Hi, I’m Matthew and I’m a man in recovery, a proud member of YPR and grateful every day for my sobriety and my continual journey through mental, physical and spiritual health.About 23 years ago I survived a major trauma that left me unwilling to trust and highly defensive and reactive in certain situations. From age 11 until my college years, I was in and out of therapy because I didn’t believe anyone would understand or believe what had happened to me. My flashbacks steadily worsened over the years and my depressive anxiety left me paranoid and exhausted almost every day. I medicated with self harm from a young age and eventually I started drinking in my late teenage years to cope with the death of a highschool friend. By the time I went off to college, I added drugs to my list of self medication and believed I was handling my problems in the best way possible through being completely numb and disconnected from myself and reality. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I finally met a therapist that I was able to connect with and start to trust. I’m so happy and grateful that I’ve found the awesome people at Axis Health, they’ve become a second family to me through all their support and love over the years. My therapist constantly challenged my own self-judgement and shame, often inviting me to attend group therapy but I would always refuse on the basis that I believed my experiences and stories would harm others or make their situation worse. Over time, I realized and accepted that this therapist cared a lot and truly wanted to help support me in my recovery. After a while, I slowly began to open up to the possibility that maybe my story could actually help others as opposed to harming them and I began attending group therapy sessions. At first, I would just sit silently and listen to everyone’s stories and experiences, oftentimes dissociating myself and avoiding eye contact if I felt triggered during a session. One day I felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable and I shared what had happened to me as a child. I noticed that nobody was hurt by me sharing my experience, in fact they were compassionate, loving and supportive of me. Eventually, individual and group therapy at Axis Health helped me open up enough to consider another recommendation from my therapist, and that was to attend a YPR meeting. My first meeting was in a local park and I was very nervous, my head filled with all manner of self judgement and feeling undeserving of participating. As the meeting progressed, I started realizing that this was a place and community that I had longed for. It wasn’t just about recovery, there was love, acknowledgement, tears, laughs, support, and there was no judgement from anyone. I felt a sense that I might just fit in for once in my life. After only months of joining YPR, I’ve been able to challenge a few of my greatest fears head on through support from other members’ stories and by attending YPR meetings, community events and volunteer activities. One such fear was being independent but I was so motivated by this community that two months ago I moved into an apartment after being inspired by a fellow member’s speech on challenging fears. I was afraid of having money out of fear of returning to use but instead I opened a bank account for the first time in years and saved money for sobriety rewards. Recently, I celebrated being 10 years sober from alcohol and 4 years from drugs. YPR has made these achievements something that I’m proud to have and share because I now have a community that understands and values these hard earned accomplishments. YPR has given me a place to allow my identity to form, grow and emerge through friendship, vulnerability and support. I went from being primarily isolated every day for years to being active, hopeful and motivated again. Now that I have an added sense of belonging and love in my life again, I feel like my recovery will continue to gain the much needed and desired momentum to start pursuing my life’s dreams again. YPR has given me hope by providing the embodiment of the cornerstones of a healthy community; connection, love, earnest wisdom, support and leadership through example. Don’t fight the good fight alone, we’re warriors standing proud, arms interlocked in defiance of a monumental storm that can’t outlast our determination.