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George's Story

George's Story

by Justin Crawford - Niagara University Vincentian Scholar

George grew up in Niagara Falls, unfortunately in a broken household. When George was young, his parents’ divorce was blamed on him. On top of that, George was born with a learning disability, and he was placed into special classes at school.

“I would sneak into school after the bell rang because I didn’t want anyone to see me going in special classes,” George said.

He struggled to handle all of this, often feeling shameful or hopeless.

“Authorities didn’t matter to me so I didn’t care,” George said. “I started cutting myself up all the time, breaking the law, going to jail – just doing my own thing.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. George also became victim to alcohol addiction.

“When I wasn’t dealing with my mental illness, then what was I doing to cover it up? I did it for years; I drank – and that’s what covered it up. And when it wore off, I would just drink some more, but now I know that’s not the answer,” he said.

Today, George attends Niagara Visions PROS, a day program in downtown Niagara Falls for individuals with mental health concerns operated by Community Missions. The PROS (Personalized Recovery Oriented Services) model is tailored to each individual that attends, helping him or her to achieve the goals that they set for themselves.

 “Learning how to deal with a mental illness is a barrier, but it doesn’t have to run your life,” George said. “I decided to put the old things away and start living a new life. That’s what it’s about. It’s about going forward, not going backward.”

George has made major strides since joining PROS. For example, as someone who has always been very quiet, George now finds himself very positive, always welcoming and introducing himself to new guests who walk in the doors of PROS.

However, he’s not content with just this progress.

“I want to expand on what I’m being taught here. I don’t want it to just stay with me, I want to pass it on to people in the community and try to stand out, be a leader and pass this stuff on to people so they don’t walk the same footsteps that I went down in my life,” George said.

George is very motivated to help others around him receive the same help that he did. He wants those dealing with a mental illness or addiction to experience the same transformation as him.

“Close your eyes and visualize what your life would be like or what you want your life to be like, living with a mental illness, but doing everything that you want to do,” George said. “You can open your eyes and these are the people [at PROS] who can steer you in that direction.”

What does the future look like for George?

 “I want to be able to stand up one day and say, ‘I’m not on any medication anymore, I have a full time job, and if I can do it you can do it too.’ I want to be that inspiration,” George said.

He has hopes to begin a dual diagnosis recovery center in Niagara Falls that would provide an outlet for those who struggle in the same way he did.

Niagara Visions PROS, a program of Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, Inc., helps individuals with a mental health diagnosis to achieve self-directed goals. For more information, visit www.communitymissions.org or call 716-205-8708.

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By The Numbers...

In 2018, Community Missions provided:

13,268 nights of shelter

119,083 meals

6,081 individuals with clothing

3,198 care days in Youth Services

46,703 care days in Recovery Services

70,997 care days in Housing Services

227 opportunities for Faith Development

 

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