My Recovering Story - James B
First, a prefatory note: I try not to use the word “recovery”, as I
feel that this word is misrepresentative and inaccurate. We are
recovering, just as, for example, alcoholics and drug abusers are
Secondly, we are not our diseases. I have a bipolar disorder---I am not
bipolar. My stepbrother has schizophrenia---he is not a schizophrenic. It
is important to make and keep this distinction in mind.
So…on to recovering. My story begins with a repo man. Strange, I know,
but then the road to recovering often has strange or unusual beginnings
and stops along the way.
Early one morning---at about 3 a.m. I was awakened by the unmistakable
din of a tow truck outside my window. I peeked out and saw my wonderful
brand new Jetta being hoisted onto the flatbed. Shortly after, the
doorbell rang and after two or three rings I answered to find the truck
driver holding a clipboard in his hands which held something I was
supposed to sign. I remember apologizing to him for my sins that led to
this repossession, as if he were a Volkswagen sales manager, rather than a
somewhat unkempt tow operator.
This was the final eye-opener for me. I had already lost my wife, my
apartment, a very good job, all my excellent credit. And now my car.
Isn’t it wonderful what mania can do! I was now in a really deep
depressive state. Even though I was seeing a therapist and taking meds, I
had been mixing alcohol with medications, trying to numb my pain and
forget that I had essentially destroyed my life.
Shortly after my car vanished, I checked myself into a nearby hospital,
where I spent the next ten days or so. I was there over the Halloween
period, and recall telling someone how we should all dress up like mental
patients. (we are allowed to make fun of ourselves)
As my new meds kicked in, and my mood improved I felt rather restless
being confined. So I did a lot of pacing through the hallways. And a lot
of thinking about what I would or should do with my life. Suddenly I had
an epiphany: I realized there was nothing I knew better than mental
illness, and therefore the mental health field was where I should be.
Voila! After 3 years of taking recovering seriously, taking my meds
consistently, and seeing my therapist on a regular basis, I now work in a
major mental health facility, where I am a therapist---actually a “peer
provider”, but “therapist” has a better ring and my i.d. badge bears this
This has been, and is, the most rewarding and therapeutic experience of
my life. I have an opportunity to work with two diverse populations:
adults with mixed diagnoses and adults with affective disorders. From each
challenging group I learn something every day I’m at work. I give a lot of
myself to them. And sometimes they give back to me. When this happens, as
they say in the MasterCard ads, it is priceless.
I’ll end this with an analogy: Recovering is like a trip down the
yellow brick road. At some point along the way you will realize that, all
along, you were smart, brave and had heart. More importantly, you will
come to learn that you are the Wizard. You’ll also discover that
Kansas is long way away and that your return trip begins with one step at