Consumer Perspectives: Substance Use Treatment and Mental Health
Behavioral Health News
This article is part of a quarterly series giving voice to the perspectives of individuals with lived experiences as they share their opinions on a particular topic. The authors are served by Services for the UnderServed (S:US), a New York City-based nonprofit that is committed to giving every New Yorker the tools that they can use to lead a life of purpose.
I’m a New Yorker in my 50s. I have been receiving housing, therapy, and recovery services from S:US over the last three years.
Basically, I went from bad to great since I’m no longer in the shelter system. I have my own basic freedom, and S:US assisted me through that process by giving me ideas and solutions. They helped me get from Point A (the shelter) to Point B (permanent housing) and gave me a space to do what I need to do. They helped me get my depression under control. I’m at that level where I don’t have depression anymore. I still have PTSD, but not as bad as it used to be. I’m not on any medication, and my therapist was like “Wow, that’s good!”
Obstacles to Recovery and Healing
What gets in the way of recovery and healing is mostly the environment. For example, in the shelter, if there’s something you want to do and there’s no end in sight, you start to get depressed and kind of distant. And sharing a room with other people is difficult because you must deal with other people’s issues.
When I was in South Carolina, there was basically nothing to do. Most people, if they weren’t drinking, were using drugs. If they weren’t using drugs, they were eating themselves to death. Coming to New York changed everything for me.
You just have to learn to focus on yourself and what you want to do until it manifests. Just take it one day at a time. That’s how I got through it. It’s a slow process. I’m getting there and keeping myself busy with school and other projects.
That’s what causes problems: not doing anything and dwelling on things. That’s why I keep myself busy.
Mental Health, Homelessness, and Other Challenges
I’ve overcome homelessness, depression, and substance use disorder. I’m proud of myself for making progress.
The most difficult experience was being in the shelter and taking medication that didn’t agree with me to where it was wreaking havoc on my body. I gained weight and got hypertension. Once my doctor told me, I started eating healthy and working out. Then the doctor took me off the medicine.
I’m slowing but surely losing weight. Going to school helps too. It’s just a matter of changing my environment.
Joining the Brooklyn Clubhouse
I’ll start being involved in the S:US Clubhouse soon. The Brooklyn Clubhouse provides comprehensive, recovery and rehabilitation services to adults living with a mental illness and/or co-occurring substance use. The program offers individuals access to the necessary tools to obtain and maintain employment, cultivate meaningful relationships, participate in recreational opportunities for socializing, overcome stigma, and pursue wellness in a supportive and nurturing environment. The Clubhouse provides valuable social and vocational opportunities, support from peer advocates, and assistance in developing critical life coping skills and work readiness. Clubhouse members participate in all aspects of its operation, including recruitment of new members, hiring staff, organizing activities, and orienting new members. Peer counselors drive and enhance the recovery-oriented environment, which encourages members to find their own voice, recognize their strengths, and use available support and services to facilitate their own recovery.
What I’m going to do is get involved in their media and communications work. I want to do video production that shows my progress from not only being in a shelter and moving into permanent housing, but also everything I’ve achieved in between. I want people to get a visual of my journey instead of just reading about it. If they see me in the way of my progress, they’ll be inspired to say, “Oh, he’s doing it. I need to go in that direction.”
I started going to school this spring for media arts, liberal arts, and radio at Kingsborough Community College, and I expect to graduate in 2025.
Messages for Others Experiencing Similar Challenges
I have encouragement to share with people who may be having a hard time and experiencing some of the challenges that I’ve been through.
S:US doesn’t just help you with your mind, they help you with your body and your spirit. They have events like cooking classes and yoga. They go all the way around. I would recommend going to S:US if you want to be well-rounded, because I’m a perfect example of that thanks to the S:US Wellness Works Clinic in Brooklyn.
You can’t help anybody if you can’t help yourself and get it together. S:US gives you the benefit of getting it together, from therapy to support groups. We encourage each other in those groups.
I want to be an inspiration to get others to be inspired. Not for ego purposes, but for people to know that you can achieve greatness.