You Are Not a Number
Ralph Romero knows about behavioral health challenges. He has had a lifetime of experience with them. “I’ve had problems since I was five. I was put into inpatient treatment when I was 14 years old, living in Texas. I couldn’t understand why people were always happy. That was a foreign concept to me.”
“I was always anxious. I couldn’t sleep. I would only sleep about four hours every night,” Romero recalls. Like many in crisis, Ralph turned to drugs and alcohol for relief.
Eventually, Ralph’s mental health symptoms and drug-use shattered his entire life. He became distant from loved ones, and began to have legal troubles. He didn’t take court mandated therapy seriously, and ignored the techniques and regimens. Ultimately, Ralph lost his family, went to prison, and even attempted suicide.
“The worst came while I was in jail. I found out I lost my son. I didn’t care about recovery. I just didn’t think it was possible.” When he was released from prison in 2008, Ralph had no family and no options. Even though he didn’t think it could be successful, Ralph finally decided to give help a chance.
Treatment and therapy helped Ralph build a new life. He recognized that recovery doesn’t happen immediately, and that there will be stops and starts along the way. “It didn’t take one year to mess up my life, and it took more than one year to fix it. You just have to keep going.” Ralph’s illness was identified and he worked diligently toward recovery, sticking to his behavior management guidelines and therapies. As his recovery progressed, he pursued greater opportunities and achieved many successes.Happy, healthy, and stable, Ralph, now gainfully employed, is working toward his Bachelor’s Degree at Pima Community College. He plans to attend Arizona State University to get his Master’s Degree in social work, and he is working to get his Deacon’s license. His goal is to provide support and opportunities for the disabled, veterans, and ex-offenders. “Church has been helpful for me. Real helpful. And I volunteer a lot.”
Ralph has been honored by his employer, La Frontera, Linkages and many other community organizations. However, the accolades are not what Ralph values most about recovery. “The many awards have helped me, but the biggest award I have received is my family in my life. I lost my son, but I’m not going to let that happen with my daughter.”
Ralph wants to continue to help those in the community, especially men. ”You know, there’s no place where men can go and be a dad with their kids. I’d like to help them find some place where that’s possible.”
Ralph works with many community efforts to address mental health and substance abuse. “I tell people, ‘You don’t want to get to where I’m at. Get to where you need to be. Get to where you can be healthy and safe.’”
“I think the first step for people who are where I was,” says Romero, “is to get stable. Get off the substance they are abusing, stay on their meds, and go to the meetings. It’s a healing process. It’s important for them to know they are not a number. They are someone who matters.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, please reach out to the Community-Wide Crisis Line at (520) 622-6000.