ometimes your darkest days become your guiding light. That’s what happened to Joe and Olympic College played a life-changing role.
In 2014, he ended an abusive relationship after learning his partner lied about his HIV status. When Joe found out he was HIV positive, he’d never felt so scared or alone. He didn’t know how to cope, so he turned to methamphetamine and alcohol. That began a long battle that took a toll on both his physical and mental health.
He was lost and broken. He felt worthless.
Joe landed in jail, then in treatment. But out of the darkness, he found his purpose. His case manager connected him with OC, where he enrolled in the Human Services and Chemical Dependency Program. He’s now in recovery and training to become an addiction counselor with plans to transfer to the University of Washington Tacoma to get his bachelor’s degree in social welfare.
“I know I can do anything. I’ve never felt that way before.”
Joe’s goal is to work with HIV patients who are struggling with their diagnoses. After he obtains his Chemical Dependency Professional license, he wants to become licensed as a Mental Health Professional so that he can help clients with mental health issues as well as those struggling with addiction. Mirelle Cohen, the chemical dependency program coordinator, helped him map out a plan to achieve his goals. And scholarships from the Olympic College Foundation have helped him stay in school.
Joe says being successful at OC has been instrumental in his recovery. He’s getting good grades. He’s a leader as vice president of Shelton for the Student Government of Olympic College. And most importantly, he’s been given a platform to talk to other addicts about how they can turn their lives around through education.
OC has given him opportunities for success that he’s never had before. “I know I can do anything. I’ve never felt that way before,” he said.
“I used to think that seeking help meant you were a failure. But I’ve realized that not seeking help is failure. Getting help has allowed me to succeed. And going through the Chemical Dependency Program has helped me realize how much a person who has been through something can help someone else. Soon, I’m going to be that person.”
Joe has a bright future. He’s now HIV-undetectable with a normal life expectancy thanks to antiretroviral medication. And he’s looking forward to sharing his experience, strength and hope with others.
His advice to prospective students: “If you’re at a crossroads in life where big changes are necessary to reestablish yourself as the author of your own story, an education is the key to your success.”