Client Success Stories

I needed to be successful in order to support my family | Julie

Growing up in Marin, Julie was aware at a young age of the contrast between what she describes as her ‘affluent’ community and her own homelife. Her mom struggled to find stable housing, and Julie cycled through four foster homes before they could be reunited. Her feelings of being different continued at school, as she could ‘count on one hand’ the other girls of color in her grade.

Despite all seeming limitations, Julie excelled academically, playing the violin and clarinet in middle school and then in high school, earning placement in advanced classes all while playing sports and working a part-time job.

“I felt like I had to make up for a lot,” she says. “I needed to be successful in order to support my family.”

Peer pressure, however, was hard to resist, and by the time she graduated, excess use of drugs and alcohol had affected her mental state. She started to experience psychosis, or what she describes as an ‘alternate reality.’

“Who I was – what I believed in, how I saw myself and other people – was highjacked,” she says. “I became controlled by something else, but it still felt like me. I was seeing people who weren’t there and hearing voices.  I had categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people.  Those closest to me were always ‘bad,’ and I would often act out stories in my head and become aggressive.”

Julie remembered stories about other family members who had similar symptoms, but they were never diagnosed or treated.  For several years, Julie and her mom thought the behavior was related to alcohol and drug use – but even when Julie was sober for periods of time, the symptoms would continue.

“I finally acknowledged there could be a problem,” she says.  She sought out education about what she was experiencing with a local non-profit and she and her family came to accept that she has a mental illness.

“I’ve accepted it, but I don’t normally talk about it,” she says. “I don’t want to be seen as different. I’m conscious of the stigma out there. But I also want to do what I can to eliminate that stigma, which is why I’m telling my story.  People should not have to be afraid of being judged for having a mental illness.”

Having a diagnosis didn’t end the substance abuse; Julie experienced a period of homelessness, as she was repeatedly hospitalized.  When she would normally provide a fake address when asked where she lived, the last visit changed the direction of her life when she courageously revealed she was homeless.

It was then that Julie became connected with Buckelew Programs, beginning with a short stay at Casa Rene, then gradually moving into more independent living programs, all while being supported with therapy, case management and medical oversight.

Buckelew’s Marin Assisted Independent Living (MAIL) Program houses individuals 18 years and older, providing them with mental health and social rehabilitation support, either individually or in group households.  Supported housing clients benefit from whole person daily, intensive services including treatment planning, case management and living skills that enable them to live semi-independently.  Last year, Buckelew housed a total of x people in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.

EMILY QUOTE NEEDED

Today, Julie is 26 years old and has been sober for two years.  She recently earned her certification in alcohol and drug abuse counseling and is working full-time at a private recovery facility. She is continuing her education and is considering all her options.

“I had to figure it out for myself,” she says. “I am young, but I don’t feel young. I’m different, but I wanted a different outcome.  I’ve always wanted better for myself and my family.”

(Alternate ‘quote’):

“I’m young, but I don’t feel young,” Julie says. “I’m different, but I wanted a better outcome for myself and my family. BP has made that possible and now I’m pursuing my goals and enjoying a successful, meaningful life.”

One of my biggest goals was to learn how to listen | Darryl

In the first five minutes of meeting and talking with Darryl, it’s obvious he has many qualities of a man who was raised well. A good listener; kind, thoughtful, respectful and fully present.

“I was the only boy in a house full of women,” he says. “My mom paid special attention to me; spoiled me rotten and was my best friend growing up. She instilled in me the value of hard work.”

Born and raised in Marin County, Darryl and his three sisters lost both their parents early in life, within a short period of time. “I needed my dad, and my mom was my rock. Losing them in my twenties was a shock that I spent the next 25 years trying to escape from.”

Having been ‘raised to go to work,’ Darryl succeeded in learning various trades, becoming a senior member of a local construction labor union as well as earning certification as a tree surgeon. He married, and became a father to four children.

“I was functioning, but still hadn’t faced, much less recovered from, losing my parents,” he said. “I needed to keep pushing those feelings down. Drugs and alcohol worked to numb the pain.”

As his addiction took hold, work became more elusive. He would enter treatment at his family’s encouragement, but the cycle of relapse resulted in homelessness and Darryl found himself living out of his car.  A fall out of a tree resulted in the fracture of both ankles and he was told he would never walk again.

“But I would get where I needed to go every day to feed my habit, rolling my wheelchair wherever,” he says. “The lifestyle was hard; I was truly tired and ready to take on sobriety for myself – not for friends or family.  For me.”

Teresa Bowman is a director at Buckelew Program’s Helen Vine Detox Center in San Rafael; she is also a long-term friend of Darryl’s family and was in regular contact with him, encouraging him to seek treatment.

When Teresa called Darryl with the news that a bed had just opened up, he knew it was time. “I was familiar with the existence of the ‘revolving door,’” he said. “I knew that wasn’t going to be me.  I was through ‘trying.’ I had made the decision to finally turn my life around.”

Soon Darryl was volunteering to help staff, stepping up to take on work projects and serving as an example to the other clients. “I took the program very seriously,” he said. “One of my biggest goals was to learn how to listen.  Because I don’t know everything.”

Early in his treatment, Darryl received news that his 19 y/o son had been paralyzed from a gunshot wound. Knowing how much his son needed him – now more than ever – to be whole and healthy only made Darryl more determined to succeed.

Today, Darryl continues to be an example for others in the program and has graduated to Buckelew Programs’ sober living environment (SLE) residential home.  Three other program graduates live there as well and continue to receive support services that keep them focused on sobriety while they work, and/or attend school.

Darryl has since launched his own one-man business, purchased a work truck and is enjoying the healing of relationships with his family.  Practicing his faith is a cornerstone of his daily routine, starting each morning with Bishop T.D. Jakes on YouTube.

“Today, my mind works in a completely different way,” he says. “Instead of focusing only on where I’m getting my next fix, I’m living a responsible life in the real world. I process information now. I am 100 percent present.”

“I no longer have to bury painful memories with drugs and alcohol,” he says. “I’m learning to live a normal life by taking on responsibility for myself that I’d been running from for years. I want to keep moving forward.”

My thoughts were, “it’s time for an adventure” | David

“Where I was, was bad.  This program was the answer.”

David grew up with a close-knit family in San Francisco in the 80’s.  “As kids,” he says, “we took the bus everywhere – cost just a nickel.”

In 1983, his father bought him the new Apple IIe. “We were the first house on the block to buy a PC,” he says. “The computer era was just launching; I consumed everything tech at that time.”

David excelled in school and was accepted into competitive gifted academic programs.  He participated in choir and the debate team, and finished high school early to attend a year-long program in Israel, to which he had won a full scholarship.

“I had close friends,” he says. “I was social; much more so than I am now.”

Many years later, living with a bi-polar diagnosis, David clearly remembers the time in his life when his mental illness first presented itself.  “My rational decision-making abilities were gone,” he says. “My thoughts were, ’it’s time for an adventure.’”  He left school.  Six months later, when the episode was ending, he would go back to school. “It took me seven years to get my BA,” he says.

And the cycle continued – for nearly two decades.  “It never occurred to me I was ill,” he says. “Even though I was experiencing evictions, homelessness and not sleeping, I was euphoric. I thought my time spent on Skid Row was ‘free paradise.’ I would become a completely different person, one who is unimaginable to me now.”

After his third hospitalization, David ‘had a moment of clarity,’ and took his sister’s advice to seek help. “My sister, a psychiatrist, told me there was a good program in Marin called Buckelew. That was six years ago.”

David was accepted into Buckelew’s Marin Assisted Independent Living (MAIL) program, where he has maintained stability and mental health.  MAIL program clients share living space in housing where BP provides comprehensive oversight of care.  BP service providers visit the homes three times a day and work with the clients to ensure meds are taken, chores are completed, appointments are kept and meals are planned for and prepared.

Emily McDonald is a Buckelew Program’s case worker. She meets with the housemates once a week to help plan meals and make a grocery shopping list.

“This program provides real homes for our clients,” said Emily.  “This is their home, their family.  Many clients have never experienced a warm, stable and supportive environment, like we provide. They are accepted and cared for here. It’s love and hope that we provide.”

“Buckelew was a lifesaver for me,” David says. “Prior to getting here, I didn’t have a regular doctor, much less a psychiatrist and therapy. They helped me establish routine and structure, to where I am OK, safe and stable. If this program didn’t exist, it would have been disastrous for me.”

Today, David still enjoys close relationships with his family members and is feeling confident about establishing new goals.

“I’m a grateful person,” he says. “I take nothing for granted – food, shelter, health. Just because of what I lived through.  For me, just to be OK is a big deal.”

You have to be active in your child’s life and your community | Demar

“This is for other people,” Demar told his recovery coach several days after arriving at the Helen Vine Recovery Center. “Not for me.” His coach asked him to give it his best shot for the next 30 days. Nearly four months later, Demar was completely transformed. “Helen Vine had become my cornerstone; my family. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I was ready.”

Originally from Oakland, Demar moved to Marin as a teenager when he had been getting in a lot of trouble, and his godparents offered a different environment. Shortly after graduating, Demar focused on working to support his baby girl, and a dead-end cycle began. “I would work multiple jobs, pay my bills, and party with the rest. Work, drink, use, pay bills – and repeat. Over and over.”

He became frustrated and felt like there was never enough money. The crowd he was hanging out with became more centered on drug use and supporting their habits with theft. Demar began finding himself in and out of jail. “Another dead-end cycle,” he says.

Throughout this period, Demar always remained close with his daughter. At one point, he was talking to her from jail and she confessed she was embarrassed because classmates knew her daddy was incarcerated. “That was rough,” he said. “I looked around and knew I didn’t want to be one of the older guys in jail saying to the younger men, ‘don’t end up like me.’”

“Before my father passed away, he sat me down,” Demar said. “He said to me, ‘as a man, there are certain responsibilities you have. You have to be active in your child’s life and your community. You’re wasting time.’”

The county offered recovery at Helen Vine. Once he was ‘all-in,’ he attended every meeting and volunteered for every available job. “I opened my mind to try something different, to try a path that wasn’t a guaranteed dead-end. There is a saying in AA – ‘Try something new; if you don’t like it, we’ll refund your misery for free.’”

Demar left for a sober living environment (SLE), but rode his bicycle daily to Helen Vine to attend morning recovery meetings. Soon, he was offered the position of assistant house manager with another SLE. More responsibility came with a promotion to house manager. At his second job, he went from cook to store manager. He took on the role of secretary for the large Helen Vine alumni group.

Today, Demar is working towards a career in the recovery field and is a registered drug and alcohol technician. He is passionate about building into local youth and volunteers regularly with several non-profits. He would like to one day open a Boys & Girls Club in Marin.

“My roots, my recovery foundation, my grounding – all happened at Helen Vine,” Demar says. “My closest friends were made here. This is the only recovery program that could have worked for me.”

Since opening in 1999, HVRC has helped more than 22,000 individuals overcome addiction, heal emotional trauma and develop the tools they need to transform their lives. Clients at HVRC become part of a large, supportive community of staff, peers and alumni who are dedicated to making their time in treatment, as well as outside of treatment, successful.

I always need to be creative otherwise my mental health suffers | Jessica

Sophia, a Sonoma resident, experienced her first psychotic break at the young age of 12 and was hospitalized at age 16.  While she and her family grappled to understand what was happening and what to do, Sophia’s mental illness continued to ‘color every thought she had,’ and she ended up homeless for several years.

Her eventual diagnosis confirmed she was suffering from multiple forms of mental illness and Sophia entered treatment as a young woman.  When she first connected with Buckelew Programs (BP), she was living in county-provided housing with roommates who were also experiencing mental health challenges as well as addiction.

“A BP case manager was working with me to apply for independent housing,” she says. “My current living situation was becoming really scary and unmanageable. They worked quickly and helped to successfully move me into a place of my own.”

Seven years later, Sophia is a client with BP’s Sonoma County Independent Living (SCIL) Program and receives case management, which helps her remain stable and independent. “My case manager, Jessie, helps me with practical day-to-day items and planning,” she says.  “She’s also emotionally supportive and dependable. I spend a lot of time alone, so I’m always happy to see her.”

“Sophia is very skillful with regards to utilizing healthy coping techniques to manage her symptoms,” says Jessie. “She has a strong support system, which consists of community support meetings, a nutritionist and a case manager. She is very active in her mental and physical health recovery.”

Along with cooking and her emotional-support pet cat, Sophia enjoys drawing, almost daily.

“Drawing is very therapeutic for me,” she says. “It gives me something to accomplish as well as something to share. I always need to be creative otherwise my mental health suffers. There is a long history of people with mental illness bringing astounding pieces to the art world. I can be a small part of that world with my drawings.”

Buckelew made my independence possible | Josh TAY

When Josh first connected with Buckelew Program’s Transitional Adult Youth (TAY) program at age 18, he was living with his mother but needed and wanted support to work towards independence and creating a future of his own. Reading at a college level since the first grade, Josh grew up enjoying all types of books and developed a talent for writing. His love of the written word was “always a constant” in his life, and helped sustain him during turbulent times.

Early adolescence was a tough road. For a number of years, Josh was placed in group homes that ‘felt like prison.’ His mother took him to see a variety of doctors and psychiatrists who diagnosed him with a number of different mental illnesses. “I was put on meds for years to treat bipolar, Tourette’s, anxiety, etc.,” Josh says.

Just recently, at the age of 21, Josh was re-evaluated and the determination was made that he didn’t have multiple mental illnesses but only one, which was PTSD.  “I am aware of my triggers and how to manage my symptoms,” he says. “Today, I am off all medication.”

BP caseworkers connected Josh to counseling and helped him navigate resources in support of his desire to live independently as well as pursue a History degree at the local junior college. A big achievement in support of those goals included learning how to take public transportation, which was an important step towards enrolling in school.

Josh continued to excel, and through BP’s partnership with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), he made a successful move to living independently at Tamayo Village. Soon after relocating, Josh successfully secured a part-time job, where he has maintained steady employment for the past year.

Josh was accepted at Santa Rosa Junior College, and began classes as a freshman, living independently and successfully navigating transportation to get to and from school. And even though he didn’t feel “good at it,” Josh was enjoying being in community with his peers and interacting with classmates. When the pandemic hit, the transition was abrupt and stressful.

“All of the sudden,” he says, “I was alone again, all the time. It was difficult.”  His GPA dropped as a result, but through regular support from his BP caseworkers, his GPA rebounded, and Josh was encouraged to pursue a four-year degree. In early August of 2021, Josh is headed to Columbia, SC, where he will major in African American studies at Allen University.

“Josh has been extremely successful envisioning his future and working with determination,” says case manager Christine. “He uses his good, if sometimes dark, sense of humor to learn new skills and achieve his goals. It has been such a joy to bear witness to this change in Josh and I am so excited for him to start out on this next phase of his life.”

Josh has a goal to ultimately write a “fictional novel based on reality,” and if he had the choice, he would love to intern with Marvel Comics. As he’s preparing to leave for school, Josh is “very excited” about his future.

“Buckelew made my independence possible,” Josh says. “They taught me how to successfully live on my own; manage my money. BP let me learn.  BP works. That’s all I can say.”

By nature, I tend to be a ‘fixer’ | Maria Waters

It’s Personal

Maria is a valuable member of Buckelew Programs’ Suicide Prevention Hotline volunteer corp.  Like all who are sanctioned to ‘work the phones,’ Maria had to successfully complete the 40-hour training program. Only those who prove they can effectively apply what they’ve learned through training are permitted to ‘graduate’ and work Hotline shifts.

The Hotline celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021, having provided crisis intervention to more than 300,000 local residents since its inception. Several of the Hotline volunteers have been with the program for 20 years and more. Many serve because they’ve lived through the suicide of a family member or close friend and are passionate about the cause.

Maria, a retired nurse, has been a long-term supporter of the program. She has also lost two close family members to suicide. “I’d always ask if there was any other volunteer position available besides answering the phones. I was too scared. But this year, I decided it was time to get involved on a deeper level.”

“By nature, I tend to be a ‘fixer,’ she says. “But that isn’t our role. We can’t cure every problem. We can only be with them in that moment.  But in that space, we have a tremendous opportunity to make an impact. The ones who call – part of them wants to live.”

“I still get nervous before every shift,”’ she says. “But once I get here, I’m OK.”

I can be a small part of that world with my drawings | Sophia

Sophia, a Santa Rosa resident, experienced her mental health symptoms (depression) at the young age of 12 and was hospitalized at age 16. While she and her family grappled to understand what was happening and what to do, Sophia’s mental illness continued to ‘color every thought she had,’ and she ended up homeless for several years at age of 24.

Her eventual diagnosis confirmed she was suffering from multiple forms of mental illness and Sophia entered treatment as a young woman.  When she first connected with Buckelew Programs (BP) after homelessness, she was living in county-provided housing with roommates who were also experiencing mental health challenges as well as addiction.

“A BP case manager was working with me to apply for independent housing,” she says. “My current living situation was becoming really scary and unmanageable. They worked quickly and helped to successfully move me into a place of my own.”

Seven years later, Sophia is a client with BP’s Sonoma County Independent Living (SCIL) Program and receives case management, which helps her remain stable and independent. “My case manager, Jessie, helps me with practical day-to-day items and planning,” she says.  “She’s also emotionally supportive and dependable. I spend a lot of time alone, so I’m always happy to speak with her by phone. We use the phone because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“Sophia is very skillful with regards to utilizing healthy coping techniques to manage her symptoms,” says Jessie. “She has a strong support system, which consists of community support meetings, a nutritionist and a case manager. She is very active in her mental and physical health recovery.”

Along with cooking and her emotional-support pet cat, Sophia enjoys drawing, almost daily.

“Drawing is very therapeutic for me,” she says. “It gives me something to accomplish as well as something to share. I always need to be creative otherwise my mental health suffers. There is a long history of people with mental illness bringing astounding pieces to the art world. I can be a small part of that world with my drawings.”