I grew up in a military family, moving wherever my mother was stationed. This had a dramatic effect on me and the essential skills that every child learns growing up. My family finally settled in Oregon where my parents got divorced, my father went to prison and I found my way to drugs. I was 15 years old when I tried meth for the first time and I also began to run away from home. I was 17 when I was diagnosed with HIV. I found a friend in heroin and the next six months I was near suicidal due to my status but I found support with my mother. My mother and I decided that Portland was not the place for me. I went to live with my dad; got my first job and also experienced discrimination due to my HIV status. I sued two of the companies for discrimination and using the money I won, I discovered crack cocaine.
My mom let me move back in with her in Washington and I was successful for a while – I had a job, a new car, a relationship and a baby in December of 2006. I relapsed on heroin and by the end of 2008 I had lost all control. I gave my daughter to my mother and I was back on the streets of Portland. I finally made it to detox and my sobriety date is 05/21/2012. I was introduced to the services at Transition Projects, and I connected with a Housing Case Manager who guided me through some of my barriers so that I would be able to get an apartment. October of 2012, a low-income unit became available and my Case Manager worked with the landlord to get me into this unit with five months of sobriety. Over the next 13 months I worked with a Retention Case Manager at Transition Projects to develop goals. I also began to volunteer for Cascade AIDS Project (CAP), “bulldozing” my way towards my end-goal of employment.
When I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the Mentor Program, I was so excited!
I was being given a chance to help those who were in a position that I had so recently been in. I co-lead support groups at Jean’s Place and at the Day Center; I was also able to assist in the Day Center, gaining new skills. When I graduated from the Mentor Program I was hired as an On-Call Day Center staff and I was able to build relationships and help participants with issues as a person who had gone through what they were going through.
Everything I learned while at Transition Projects helped me to reach my end goal - employment at CAP – and I was hired in November of 2014. Today, I am employed as a CAP Peer Support Specialist. It has been with the support, encouragement and opportunity to learn so many new skills from the staff, especially the case managers I worked with, that I have been able to overcome my addiction, my barriers and become a productive member of society.