andy Photo

Chronic Care Management

Doing the Hard Work to Get Better

When Andy came to Bailey-Boushay House in 1994, he was HIV-positive, chronically depressed, addicted to street drugs and alcohol, living hand to mouth, and miserable.

  Image: Andy and Randy help bake pumpkin pies
  Andy (right) and fellow client Randy help bake pumpkin pies for Bailey-Boushay’s Thanksgiving celebration.

“I felt like I was a really horrible person. I didn’t think of myself as someone who could be happy,” he says. He’s quick to add: “There’s a bright turn to this later on in my story.”

His first years in outpatient care were dark and scary. He saw danger everywhere because “I was hearing voices in my head that told me people could read my mind. I was afraid of other clients and thought they were my enemies.” To protect himself, he “stood in one corner of the room, staring at people. I would yell at people and get really upset.”

At first it was only the free lunch that kept Andy coming back. Then he slowly made connections — with his social worker, his psychotherapist, the volunteers he liked talking to.

Despite his isolation and fear, he didn’t give up: “Bailey-Boushay has been my lifeline. I always showed up, even though I felt horrible about being here.”

Andy began making life-changing decisions after two years in the accepting Bailey-Boushay community.

He gave up smoking pot and using street drugs (1996), started taking HIV medication (1997), began “to have awareness that I had mental illness” (1998-2000), quit smoking tobacco (2001), and stopped drinking alcohol (2002).

Image: Andy chants as part of his spiritual practice of Buddhism.
  Andy chants as part of his spiritual practice of Buddhism. He also assists the Buddhist monk who visits Bailey-Boushay House.

“These things didn’t magically go away,” he says, proud of the hard work he’s done. “I dealt with them.”

And he continues to deal with challenges: “I still struggle with mental illness, but I’m doing much better” with psychiatric medicine.

“Bailey-Boushay was the catalyst for all that change I’ve experienced,” Andy says. “They will give you the support you need to change anything you want to change.”

The man who used to stand in the corner is fully engaged in the Bailey-Boushay community. He’s made friends, speaks up in group discussions, and joins in celebrations. He’s gone back to playing the trumpet (that’s Andy playing a Miles Davis number in one of the Bailey-Boushay videos). He even created a volunteer job for himself — he straightens up the big room where clients gather.

His physical, emotional, and spiritual health is good: he stays on HIV medication, he feels connected to his community, and he practices Buddhism.

Andy knows how far he’s come. “I believe in myself enough,” he says, “that I can stand on my own two feet and say to myself: I like who I am and I’m happy with my life.”

You can help by supporting programs that help clients like Andy. Donate to BBH.

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