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Stories of Recovery

Manuel's Story

How Manuel helped himself get his life back on track and the advice he has for his younger self.

When I was younger, I had trouble controlling and understanding my emotions. That was the hardest thing because I’d feel angry or sad, not know why, and lash out. I also got high, so I didn’t have to feel anything. This led me to doing bad things with bad people.

One day after my parents caught me taking some painkillers, there was some crying, and I just ran out of the house. When you’re little, and someone tells you you’re a drug addict, you don’t believe it. I used to think being a drug addict meant shooting up dope and living on the streets, but once I started getting pale and skinny, I looked in the mirror and realized I was a drug addict.

A teacher at James Madison High School told me I could get help at The Jewish Board. She said I was brilliant, I could do so much better if I came to school more, and The Jewish Board’s GED program might better suit my needs. Honestly, at first, I only came to The Jewish Board to get a GED and that’s it, but it ended up changing my entire life.

One day, I went to The Jewish Board because I needed to talk to somebody. They introduced me to Mister X, because he’s Spanish and might relate to me. I didn’t like him at first because he’s so blunt, but he told me some things I needed to hear and it helped me open up to him.

The Jewish Board also helped my physical health. I’m a nocturnal epileptic, which means I get a lot of seizures at night. I could go to sleep and wake up in a hospital or ambulance, and I was so scared to fall asleep I developed insomnia. The even worse part of being epileptic is that there is so much medicine. As a recovering drug addict, I risk developing an addiction to any drug that can give me a high, so The Jewish Board collaborated with my neurologist to make sure my medication didn’t harm my recovery and that I could feel safe and comfortable taking them.

The coolest part about my psychiatrist here I have here is that I have a choice. And if something doesn’t help me, I’m able to tell them and they can look into other options. I once let them know getting a certain drug would enable me to take too much to get high or try to sell it, and they worked with me to find something that would be safer for me to get.

With Mister X’s support, I realized how badly I was taking care of myself and how it affected everyone around me. I never really thought about myself or my health, and I should have. Mister X showed me how I could get in control of my life and change where things were going, and that gave me confidence. I got my GED in three months, and I recently graduated from college.

Now I have ambition, and I want to do great things in the world. I want to make music, marry my girlfriend (who stayed with me through all of this), have a kid, and so much more. Ten years ago, I didn’t see anything except maybe more drugs.

If I could talk to my younger me, I’d say don’t blame yourself because that’s what brought you to the spot that you’re in and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You can make things better if you work at it. You can be better because you are better, but you don’t know it yet.

I’d also tell any parents with a kid facing emotional issues or addiction to try and get involved. Talk to them about your feelings and let them tell you about theirs. And, if you don’t know what to say, seek help from someone who does know what to say. You might not know what to say, but other people who study this stuff do. Mental health professionals can see it, and they can describe it, and once someone does, that’s when you can start to recover.

Thanks to Mister X and The Jewish Board, I’ve learned that I’m the best person at being me because no one else can be me.

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