Self-Compassion: George’s Story

In the beginning

George had what he describes as a normal childhood. He had a loving father and step-mother, did well in school and went to church on Sundays with the other families in his neighborhood. Through middle school and high school, he maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average and graduated at 18 as Valedictorian. When he had a choice between going to the Air Force academy or a full scholarship to CU Boulder’s Engineering school, he chose CU Boulder. To the outside observer, George was leading the life of a successful young man, bound for great things.

His life began to change during freshman year of college. George began drinking and using drugs, like marijuana and LSD. After a year at CU Boulder, he left. He changed schools a few times, ultimately gathering enough credits to graduate with an associate degree in 1994. During the summer before his graduation, he met a woman while working at a summer camp in Estes Park. In 1995, they married. They had two sons, lived in a small town near Sterling, Colorado and involved themselves in their church and community. Their life seemed perfect.

As with so many people, however, conflict brewed in George’s marriage. In 2001, they divorced, and George’s world turned upside-down. “Everything that I knew, everything that was familiar to me – having a family life, having a purpose – was ripped up from under me,” he says. His mental health began to spiral in guilt, shame and denial, and he began drinking daily to cope with the pain.

Finding help

George knew that he needed help with his drinking. He sought help several times with ever-longer treatment programs ranging from three months to two years. Each time, he had difficulty maintaining his sobriety and would relapse.

In the summer of 2018, George suffered assault one night and the attacker stole his possessions. He says, “I was laying on the ground and I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I tried calling for help, and there were dozens of people walking around, but no one stopped for me. No one helped me.”
When he could finally stand, he made his way to Denver Health’s emergency room and, the next day, met a liaison for Medicaid. Within three days, he had a referral to Mental Health Center of Denver.

“I couldn’t believe she was telling me that I could go there and get the help that I needed,” says George. “I had no idea what to expect. When I went to the initial assessment, they assigned me a high intensity treatment team and a case manager. That’s where my story started with the Mental Health Center of Denver.”

At that point, George also experienced homelessness and needed a place to stay. Within the week, he found a spot at Park Place. George also remembers, “The first thing that the Mental Health Center of Denver did was give me a hot shower. And that was like someone opening their arms and hugging me.”

George’s gratitude for the people who have supported him is clear. He emphasizes how much Zack and Camille at Park Place helped get him on his feet and into a stable living situation at Beeler House. He talks about the group therapy, individual therapy, community activities and empathy he experienced at Beeler, which helped him begin to like himself again. When he graduated from Beeler House’s program, he moved to Lincoln House, where he currently resides.

Moving forward

George has also made use of the Mental Health Center of Denver’s Adult Resource Center and 2Succeed in Education programs. He is actively making goals for his health, his future and his well-being, while he practices self-care to keep himself in the moment.

“Things right now are amazing. I can’t believe the progress that I’ve seen in myself. I never thought that I would regain a desire to live again – I actually like who I am for the first time since high school. There were times I thought I was happy, but I was really just fooling myself….I think what I’m doing now practicing self-compassion, and that motivates me to take care of myself.”

Nowadays, George is maintaining his sobriety and focusing on his well-being. He takes walks outside, talks to his kids on the phone, visits his parents and is getting back into cross-stitching. His next project is to create a cross-stitch of the following quote:

“There were times in my life where I had more than everything I needed, and times in my life where I thought I had lost it all. But when I thought I had lost it all, I actually had everything I needed. I had the revelation of who I was, the vision of who I wanted to be, and the desperation to ask for help in getting there.”