Member Stories – Kevin

I was always told that I was different from other kids when I was born. Somehow, I sensed this from an early age. I always liked to be by myself and felt socially awkward. I didn’t have many friends, so I found myself in reading books and other materials. It started to get worse when I was 15. I had trouble concentrating on my studies in high school. I played on the high school sport teams. I thought that I never would fit in anywhere. When I was 17, I started to attend church services and thought that God was talking to me. I later dropped out of school and got married. I worked for four years at a few jobs before joining the U.S. Army in the early 80’s. While stationed in South Korea and visiting on the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone), I got very paranoid while I was there and thought that the North Koreans shot down an alien spaceship. I blacked out on the side of a main road while walking back to the base. I never felt the same way about myself again.

I went home and was stationed in recruiting command in Cleveland, Ohio. I did a lot of traveling in that duty. I was having hallucinations and delusions while I was driving long hours for the Army. I was later stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, still having full-blown symptoms of schizophrenia. I couldn’t do my job anymore and was hospitalized my last six weeks of my military career. I was unable to find any employment due to my illness and had to be re-hospitalized at the VA hospital in Brecksville, Ohio.

I found out that I had schizophrenia and had it for some time. I got medication and went back to school and got divorced from my wife. I never got back what schizophrenia took from me, but I was determined to beat it and/or live with the best way I could.

I stopped taking my meds, because I felt better. I thought that I didn’t need it anymore. I later spent the next 100 days in the VA hospital. I was homeless and felt hopeless. I felt like quitting, but I never gave up on myself. I got some help, and I still couldn’t made it on my own. I got in trouble with the law and could have spent up to five years in state prison, but my higher power thought otherwise. He (my higher power) helped me get out and find me find my purpose in life.

In February 1997, I was told about an SA meeting in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. I went to it and I fit in nicely. It took a few meeting to find out about myself. Here, at last, was a group of people that accepted me for who I am and what I had become without question. I felt drawn to running a group and later attended the SA Leadership Development Conference in Novi, Michigan. While there, I was still hearing voices. I thought that someone called my name out loud. I asked Joanne V. if she heard it too. She said no and I jokingly told her that I must have been hearing things. When Joanne told me not to worry and that I was among friends. I knew I was truly home and that SA would be something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I’ve taken on more responsibilities in SA, and I’m thankful that SA was here for me. With that thought in mind, I will always remember everyone who gave me hope and joy.

SA has been that joy in my life. Thanks to SA, and thank you Joanne, for the gift. I must give it away to everyone I meet.