Member Stories – Larry A
My involvement with SA began in the 1990’s, when I was contacted by the Mental Health Association in Franklin County, Ohio. I had been a group leader for Recovery, Inc. for 15 years and was well known for my public speaking and leadership skills. The name, “SA” bothered me at first, but once the group came together, it was a relief to use the “S” word. At Recovery, Inc. we were not allowed to talk about diagnoses. Hallucinations could only be called “imagination on fire” or “nervous symptoms.” It was a relief to say, “Hi, I’m Larry and I have schizophrenia.” It felt like basic honesty to say, “I have bizarre visions and hear voices” and “I often see the world as a very strange and frightening place.”
It has been very hard at times to cope with medication side-effects; I had tardive dyskinesia for 16 years, with painful twisting in my neck muscles. I think the only reason I got along as well as I did was that I have the most supportive wife and family anyone could ask for. That includes my extended family, my SA group members! My last hospital stay was in 1996, when my blood pressure, pain & dyskinesia drugs conflicted with my schizophrenia medications, so I went to the hospital with a drug- induced delirium. I spent four days in the hospital, just long enough to get it all adjusted. I’ll never forget the compassion I received from my wife, SA group, and my church during my fight back! It was in SA that I learned about the “atypical” anti-psychotics being approved by the FDA. Only 13 months after my new drug treatment began the dyskinesia and neck spasms vanished!
But the most I have learned through SA, is the lesson of true leadership. The best leader is the one who seeks & empowers the leadership skills of the group, it is THEIR group. When the goal of the leader is to practice humility & self-leadership (especially over those nasty impulses to dictate and boss others) group members don’t have anyone to resist, resent or rebel against. When the roles in the group are open to everyone to try, leadership is shared and everyone learns leadership. Every member is a leader; they just need to find the leadership role they do best. No role is unimportant. The member who passes out and collects the Blue Books at the meeting is just as important as the one who reads the Welcome Statement, or who chooses and reads the Affirmation, or who calls and visits a group member who is back in the hospital.
Leadership is contagious! Spread the leadership around until everyone gets it! For me, this is the heart & soul of Schizophrenics Anonymous.