Nichole was born in Hawaii to a mother struggling with alcoholism and her father missing from her life. As she describes it, her childhood was rough and far too chaotic. “I ran away from home a lot,” she says. “I dropped out of school, I went to a couple mental health hospitals, I did time in juvenile detention…I think it really went downhill when I tried heroin for the first time when I was 17.”
Soon after trying heroin, Nichole got pregnant with her daughter. She struggled with raising her for the first two months, after which her mother stepped in to help. The next 20 years were even more difficult.
Nichole experienced homelessness, addiction to heroin and other drugs, time spent in and out of jail, some of which was in solitary confinement. It seemed the chaos from early in her life would never end. Now she says, “’Never’ isn’t a word I use to describe the future anymore.”
July 2019 marked two years since Nichole was released from prison. In that time, she has made remarkable strides in her recovery with Mental Health Center of Denver’s help. In September 2018, she reached out to Mental Health Center of Denver through the Harm Reduction Action Center and started working with her case manager. Together, they began working on Nichole’s recovery. As with many journeys, though, recovery isn’t always a straight line.
A New Chapter Begins
One night, while Nichole sat on a curb downtown, a truck ran her over. Nichole was rushed to the hospital and spent the following two weeks on life support. She says, “I came out of the coma and got off life support and I’ve been clean ever since. I have made a miraculous and unfathomable recovery since, and I haven’t relapsed once.”
“Mental Health Center of Denver has helped me in every possible way – they saved my life. If it weren’t for Mental Health Center of Denver, I’d probably be dead from an overdose by now.”
Nichole’s story is one of hope, resilience, and never giving up. She feels like she has responsibility now, to herself and to her community. Her experience and perspective led to a single-minded desire to help people experiencing even a fraction of what she’s gone through.
To an outside viewer, she has flipped the switch on her life. She has a stable living situation, staying at Mental Health Center of Denver’s Second Street as she looks for housing of her own. Now, she has a job, she regularly goes to 2Succeed, she writes music, does art and volunteers at the Harm Reduction Action Center. She spends time doing outreach on the streets and knows without a shadow of a doubt that she wants to be a Peer Specialist with Mental Health Center of Denver.
Her laser-focus desire to help people stems from a deep belief that it’s never too late to change your life. “I believe that, through Mental Health Center of Denver, I was able to find the light at the end of my tunnel. There’s always hope. There’s always a future. I want to help people going through what I did find that hope, too.”