In 2014, in Boston, Massachusetts, while working at a Department of Mental Health Facility, for a local mental health agency as a Certified Peer Specialist, I went to visit one of my “guys”. As I was walking in, I came across another one of my “guys”. He told me that someone had disrespected his sister and he was on his way to go end the guys life.
I told him he “looked like shit” and asked if he had slept or eaten.
He answered in the negative. This man had been burned hundreds of times by people in my sort of role. I knew him well and he trusted me. I told him something like you can’t kill someone on an empty stomach so let’s go chow down. We then went to Subway for sandwiches.
He reminded me that I could get in trouble for paying for a “client” out of pocket. I told him his life was more important than some arbitrary bullshit rule and that I “self-reported” to my supervisor everytime I broke the rules for the sake of helping one of my “guys”, because I did it so often I had to cover my ass. He laughed because he knew it was true and he knew it was a public secret.
Upon concluding our meal and peer support session (mutual and off the clock at this point), I asked him what his plans were. He said he was “fucking exhausted” and was going back to his room to sleep. I said great, call me tomorrow to let me know how you feel.
A few years later, he became one of the very few people in the United States, of whom I am aware, despite what he describes in his own words, “my 12 page CORI ain’t so bad compared to some of the other guys here”, to prove via his actions, and his commitment to his recovery, to the state housing commission, that he had actually improved and bettered himself to such a remarkable degree, that he was able to obtain subsidized housing, in spite of the 12 page CORI.
He just needed someone to give a crap about him on both a human and a humane level. I understood what he needed and I made sure that is what he received.
I was a street kid and not a college boy, and he knew it; it was and still is obvious.
This experience was and always will be one of the finest moments of my life. This man has since credited me for being the person who saved him; I told him that helping him save himself was what helped me save me.I broke the rules to save a man’s life; and I am both grateful and proud that I did.
I broke the rules to save my own life; and I am both grateful and proud that I did, and that I continue to do so.
Written by Craig Lewis, The Author of “Better Days — A Mental Health Recovery Workbook” and originally posted on the Medium Publication ‘Invisible Illness’on August 24th, 2019
Photo Taken in London, England, by Craig Lewis. 2017.
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