There is no other better time to tell Teresa’s story than during Mental Health Awareness month. Teresa has been a Certified Peer Specialist at our R.E.A.C.H Center since 2014, but her journey that brought her to us began much earlier than that.
Brought up in what she describes as a dysfunctional family and living through various traumatic experiences, Teresa says that she began experiencing depression as just a young child. Although she finished school and adjusted to moving states several times during her youth, she says she never truly felt like a happy child and that her depression followed her into young adulthood.
Escaping an abusive relationship and wanting to create a better life for herself and her children, Teresa moved back to her hometown here in 1985 – still carrying the load of her unaddressed depression with her. Teresa began to self-medicate with substances like cocaine to suppress her mental health symptoms.
“I had got ahold of something that blocked out the past,” Teresa says. “But it made me go from a great person to a person I no longer knew.”
Teresa says she spent the next 10 years in a cycle of rehabilitation and substance use recurrence that landed her in and out of incarceration – all while her untreated depression led to suicidal ideation.
“I was trapped but I could always see that light at the end of the tunnel,” Teresa says. “That’s what kept me fighting.”
Teresa says she knew she was going to make it out of the position she was in – and she was right. After serving 14 months of incarceration in 1999, she began her journey to recovery. Teresa has been living in recovery for 24 years now.
After serving her sentence, Teresa was presented with opportunities she had never thought of as possible before her recovery. She exceled in every position she was given whether it was working her way up to management at a poultry farm she worked at right after being incarcerated, working in a hospice care position that prepared her to be a caregiver to her own family members, or finally coming to New Horizons as a Certified Peer Specialist who uses her own lived experiences to help others.
“My favorite thing to say is that God gave me a chance to live twice,” Teresa says. “I got a do-over, and I am living this life to the fullest.”
Today, Teresa can be fully present with her loved ones, travel, and live everyday to the fullest. She holds the relationships she has with the individuals she serves at R.E.A.C.H very close to heart and she never hesitates to call her own counselor whenever she feels her mental health could use some help.
Teresa has a dual-diagnosis success story that we are very fortunate to tell. Her lived experiences are an immeasurable asset to our R.E.A.C.H team and has an undeniable impact on the individuals who are served there.
To learn more about R.E.A.C.H or other mental health and/or substance use services we have at New Horizons, call us at 706-596-5500.