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PEER NAVIGATORS

Amanda Rosenberg, BA, CPSS, RC, has been working at RI since October of 2016. Each day at work she supports others in their walk toward wellness and she feels honored to be able to watch people overcome obstacles they once thought they couldn't. As a Health Navigator, she advocates for members and guides them toward the mental health and physical health services that they need. As a Recovery Coach and Peer Support, Amanda provides encouragement and acts as a role model to our peers who attend RI.

Amanda sees recovery as being a process of self-improvement that is more about the effort than any ultimate ending. She knows that embracing a life of self-improvement allows people to not only set goals, but to achieve them. By choosing to do the next right thing each recovering peer helps another. For Amanda, being of service to others is key to being of service to one's self. She is always looking for ways to provide for others whether it be by offering a joke, a smile, or secretly buying someone their coffee. Today she lives a life balanced by empathy and empowerment. And if anything she's lived through sparks hope in another person or peer, then the paycheck she gets from RI is just a bonus.

Cecilia Nguyen, BA, BS, CPSS, RC, joined the Recovery Institute team in March of 2018. In her role at RI, CC supports our members by building relationships with them. Whether she is facilitating groups, overseeing the volunteer gardeners, or providing peer support at the Community Mental Health Access Center, CC is making connections that offer growth for both herself and the peers she serves.

The experiences CC has gone through have gifted her with compassion, understanding and an ability to empathize with people. She considers herself an emotional person and recovery allows her to use her emotions as a strength to relate with others. By making self-care a top priority, CC has transformed her life into a kind of happiness she used to doubt she could have.

CC values the friends and loved ones who have become her support system over the years. She likes to surround herself with those whom she trusts and can laugh with. While she knows that she may seem demure at first, she actually loves being silly. In her free time, CC writes comedy sketches with her best friend. She enjoys finding new Pinterest recipes to cook up and music is huge for her. Bike-riding and supporting local artists gets her out. The energy that Cecilia has for life these days is something she is thankful for. It makes her smile to think that others can see her for who she really is now.

Terri Burroughs began working at RI in 2013 as a Certified Peer Support Specialist. Her job is to provide members with support that comes from her own experience. She passes along the message that recovery is possible and gives hope by meeting peers where they are at: mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. Part of what she does involves working in the community as a Peer Support at the Borgess Psychiatric Unit and the Community Mental Health Access Center.

Terri sees the recovery journey beginning for peers when they realize that they have choices. She helps them to see that they get to make those choices and that they don't have to do it alone. She can relate to stories of loss and the illnesses that sometimes accompany loss. She wants those she works with to know that recovery may not be a cure, that it does not mean cure, but that it does mean we get to have our lives back and that we get to choose the kind of person we want to be.

For Terri, recovery is everything. It is the ability to function; it is reclaiming her thought; it is gaining back her life and her purpose to serve others. Terri sees her role in her job and her role in the world as the same- to be a servant of Christ. Whether it be though Bible study, petting her dog, being with her daughter, or writing short stories (fiction only!), today Terri gives herself permission to take care of herself too.

Jamor James, CPSS, RC, began working for Recovery Institute in 2011 and he became the Team Victory Supervisor in 2016. Jamor oversees the Peer Supports who work in partnership with the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital (KPH) and at the Borgess Psychiatric Unit. He supervises the staff who facilitate RI groups and classes, the PoWeR Group Coordinator, and also Recovery Coaches who work in the local courts on behalf of RI.

Recovery gave Jamor a sense of purpose. This was the key that allowed him to making real changes to his mindset. Jamor knows firsthand that making the change from negative functioning to positive functioning is hard- sometimes very, very hard. He knows what it means to have spent the majority of life lying, conniving, swindling and dodging the truth. He also knows what it means to pay a debt to society and still come out feeling bankrupt. For Jamor, finding recovery meant he could choose to be "better". Once he set his focus on the practical steps it would take to become better, he found his way out of one life and into another.

In his life today, Jamor keeps his footing solid by maintaining focus on what he wants to accomplish. He is committed to making steady progress because it lifts up more than just him, it lifts up his family too. As a father, Jamor aims to be the role model his children deserve. With each new choice and action Jamor establishes himself, and his family, a new legacy.

Deborah Pavlik, CPSS, CRC has been working for the Recovery Institute since 2013. She facilitates our Obsessive Compulsive Anonymous (OCA) group and our Smoke Less Live More (SLLM) group. Deb's role as a Peer Support Specialist and Recovery Coach involves a lot of community outreach. On a weekly basis, she brings her skills to the Borgess Psychiatric Unit and the Community Mental Health Access Center. Deb is also a dedicated volunteer in her free time. She is devoted to helping out wherever help is needed.

Deb has a wide range of life experiences. She has worked high-paying jobs and she has been homeless. Because of how much she has seen, she has empathy for peers who exist at every level of suffering and recovery. Her past allows her to understand the battle of addiction, the long-lasting effects of trauma, the fluctuation between attempt and failure, and the relief of recovery. Deb finds fulfillment in connecting with our members and making a difference in their journeys.

Waking up each day with a clear head is the serenity Deb has been looking for. As a result of her recovery, Deb is able to be a full part of her family now; she considers this to be her greatest reward. She enjoys walking, reading, being involved with her church and playing with her grandkids. If she could pass along one message to a struggling peer it would be: "You can do it all over again. You can fall, and you can get back up again."

Nick Chung, BA, CPSS, RC, joined the Recovery Institute staff in November of 2010. He was hired to be a team leader and is currently leading Team Empower. Team Empower consists of the Peer Support Specialists who work at RI and who serve the peers coming through the Community Mental Health Access Center and the Borgess Psychiatric Unit.

Through his work, Nick aims to change peoples' minds about what being a peer means. Living as a person with mental health and/or substance use concerns is a description of a peer's challenges- not their character. Nick strives to live as a positive example of a peer who doesn't fit the stereotypes.

Since choosing recovery, Nick has been able to grow as a person again. Recovery enabled him to focus on the things he's good at (such as playing the guitar) and his potentials. It gave him the determination to seek a life that has meaning and it saved his marriage. Nick knows that along with gratitude and faith, his wife has been the rock in his life. He truly enjoys being a husband and he feels fulfilled by living out the role and commitment of a good spouse. He considers himself a homebody who loves to cook, clean, do the laundry, cut the grass...these activities are the opposite of chaos for Nick and they bring peace to his life these days.

Patricia Perez, CPSS, RC, has been a part of the Recovery Institute staff since 2012. Patricia walks the bridge with our peers and members as they travel from hopeless to hopeful. As part of her RI job, Patricia fills outreach roles at the Community Mental Health Access Center and the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital. Her vast training in the Peer Support field helps Patricia to go beyond fostering recovery, it allows her to be an example.

Patricia knows that the recovery journey is a lifetime journey. She believes that the choice to live in suffering is also a lifetime journey. The way she sees it, the life a person ends up living will be based on the thinking that person is committed to. "Everything we do in life starts with the way we think," Patricia says. "If we change the way we think we can change the way we feel and the outcome of how we react. Catch it, check it, change it."

Patricia believes that the mind's greatest power is that it allows you to heal. She reminds peers that if you want something bad enough, recovery or otherwise, and if you believe in it, you can make it happen. Patricia's own life has been full of significant experiences, some treasured and some tragic, but today she chooses to focus on her true happiness- being a mom to her grown children and being available to them. "When you have mental illness and substance abuse standing in the way you can't be present for them. The most rewarding part of being a mom [today] is that I can be present for them. This is my gift from recovery."

Sharee' Niblack, CPSS, RC, has been working for Recovery Institute since 2015. She is the first and only Family Dependency Treatment Court (FDTC) Recovery Coach. In this role, she works closely with Child Protective Services and the Department of Health and Human Services as part of a panel at the Family Division of the 9th Circuit Court in Kalamazoo. Sharee' is also RI's PoWeR Group Coordinator. Under Sharee's guidance, the PoWeR Group travels around the state to fight stigma at various civic organizations, colleges and universities.

Sharee' knows that her calling in life is to give back what was given to her. When she was struggling, people loved her until she learned to love herself. Sharee' feels compelled to fill this same role for others. She sees her work in the courts as giving hope to the women that recovery is possible. She guides them toward a new way of life, shows them that their past does not determine who they are, and most importantly- she helps them work toward getting their kids back.

The most important message Sharee' shares with the women she serves is: "The addiction and the struggles do not have to define us as mothers." She understands raising children in active addiction and she knows what it means to go through losing custody of them. She also knows what it means to face the life she has been living and to turn in a new direction. Recovery is possible and Sharee' loves being a mom today, and everyday she chooses both, again.

Quiana Glide started at RI as a member who really liked attending our art group. In the fall of 2016, she officially joined the Recovery Institute team as a Peer Support Specialist (PSS). Quiana has her BA in Creative Writing with a minor in Sociology, so it has been a natural fit for her to bring her artistic inclination and peer support skills to our Open Studio class each week.

Quiana knows that recovery can feel like a struggle and that it may not always feel consistent. For her, "being in recovery" means that she has accepted this journey toward wellness in order to keep moving forward in life. She can relate to peers who have co-occurring diagnoses and she can speak to how her diagnoses play into who she has become as a person. She knows that everyone's recovery journey is their own; as long as a peer is on the path to a more stable life, then that peer is doing recovery right.

Though she will always have the heart of a child, Quiana values how recovery has enabled her to grow up in her life. Now she relies on the tools she learned in classes and therapy as well as the support of her husband. Quiana is motivated to help others discover that they don't have to be ashamed of the things they have gone through. "There's nothing wrong with being yourself," she would like peers to know. "You don't have to fit into any role that society has planned out for you. You're going to be your happiest when you are who you truly are."

OFFICE SUPPORT STAFF

Rosalie Corliss, BA, CPSS, RC, has been with Recovery Institute since 2008 and she works as the organization's Program Coordinator. Rosie oversees the operational functioning of RI as it pertains to the classes, events and activities that we offer the community.

Rosie is a firm believer in the power of our emotions and the different messages our feelings can reveal. She seeks to connect with our members in a way that honors their emotions and acknowledges the depth of their experiences. Because of her own lived experience, Rosie knows how it can feel to live in chaos. She knows how this can stem from not having a safe place to exist. It is Rosie's goal to walk with our peers in mutuality as they design their own pathway to recovery.

In her own life, recovery has allowed Rosie to change careers in her 30s by returning to school and obtaining her degrees. Recovery has also allowed her to be a mom to her daughters, a focused employee, a true person among persons. As a result, she has found independence, meaningful relationships with her daughters and their families, and as she says, "...the icing is, it's allowed me to be a sober grandma to 4 amazing grandchildren."

Tina Lauer has been a part of the Recovery Institute team since her job transitioned here from Community Mental Health in 2008. She is one of the original staff members at RI and she has enjoyed working as our Data Entry Specialist. Tina is also trained as a Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPSS) and an Advanced-Level Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator.

Tina's favorite thing about working with the RI members is getting to know them and watching them move through their recoveries. She believes that recovery exists on a continuum and that it can look different at different points in a person’s life. She believes there is always value in someone being where they are and learning from where they are. Tina's own experience of recovery has been on a non-linear path and she respects the journey of other peers when she sees them embracing the different levels of recovery as they come to experience them.

Inside the peace of mind that recovery provides, Tina finds joy in things that she didn't have access to before. Being able to travel brings her happiness these days and playing with her cat keeps her more mundane moments peaceful. What she experiences now is a positive-focused life and for this, she is grateful.

Sean Harris, PhD, was asked by the former Executive Director of Recovery Institute to take over his position in 2010. This proposal was met with unanimous approval from the RI Board of Directors. Sean was honored to be asked to fill this role as he has been an advocate for the "peer movement" since the 1990s. Before terms like "recovery" and "peer" were present in the mental health vernacular, Sean was supporting the presence of lived experience in the rehabilitation process. He has seen and believes in the difference this can make.

Today, as Executive Director of RI, Sean oversees the operations of the organization. He serves at the board's discretion in terms of their vision for RI and he reports to them monthly on the agency's operations plan. Sean also networks with other organizations in Kalamazoo, the state of Michigan, and periodically, in different areas of the US.

Sean believes in the recovery process because it reestablishes meaning, autonomy and pride for those who seek it. In his role at RI, Sean is able to help create options and avenues for peers to have more say in their own lives. "People with mental health and substance use concerns have been really marginalized and treated poorly and in reality, they should get to be the authors of their own lives." The best part of the job for Sean is the full-circle moment when peers are able to use those opportunities and pathways to better themselves.

Gabrielle Obiya began working for Recovery Institute as the Office Manager in January of 2017. She has a BA in Writing and Literature and she uses her creativity to support RI's daily functioning and public presentation. By facilitating the office flow, managing communications, and assisting staff in their endeavors she helps RI be at its best for the people we serve. She enjoys her job because she able to employ her natural talents in order to help others who have lost their way.

As a peer, Gabbie understands what life can be like for people who have cut themselves off from the light. She knows that the process of losing oneself is insidious and can happen to anyone who is not careful with their thoughts and actions. She also knows that finding oneself again requires the exact opposite approach to life: full attention, presence and conscious choice.

"Recovery is the decision made over and over again to be better than you were yesterday." Today, Gabbie spends her free time making a home for her family and raising her small children with her husband. When she finds a moment for herself, she likes to savor things that bring her back to center- hot baths, writing, meditation, good Smiths songs, Sade... Each and everyday, no matter how busy or challenging it may be, Gabrielle is grateful that she now chooses to live authentically.

Lon Reinbold, BA, has been working for Recovery Institute since 2008 as the Administrative Coordinator. Lon oversees everything in the realm of RI's finances and human resources and he also manages the business delegated to our bookkeepers and groundskeepers.

Empathy is a big reason why Lon chose to work for Recovery Institute. He understands how a person can stop growing when they are living at the intersection of depression and substance abuse. He appreciates seeing the light flicker back on inside a peer who attends RI. When Lon witnesses a peer "get it" in recovery, when he sees them realize that possibilities still surround them, he feels grateful to be a part of bringing that light to them.

In his free time, Lon likes to participate in activities that maintain the peace he's found. His wife has been by his side throughout much of his journey and together they have fun by planning time off and hanging out. He is also fond of reading a good book and walking his dog when he comes home. When first choosing recovery, a spiritual perspective provided Lon with solace. Today, Lon's spirituality acts as an anchor that returns him to that solace, and to himself.