NAMI Austin and many in Texas for helping me get up off my knees, out of bed with the covers over my head, open the shutters and open closed doors where I lived solidly in my disease and walk through the dark tunnel, around the periphery of depression back into the light so to speak.

3.)    Service goes a long way.  I started out my journey making copies at NAMI Texas and lasted 1 day, basically, thinking this is for the birds, and I lasted half a day at DBSA Texas but that was a paid gig and I was optimistic.  I even wore a suit for that job.  I helped the NAMI Austin WALK working in the Austin State Hospital Switchboard Building and listened to Dr. Peggy Swarbrick’s story of how school helped her walk and so I did too. I finished my Master’s practicum at ASH and published my findings in the Psychiatric Quarterly Journal.

4.)    I’m a psychiatric survivor solidly.  I relate to that.  I’m a consumer.  I’m an Advanced Certified Peer Specialist and Community Health Worker from the State of Texas.  I’m no more.  No less.

5.)    I found life in 2007 when I antied up $990 for my Certified Peer Specialist certification in ATX with DBSA Texas and DBSA National and it changed my life, to be perfectly honest. Profound.  I was told that I’d get a job afterwards.  It didn’t help.  I didn’t.  I got volunteering gigs at the old Austin Travis County MHMR (now ATCIC) 2nd Street and I loved it.  I was determined to learn more.  And so I did.

6.)    I somehow got onto the TTAC (via HOPE) Steering Committee in 2010 through hard-headed work and in Texas we put together core competencies, issued an RFP, Larry Fricks’ Appalachian Consulting Group transformative CPS was put into place and voila.  A State of Texas CPS certification and process was set into place and the rest is history.

7.)    “The Seed Group” started out of USPRA Texas Windows to Wellness State conferences with Dr. Dan Fisher and local Texas c/s/x interest, hard work, sweat, blood and tears.  Now it’s called the Texas Catalysts for Empowerment.  I resigned from the group in 2010.  It lives on.

8.)    I worked street HIV/AIDS/STD/HCV outreach with AIDS SERVICES OF AUSTIN and tested HIV, etc… and published more, presented more on HIV & SMI and Education and then had to work to get out of HIV/AIDS because MH an SA was more of my very real passion and so was peer supports.

9.)    I attended AA, NA, CA, SA, SLAA and my partner Pam Hardin stuck by me loyally and I received dangerous invasive “clinically necessary” treatment at the downtown ATX provider of choice for 2.5 years.  Painfully.  It hurt.  I don’t recommend it.  It saved my life, I’m told.  What it did for me, was take away that urge to kill myself.  And Pammy stood by me.  And so did my family.  1 friend stuck around that whole time.  1.

10.) I received a Certificate for 2 years of National Service with AmeriCorps working in ATX and Williamson County learning housing from the ground up and I realized quickly that without housing one literally has nothing.  Truth.

11.) I project managed in DFW with The Hope Concept Wellness Center helping institute dreams and WRAP driven by Northern Texans and Community Health Workers/Promotora’s.  My sister and only sibling died of Cancer on November 20, 2012 and I left Texas for higher ground with a heavy heart, looking for transformative hope and found it in North Carolina and now Georgia.

12.) Coming back to ALTERNATIVES 2013 to co-present with my current work, ideas, hopes and dreams means much to me.  I’ll see friends and see the hard work that many have set into motion for years.  In Orlando ALTERNATIVES, Texas had the largest contingent.  This year, via HOPE, The Texas Department of State Health Services and the University of Texas at Austin’s Hogg Foundation for Mental Health guarantees 300+ Tejano’s.  How beautiful is that?

I will be co-presenting on Mobile Crisis Intervention based on the Certified Peer Specialist Perspective, helping out with the multicultural component and hopefully providing a gender-queer Caucus during the conference.  See you there.