How I Came to Be Who I Am Today

I am 31 years old. I live in Mill Creek, Washington with my partner Jeff. I was born into a family of Washington State pioneers.

I had an unusually traumatic childhood for an infant. I was adopted out of foster care because of that. There is a lot of mental illness in my birth family. So, I grew up in a small town on the northwest coast of Washington state. My parents by adoption worked with animals. My dad was a veterinarian. My mom was an animal trainer.

Because of a Boy’s and Girl’s Club scholarship, I grew up sailing on the bay in the summertime. Those are my happiest memories. My life was always focused on sailing. I was a volunteer instructor with the YMCA for 10 years before I became a licensed sailing instructor. That streak of hope in my childhood would later bring me back to that happy place I always drew so much strength from.

I would need that strength a lot as I got older. I struggled in my teens to find where I belonged. Like most young people I was still learning who I was and who I wanted to be. I had a lot of unresolved trauma in my youth and as a result I struggled with addiction. I was a runaway and on probation for about 10 years. I worked through my high school years at restaurants and found a temporary home when I moved out at age 17 before I could graduate.

My 18th birthday was spent in a treatment center. I was very upset about that. I completed the treatment my parents paid for and moved on to an aftercare housing program where I tried to complete my high school diploma, but I was not successful.

I moved back home, relapsed, and went back to the streets. Then I took off to Seattle. That’s when the pace of my life really picked up. I was introduced to the homeless way of life in the big city. I began to access meals at Teen Feed in the University District. That was my introduction to homeless support services in Seattle.

At that point I made another attempt at treatment, but my mental health problems got in the way.

I ended up spending my 19th birthday in a hotel room doing hard drugs for the first time. Then I began working at a Subway restaurant. That didn’t last. I suffered a lot between 19 and 21: on my 21st birthday I walked into a bar at the stroke of midnight.

Still homeless at age 19, I would follow other homeless youth and use drugs with them and then to survive I would learn where they slept at night. After a very scary night in a condemned apartment complex, I followed them again to another service center for homeless youth that provided meals.

This center was YouthCare’s James W. Ray Orion Center. I continued to struggle with addiction, rebel, and avoid my mental health problems. However, this time I had support. And I started to accept it. I learned how to get a case manager with YouthCare so I could have a bus pass. I met a chemical dependency counselor that I would have a close connection to for years to come.

My parents once again paid for treatment as I was getting deeper into hard drugs. I was willing to go but quite sick. There was a new stigma for me; being a “retread” felt very degrading.

After treatment I moved into a halfway house in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle. Right before my 20th birthday I earned my GED through YouthCare. While in the halfway house I began an internship at the front desk of YouthCare’s administration office.

I continued to struggle with addiction and once again I relapsed. This time to get back into recovery I had to find help on my own to pay for treatment. I went to the Department of Social and Health Services. I ended up in treatment on New Years of 2011. I bounced around in and out of court and jail for a few months after I got out of treatment and didn’t stay sober for more than a few months. Then I learned to take care of my mental health for the first time after addiction.

I decided with my parents to move home for a year, stayed sober, and worked my life out so that I could avoid the risky street life I was living in Seattle. I moved back to Seattle after that year and began applying to work with FareStart’s Youth & Young Adult Barista Program. I was accepted into the program during the Thanksgiving holiday. Shortly after starting with FareStart, I moved into the YouthCare’s Alhadeff Family Home of Hope.

While receiving tremendous support from YouthCare I would go sailing with the chemical dependency counselor on Lake Union at the Center for Wooden Boats. This brought me back again to that place of hope and happiness that was helping me grow. Sailing has always been part of my recovery. After some time, I got a scholarship for sailing lessons there. While at FareStart I “found myself” and discovered I could work anywhere I wanted for the first time. So, I chose to become a youth sailing instructor at the Center for Wooden Boats. When I completed FareStart I earned my certification as an instructor. After a few years I passed my captains license exams. All this time I stayed in recovery.

I moved into a room on to the Arthur Foss tugboat docked next to the Center for Wooden Boats at the Historic Ships Wharf. I transitioned again from 2014 to 2015 I rented my first micro apartment in Seattle. While I was there, I took a couple classes at the local community college. I got straight A’s and moved onto the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building near my hometown. I got back to working in restaurants in the town I grew up in. Getting trained as a waiter and a host was a lot of fun. Eventually I moved back to Seattle and decided to go to college for photography. I spent a couple years learning photography and started getting work as a photographer.

I continued to take care of my mental health and became very close with my partner and moved to Mill Creek. I have been working on my resin art and photography. I still sail intermittently and spend everyday practicing latte art for my partners morning lattes with our home espresso machine.

The role YouthCare played in my life success and ultimate triumphs was incredible. I cannot ever repay the organization for all the support they gave me. The only way I know how to repay it is to tell my story and give a great example of what YouthCare can do for a struggling youth like myself.

I know that my life has been recovered from a non existent one.  I have moved on from the trauma of the past.  I’m happy today and healthy.  Living on San Juan Island working in my office with my partner in a nice studio with big windows in Friday Harbor.


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