A stable home and the safety net of care

– Meet Arlene

Ray’s difficult self-work is remarkable, says his mother, Arlene, considering challenging past experiences, including numerous hospitalizations. His easy and charming demeanor belie the obstacles he has overcome and faces each day. “I always remind him he has a gorgeous smile,” she says, noting that his health has been stable for over five years.

Ray cooks dinner for his two roommates in their Buckelew-leased apartment about two times a week. It’s a plant-based meal, usually vegetables, tofu, and rice, flavored with plenty of spices. He’s adhered to a plant-based diet for over six years, preparing his own meals daily.

Ray’s admirable and disciplined daily routine is integral to his mental health recovery. A Buckelew Supported Housing client for nearly ten years, Ray has made incredible progress, from entering the Residential Support Services program with 24/7 support to living more independently through the Marin Assisted Independent Living program.

Ray is thoughtful about his recovery, insightful and generous about sharing, hoping he can help others. He is highly motivated and productive, crediting his close family and their support for his progress. He is close to his only brother, and Arlene says she and his father were always very involved and never gave up on him. Still, sometimes, it was difficult to know how best to help him. Ray’s father, who passed away six years ago, was an involved father from day one, Arlene says. His impact on Ray remains. His father’s health diagnoses precipitated his plant-based diet and interest in nutrition. When Ray feels stressed, he listens to music or the guided meditation his father introduced him to and has, remarkably, worked up to a 30-minute session. Following his parents’ role modeling, Ray exercises daily – long walks, jogging or weightlifting. He also pursues creative and intellectual interests. For six hours, three days a week, Ray goes to an art studio, making wooden pens and clocks, among other things. He also has an eye toward employment, training an hour a week to become a barista.

“His consistency and focus,” says his Buckelew case manager, Noah Harris, and attention to his wellness practices are truly impressive. Noah also pointed out that Ray didn’t even mention his 170-day streak and counting of daily self-paced Spanish lessons. “He hasn’t missed a day,” says Noah. The two have a lot in common. “We share a love for language,” says Noah, and we also share our ideas, “so they don’t fall into the background.” On a recent visit, Ray talked about wanting to take nutrition classes, and soon enough, he was enrolled!

Asked what advice he has for others in recovery and their loved ones, Ray emphasizes having the right resources – a nice place to live and good food – as an essential starting point. Routine, too, is crucial, as is putting in the effort. “Waking up, getting out of bed” is sometimes the hardest part of the day, he says. “You have to have hope, knowing it can get better, and trust the process.”

Arlene adds that “living independently pushes a person into self-care.” She believes that if Ray had not been in Buckelew Supported Housing, the responsibility to tell him when to take his medication and what he should do would have fallen on her rather than Ray’s taking responsibility for himself. “It’s ideal to allow them to fall into the safety net of care.”

By all accounts, today, Ray is productive. He has a robust weekly schedule and drives himself where he needs to go. He makes time for his mom, often helping her with chores and occasionally spending the night keeping her company. Recently, Ray house-sat and cared for Arlene’s cat when she traveled. Soon, Ray and Arlene will attend his brother’s medical school commencement ceremony.

Ray is a role model, but Noah quickly points out that respect is mutual. Ray continues to move forward, disciplined and thoughtful. He’s moving toward becoming a nutritionist one step at a time, starting with taking classes and recognizing that taking his time and trusting the process will get him where he needs to be.