September is National Recovery Month. Join MHA in acknowledging the challenges that people struggling with addiction work so hard to overcome—and celebrating the personal victories they are achieving. People like Tim Dudley.

“My dad wasn’t around from when I was 11 years old,” Tim recalled. “I had psych issues and learning disabilities, but no one mentioned those things at the time. It was an embarrassment, a stigma. It was hard to be 11 and know something wasn’t right, but the culture didn’t support you in getting help for it.”

Tim Dudley lives in Westfield now, but originally he’s from Philadelphia, where he lived with two brothers and his mom. Tim didn’t see his mom much because she was always working to support her family. “I started getting real lonely. The crowd that would accept me was people using drugs and alcohol, so those were the friends I ran with. When I started to get into trouble my mom told me I’d regret it, and she was right. I dropped out in 9th grade and I was always behind as a result.”

For years, Tim struggled with mental health, drugs, alcohol, holding a job and a keeping a place to live. He was living in a local homeless shelter when a Department of Mental Health worker pointed him to MHA Safe Haven.

“Safe Haven is a transitional homeless shelter where participants may reside for up to two years,” said Olivia Bernstein, Program Supervisor of Safe Haven. “Each individual served has a mental health diagnosis and is chronically homeless. While participants are here, our most important goal is to help them overcome barriers to housing so they can find a safe, affordable place to call their home. In addition, we support participants in pursuing their goals and stabilizing their lives. Our ultimate goal is for them to live independently.”

Tim was one of the first participants when Safe Haven started in May 2016, and by October 2017 he had transitioned to his own apartment. “Tim had issues related to severe addiction as well as untreated chronic mental health issues,” Bernstein explained. “Now he goes to AA meetings every day. He actually sets up and helps to run the AA meetings. He sees a therapist regularly. He also has the help of a peer recovery support specialist, Mark Jachym.”

MHA’s Mark Jachym has lived experience with addiction and is himself in long-term recovery, so he brings unique personal understanding to his support of Tim. “A fundamental component of recovery is individual support that gives the person in recovery hope and incentive,” Mark said. “I provide Tim with as much support as I can and he’s doing well. He’s putting in the work to get this done.”

Tim will tell you he is a different person since being part of Safe Haven. “My family always loved me, but they didn’t love the things I did,” he admitted. “Now I’ve got my own apartment, I’ve got friends, and I’ve got my family back. Every day I have something to look forward to. Now that I have a lot to lose, I want to catch myself before I wreck myself.”

The stigma Tim described regarding treatment for mental health is sadly still with us, but he wanted his real name used in this story. Why? Because he believes strongly that by telling his story to as many people as will listen, he may encourage somebody else who needs help to get help and to start their own journey of recovery.