I worked for seven years in various positions, starting from the mailroom in a computer department, and working my way up to a lead programmer for a small R&D company in California. I really enjoy working; I always did. When the company I worked for went out of business, I had a financial crisis as well as relationship issues, and when I felt there was no possible way out I got sick. I was in and out of short term facilities for a period of about five years. I was struggling and working odd jobs and had no focus when I realized that there was, in fact, a support system around me. That support system being Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and other people who shared this common experience. Shortly after, I began to grasp the opportunities and resources available to me. I applied for SSDI. During the application process, I also applied for a substitute teaching position at a local high school, and I got it!

Looking back, a friend I worked with in California gave me information about mental illness and the self-help movement, so I gave it some thought and decided to give it a chance. As time passed, I worked on and off in several positions. My focus began to shape itself when I saw others in the field who had come so far and were leaders in the field of recovery. I began to work at CSPNJ as a driver/facilitator and then moved into a position bringing WRAP to all the self-help centers throughout NJ. During that time, I was working part-time and still receiving entitlements. Making the choice to move on and keep pushing myself was something I always had in the back of my mind, due to my past. Remembering the financial limitations of Social Security, and growing up with limited resources, I did not want to settle for this as being my only source of income and a limit to my lifestyle.

As I built up experience, I built up my reputation as well. I worked hard to build a sturdy network of relationships within the mental health industry. I landed a job as a senior counselor at Bridgeway’s RIST[1] office in Fords, NJ. This gave me the opportunity to give up the Section 8 and Social Security Disability and become financially independent. With my long work history in mind, when the decision came down to giving up my entitlements, it was a “no brainer.” This was an opportunity that I would not pass up.

This was no easy transition; I struggled many times throughout the years, facing very hard decisions. With that being said, I still managed to complete my classes and duties as a college student. Although there were difficult times, having supports made the choices easy. Family was an area for me that I realized later in life would become one of my strongest supports. When we are going through life’s hard situations, we don’t realize what we have that can help us the most is sometimes right in front of our face.

Many people throughout my life aided in the shaping of who I have become as a fulfilled adult in recovery. I currently work as an employment specialist in the CSPNJ central region supportive housing program. I love what I do, because I help people realize their potential and provide support to help them move on. You, too, can move on; the choice is yours…