I am a lover of Jesus and I owe everything to the one who saved me from death and darkness.
After 14 years of involvement in recovery, I have seen what works, what doesn’t, and how the best intentions and efforts often end up harming, or yield only minimal positive results.
I have survived multiple suicide attempts. I have been abused. I am in long-term recovery from alcohol and drugs. I have walked with friends through the suicide of a loved one. I have lost family members. I have lost men to drug overdose (both intentional and accidental). I have witnessed many others lose everything to addictions they could not get under control.
I have also helped hundreds of men fight addiction since 2009 through the Timothy Initiative (TI). Many of these men have found the answers to the problems of life that they have sought for so long (men who embrace the principles of TI have a 90% rate of making it beyond 2 years of sobriety).
In 2010, I moved into a poverty-stricken urban area of Tampa, Florida. Here, I have become friends with the less fortunate, and those against whom most people hold prejudice, not realizing these people never had a chance.
I also understand the broken, the addicted, and the "lost" because I was one of them. I still remember the thoughts I had when I first checked into a detox center: "People shouldn’t feel so alone, ridiculed, and judged." Over the years, I have witnessed toxic help from both the Christian and secular communities—money wasted, lives lost, and damage done to those struggling with addiction, and those wanting to help.
I now have started the Sober Truth Project, taking the principles that have been successful within TI and teaching them to the world. To do this, we must change the way the world views addiction, mental health, and those struggling with suicidal thoughts. We need to redefine the role faith plays in how we all recover, to lead people to their true identities as sons and daughters of the Father in heaven.
The brokenness of the world is not only a problem for the individuals struggling within society, but is a problem shared by the whole community.
I have seen the struggles my father has faced in a culture that doesn’t take kindly to mental illness. My brother battles his own dysfunctional relationship with heroin. I have witnessed how quickly people can slip into homelessness, isolation, depression, and addiction.
Too often our initial impressions of someone prevent us from offering empathy and compassion for their struggles without judgement or stipulations. In my travels, I have served a diverse set of people in impoverished and marginalized places. My exposure has developed my empathy and compassion for others, and I intend to use my experiences to work toward a systematic approach for improving the well-being of those on the fringes.
I have a passion to help reform our healthcare system and create a cultural shift towards prioritizing of people facing behavioral health challenges. I am intrigued by the internal and external forces that influence a person’s motivation to change. In my academic work, I have focused on increasing effective clinician skills, such as expressing empathy and understanding. I am especially invested in implementing person-centered care in treatment and harm reduction strategies for addiction recovery.
I am pursuing my PhD in behavioral and community sciences from the University of South Florida. I am a member of MINT (Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers), and I currently use MI in trainings for healthcare providers around the country and sometimes internationally. I work as a trainer and recovery coach on a program that provides recovery coaching and daily medication assisted treatment monitoring. My research aims to provide the perspectives of stakeholders and give rise to the voices of behavior health patients.
My passion is to help others and I aim to do so through personal, academic, and systematic pursuits. The Sober Truth Project represents all three to me. It is a space for combining experience and expertise to redirect awareness and acceptance, destigmatize suffering, and strengthen a collective commitment to serving all.
I remember the color of my psychologist’s pants when he said I would be stuck with bipolar forever. I remember he furled his eyebrows, pressing his pen into his hard clipboard. And how I sat, hunched over, elbows on knees. Perhaps he had pity on me. Because he looked at me and said: “You know, I did hear of this one guy that overcame bipolar.”
It was later winter 2002 and I hadn’t even turned 22 yet. I’d just fallen from a manic spell, and oh boy, was it a doozy. It was my junior year in college and I’d been smoking pot alone in my bedroom when something clicked, filling me with confidence and motivation, which had been absent for months. In the coming days my energy levels increased, and I discovered omnipotence - commanding the wind to blow a leaf, or hearing people’s thoughts.
I even reached the point that I thought I was Jesus Christ reincarnated. I’m not joking.
I was through the roof in the middle of a manic phase. And what goes up must come down, and I crashed hard. Now I had a bottle of lithium and a seat in this psychologist’s chair.
Life had become unmanageable and a day didn’t go by when I didn’t consider suicide. But I also kept wondering about the man my psychologist mentioned. And then I met Jesus.
In Jesus I found forgiveness of sin and a love for myself I’d never known. He showed me how to let go of my past faults and the pride that came with it. Thanks to this relationship I’ve never had another episode again, and I don’t consider myself to be bipolar anymore. But it’s still a matter of submission and devotion, a road I will forever travel in order to maintain my mental wellness.
Perhaps a counselor could tell his dejected clients about me. But that doesn’t mean I’m the one who beat bipolar. That was Jesus. He’s the only one you should be pointed to.