Thinking about meeting one of our peers? Click on their photos to read more about them.
Marsha "Shay" Pounds, CPSS, CPRC, was a longtime RI member who joined our staff in May of 2018. She is one of our SMART Recovery facilitators and she coordinates all of our volunteers. Shay is also our Women's Drug Treatment Court Recovery Coach in Kalamazoo's 8th District Court.
Shay strongly believes that recovery is possible for anyone. She is also well-aware that time is never promised to anyone. Because of this awareness, she encourages peers to accept the things they cannot change and to find a way to be grateful for what they do have. One thing she knows for sure is that every action has a reaction, repercussion or consequence. She is focused on making choices today that bring her positive returns tomorrow.
Support systems are huge for Shay and she likes to surround herself with friends, family, and the family she has found in recovery. She loves to laugh and nothing gives her more joy than playing with her dog (baby), Lily. These days she lives a life she is proud of. She has decided that her past was just a series of stepping stones bringing her to her truest self.
Anthony Sorrentino, CPSS/CPRC, became employed with Recovery Institute in 2018. He facilitates our Hearing Voices Network (HVN) group, Obsessive Compulsives Anonymous (OCA) group, and our SMART Recovery group. Tony also works as a Recovery Coach Liaison for the 8th District and 9th Circuit Problem-Solving Courts in Kalamazoo.
Tony knows what it's like to live life at different extremes. He credits his past with helping him to relate to a variety of peer experiences. "I've done it all, I've lived it all, I've died. I've been brought back to life. I've been incarcerated, institutionalized, and I'm here. If I can do this, then it's a message that others can too. I'm not special; you just have to want it."
For Tony, recovery meant making an active change in his thoughts and behavior. Recovery gave him his life back because it released him from his suffering. He aims to help our members navigate their own pathways to freedom.
These days, Tony sees himself living as a responsible, productive member of society- a version of himself he never thought he would become. As a happily married homeowner and father of 6, he loves to talk about his kids and get outside whenever he can. "I like to watch sunsets. That's very important to me because the 4 years I was locked up I didn't get to see sunsets. And that's the greatest part of the day. I've been thirsty for sunsets."
Nick Chung, BA, CPSS, CPRC, 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.
Jason Knight joined the Recovery Institute team in August of 2018. He is a Certified Peer Support Specialist and a proud veteran of the U.S. Army. Jason has become the first peer to work in the Kalamazoo Veterans Treatment Court and he is actively involved in bringing other veteran peer mentors into this program. He has also been essential in bringing peer support to the patrons of the Kalamazoo Public Library. On a weekly basis, Jason mentors at Ministry With Community and when he his working onsite here at RI, he is a regular facilitator of our Transformations group.
Jason believes in the power of people sharing their stories. He knows that not everyone has a safe space in their lives and he is honored to provide that for our members. In his eyes, conversation is a two-way street that heals in both directions. Individual experiences may differ, but Jason is certain that strength comes from connection- not comparison. For Jason personally, getting the chance to talk things through has always helped him see his next steps more clearly.
As a person in recovery, Jason seeks to grow in clarity and self-awareness everyday. He has seen himself become a better husband, son, father and grandfather as his journey has progressed. His favorite things in life these days include cooking, spending time with the family, and Michigan football. "Because I chose recovery, I am able to see the world with a new set of eyes. I actually hear music now. I get to hear the world with new ears."
Terri Burroughs began working at RI in 2013 as a Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPSS). 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.
Sharee' Niblack, CPSS, CPRC, 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.
Patricia Perez, CPSS, CPRC, 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."
Rosalie Corliss, BA, CPSS, CPRC, 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.
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.
Gabrielle Obiya-Romero 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 is 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 every day, no matter how busy or challenging it may be, Gabrielle is grateful that she now chooses to live authentically.
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