You may know Luis Quintero, Regional Peer Recovery Specialist Coordinator at Richmond Behavioral Health , by his warm spirit or snappy fashion sense. Luis shared a speech he recently gave that charts some of his inspiring story. 

Good evening to everyone, my name is Luis Quintero.

I have been in long-term recovery for the last 13.5 yrs.  Recovery has many pathways and today I’m going to share a little about my journey and the path that I took.  I will not speak about what I did or didn’t do during my active substance use. The story doesn’t change – it is about the same for all of us with a few differences here and there. So, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it all.  I will tell you my own experience in recovery.  For me, it was a combination of outpatient treatment and 12-step program.

I am a believer of long term treatment. With this I mean it takes more than 5-day detox or more than 28- days in patient treatment to be able to get a grip on recovery or abstinence.  For me, it was complete abstinence – no drugs, no alcohol, no tobacco.  I believe medication assisted treatments (Methadone and Suboxone) is another recovery path, because when I was on it, it helped to keep me alive until a light bulb came up on top my head.

I tried detoxing treatment several times in a medical facility. This only helped me with the withdrawals symptom and the abstinence of using substances, but did not give me the skills and tools that I needed to change my behavior and the way I was thinking.  During this time, I got introduced to the 12-step program and a seed was planted.  I heard geographic changes do not help you because you will take yourself with you, but moving worked for me. I didn’t know anyone, any places. I had a chance for a new start even while taking myself with me.  I moved to Virginia along with my wife and kids and with the help of a medically assisted treatment – methadone.

Once here and against the advice of my counselor at the methadone clinic, I decided to leave treatment without any plan or any foundation. This is a critical part of my story that demonstrates the personal mental obstacles.  It also shows that this process doesn’t just happen and it works.  Different people need different strategies and may not succeed on the first try. The nature of the decease does not allow you to grasp this on the fist second or third time.  You’ve got to keep on going.

This decision led me to switch one substance for another and it was this replacement substance that put me down into a deep depression, to the point of a suicidal state of mind.  I knew deep inside me that this person that I had become, was not me at my core. My values, religion, my beliefs and my love of life was still deep inside me, I just needed to reach in and get it with all the help that I could get.  I was ready. I did it the inhumane way. I detoxed at home in bed for 30 days of leg syndrome, anxiety, insomnia and inhumane pain.  I was still in a lot of pain. I went to get help and somehow I ended up at the Social Services clinic but all hope was not lost, on the way home I saw a sign that read Rogers Building Mental Health and Substance Abuse.   

When I went in, I was told I needed to be on a waiting list, which had an estimated wait time of 4 to 6 weeks.  I went home with no medication and continued my detoxing.  I continued working a full-time job, clearing wood for new housing constructions through all this. I had to keep doing my responsibilities as a father and husband. After my head got cleared, I went back to get services at the Chesterfield CSB, not knowing that at that time my 180-degree change was about to begin.

That was the turning point of my life. At this newfound place, I could receive psychiatric services, medication, one-on-one counseling, men’s group and recovery groups. I received outpatient treatment and counseling for 3 yrs.  I also got reintroduced to the 12-step community.

It was during this time that someone suggested looking at a new job position as a peer recovery coach. I applied and got the job. I performed as peer recovery coach for 8 years on a part-time basis. The feeling of deep empathy and strong sense of duty to help others struggling with substance use disorders and mental health illness helped me perform and accomplish the job as a peer recovery coach.

As time passed, my life improved. I got healthier and society started to trust me. I had found a job with a Health Care System organization that has a mission of providing good help for those in need and values of respect, justice, innovation, stewardship, growth, dignity and compassion, which drive my commitment towards helping and supporting individuals in the community and organizations.  These set of values I stick to and use as my own life.  This organization trusted me to run and oversee their medical facility for 10 years.

In these 10 years, I did some learning, growing up and acquired some experience.  As I was given a chance to meet many people in the community, some of these persons saw that I had some potential and offered me the chance to use my own experience in recovery for my current work as a peer recovery specialist coordinator at the regional level. I’ve been doing this job for the last 1.5 years and part of the job duties are to increase the peer recovery specialist workforce.

I believe that my recovery is a journey and I have come this far with the help from the Chesterfield County Substance Abuse Program, the peer recovery community, and my personal relationship with God. Most importantly, family – my wife and kids, when I changed it was a ripple effect. I changed, my family changed. I improved, my family improved. They have always provided an unconditional love and support. My recovery journey is a testament that people can turn their lives around with the proper treatment, supports, and perseverance. I have great appreciation and respect for my wife and kids and their accomplishments.  My family has achieved so much because they have a strong person behind them, me.  We do recover. Families recover. Communities recover.

I would like to close with this. It takes a lot of courage to invest and make changes in our system, but hopefully you can take my story as a source of inspiration and consideration when making future decisions about how this agency provides high quality and life changing services for our most vulnerable communities.

It took a lot of dedication and willingness for me to get to this point, but not everyone has the same access to recourses or family support.  This is where we need a strong organization to help people get treatment, housing, and jobs as well as develop the skills and tools to become contributing members of our community.  We need to make sure we don’t give up on people like me.   

As you know, addiction is a chronic brain disease that affects every aspect of our life.  The journey is not the same for everyone, so we need different levels of care and high quality services, and you have the power to provide this.

I thank you for your time.

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