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Peer to Peer: Stories about mental health and substance use recovery

Living with mental illness can be debilitating, isolating, lonely and come with a big heaping side of shame. Talking about your mental health and substance use is still pretty taboo. It can be hard to find examples to follow, or strategies to emulate as you move through your recovery. Working as a Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPSS) over the past five years, I have learned just how special it is to help someone who struggles with their mental health, or substance use, to feel understood, less alone, and more empowered to build the life they imagine.

A CPSS is someone who lives with mental illness, or co-occurring substance abuse disorder, who helps people who have had similar experiences advance in their recovery. CPSSs share their lived experience in order to connect with peers and help them see they are not alone; helping them to share their own stories, set goals, build hope, and live more self-directed, purpose-filled lives.

The mission of peer support inspires and informs this blog. I plan to share my recovery journey with you to share what I have learned and connect on our common experiences. I hope to build a community where we can learn from one another and empower each other, rooted in the belief that recovery is possible for anyone.

What is recovery exactly? People who have been able to successfully manage their mental health disorders or overcome their dependence on drugs/alcohol are referred to as being “in recovery.” The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “A process of change through which a person improves their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full-potential.”

I have been in sustained long-term recovery for more than eleven years. I live with bipolar I, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and I have what is referred to as “treatment resistant depression.” The path to where I am now has been long and winding. I have tried MANY different treatment modalities from testing every pill in the pharmacy, to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to Electroconvulsive Therapy... you name it, I have likely tried it. And if I haven’t tried it/heard about it, I’m committed to research it and report back what I find.

I have learned much on my journey that I hope to share with you. My goal is to shed light on subjects such as how to manage various mental health conditions, to topics such as boundaries, mindfulness, conflict management, self-care and more. However, I can’t do it without you. My hope is that through social media, comments on the blog and via email, you will share your own experiences and resources from your recovery journeys as well. It’s hard to understate the profound connection felt when someone shares, “I have been there,” or “I feel like that too.” It establishes a relationship based off mutual experiences that helps dig into what a person can do to get out of those stuck, overwhelming places in their mental health or substance use journey. If you are in recovery, you have something to offer here. Where recovery is concerned, it can truly take a village. It certainly did for me. We are stronger together. No one should have to do this alone. If you have a suggestion, contribution, or topic you would like to see covered in this blog, please email Shannon at If you or someone you know is in crisis, dial 988 for the Suicide or Crisis Lifeline. Or you can chat at

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