Julian’s-Recovery Story

Hello my name is Julian Apodaca and I am a recovering alcoholic for over 7 years and an ex opiate addict of 4 years. I am diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder and PTSD.  I suffer from PTSD after being shot in the chest at point blank range at the age of 15. That same year my parents were violently killed due to drugs and violence.

For much of my 20’s I self medicated always staying busy working various jobs and furthering my education. Regardless of the tragic life I was given, I still managed to give back to my community.

I was a youth coordinator for Mothers Against Gangs. I was also a National Representative for Save the Children where I inspired youth across the United States. I was even Jr. Class President at North High School in Phoenix.

I did attend Phoenix College for a couple of years on a full scholarship but never achieved my associates due to homelessness and alcohol use. I was very active back then considering my personal struggles. I put my education on hold when I was about to have my first child. I ended moving to Colorado to see the birth of my firstborn son. I was able to hold a job for about 5 years; I worked at a public library as a library clerk.

Fast forward to when I was 32 years old is when I received an accurate diagnosis which determined my SMI (Severe Mental Illness) status. I have been active in recovery for over six years now.

Recently I became a suicide survivor. In December 2018 I was admitted to Banner University for suicidal ideation and depression and spent a week in inpatient treatment. During my stay, I found out that my nephew died from a fentanyl overdose. I was so heartbroken and crippled by this tragedy I couldn’t attend the funeral. My nephew’s tragic death was a wake-up call to return to my path of recovery and bring awareness to the opiate crisis in Arizona.

When I got out the hospital I was determined to get better. I decided I wanted to become a Certified Peer Support Specialist. Before that I could make that happen, I was admitted to the Friendship Program for six weeks. I did exceptional CBT training there that was tremendously helpful in managing my symptoms and coping with life in a more functional manner. I even won awards from my peers.

Soon after completion, I got in contact with an actual peer support specialist named Glenn Crocker from the MARC center (which is now COPA healthcare) and decided to take my Peer Support Training. In March 2019 I graduated with my credentials.

Ever since then I have been very proactive and on a positive yet spiritual journey of recovery. My personal goals are to learn as much as I can about the behavioral health system and use that knowledge to help and serve those in need who suffer from addiction or mental illness. After my hospitalization I never looked back to the pain of the past. I took my MHFA (Mental Health First Aide) training for adults as well as my Safe Talk training to further my training.

I currently sit on an advisory board with Southwest Behavioral health for the Youth MHFA grant. I also completed my MHFA Youth Training! I completed a three month advocacy program with the Eric Gilbertson Institute which I recommend to anybody in the behavioral health field. I will be taking additional training such as the ASIST suicide prevention training.

“No matter the pain or suffering I had to endure I know I am an inspiration to my family and friends. I am grateful to be alive.”

Julian Apodaca

In 2020 I became a student at Glendale Community College to purse my associates degree as a Photographer/Videographer. I will utilize my education and skills to contribute to the StreetLights StreetPaper. I want to use my skills to give a voice to the homeless and those individuals struggling to navigate the behavioral health system to get their needs met.

I know recovery is a life long journey and I know I cannot stop here. Even though I come from a tragic and traumatic childhood, and went untreated for severe mental illness for so long, I have always given back to the communities in which I have worked or lived in.

The universe allowed me the opportunity to meet Kymberely aka the Street Fairy when I responded to her ad for a Photography intern. When I heard her vision, goals and how she was going to do it with absolutely no resources, I knew I wanted to be a part of this adventure. She in turn has allowed me the opportunity to utilize my skills and training and rise to the calling to be the resident “Advocator” (you gotta say it like Arnold in Terminator). She believes in me and my capability to handle even more responsibility as the Operations Manager.

Out of our mutual respect for the struggles we experience, we have become partners in this mission to use the assets of our own recovery paths and learning opportunities in order to harness the power of media to make an impact in the homeless, vulnerable and at-risk community.

It is because of these many reasons I know I was blessed with this incredible opportunity to be a founding member of The Street Fairy Outreach Street Team and StreetLights StreetPaper.


Julian Apodaca

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