Recovery Is Not a Linear Journey: Rei’s Story of Sobriety
Last Updated: 25 Jul 2022
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Recovery is not always a linear process. Rei’s story is a perfect example of how clients sometimes have to go through ups and downs before finding their true north.
Rei Rivera knows that, depending on the context, different people will have different labels for him—Veteran, musician, uncle, son, and schizophrenic.
He also knows that none of these labels can fully define him. Neither Rei nor his story fits inside of a template. Instead of a clear “before, middle, and after,” Rei’s story winds through numerous peaks and valleys.
Ultimately, growth and recovery are never a linear process.
Rei points to his recovery journey starting in 2015. As a young Air Force Veteran, he had access to the VA and its benefits but also struggled with PTSD from his time in the service. On top of this, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
Without full access to mental health resources, Rei struggled to maintain a job. “It was really hard,” he said. “I basically sat in my room for eight years unless I had a job, which only lasted maybe a few months at the most.” To cope, he turned to alcohol.
Thankfully, he began to find solace in AA where a mentor encouraged him to seek help and independence.
“He gave me motivation and confidence. That was the real beginning of my recovery journey,” said Rei. He moved to New Mexico and began working on himself personally, spiritually, and emotionally.
However, it was not easy. “Because of the effects of alcohol on my brain as a teenager, I was immature,” he said. “I couldn’t control my emotions.”
He says the growth was painful, but worth it. Rei began to try and reconnect with people from his past, practicing forgiveness and trying to let go of resentments while making amends. “I started realizing you can wish all day for things to change, but when you really put that effort in, the results can be even better than you’d hoped.”
However, as the years went by, he ebbed in and out of difficulties with his mental illnesses. He moved from New Mexico to Kansas, then to Texas with high hopes of a burgeoning music career with some friends.
Unfortunately, when that began to fall apart, Rei felt himself heading for rock bottom. He fell into the wrong crowd, finding himself faced with violence and a stolen identity. He began drinking again.
“I started to blame the city. I was disgruntled and distraught. I felt like I had all these things working against me,” he said.
He was drinking almost two bottles of wine per night and mixing it with marijuana, which only worsened his mental state. “I was psychotic and delusional,” said Rei. “I start hearing voices. I knew I needed help.”
He checked into a recovery program and began the painful process of sobriety all over again. “I was in so much pain,” he remembers. “I’d wake up feeling like someone was stabbing me. I was having seizures. I needed to take hot showers throughout the night because I was so cold. But I stayed sober the whole time.”
This time, he stuck with it.
When Rei graduated from rehab, he connected with the Mission Recovery Program within Endeavors’ Behavioral Health Department, which serves the Veteran population focusing on co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
Within this program, which is funded by the Bob Woodruff foundation, Rei began weekly specialized Substance Use Disorder services from a clinician. These therapy appointments helped him stay sober. Now, he continues to stay involved by attending virtual wellness groups with Endeavors.
“I decided to stay connected and get all the help I could get,” he said. “I’m learning so many amazing things from the instructor. You can ask her anything and she understands and is able to give.”
When it comes to the program, Rei loves the hands-on approach. “That’s the beauty of the therapists and counselors at Endeavors. They don’t just sit back and listen and take notes. They give you practical answers in real time.”
To anyone considering joining the Mission Recovery program, Rei says to go for it. “This can change your life. It’s changing my life.”
Rei has been sober for six months and says the program inspired him to want to become a peer counselor. His story is an amazing example of someone set on recovery, regardless of the obstacles.
This program is made possible by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which is
dedicated to ensuring that impacted Veterans, service members, their families, and their caregivers thrive long after they return home.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.