Stephanie Malia Krauss, mom, educator, social worker has been sober for more than two decades. She describes growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent and drinking at the age of 14 to escape the reality of her home life, the community’s judgment, and to be taken care of. She had a choice forced on her at 15 by her school counselor and non-alcoholic parent (home for runaway/homeless youth in NJ or rehab in FL) that led to a stint in rehab in Florida. That decision radically changed the trajectory of her life. She grabbed everything recovery offered — tools, strategies, community — and a new plotline emerged in her life that required all that she had experienced up to that point. She learned the importance of community, self-care, and self-advocacy, and believes that sobriety is a wonderful way of life.
Richard Antoine White, principal tubist of the Santa Fe Symphony and the New Mexico Philharmonic, and author of I’m Possible: A Story of Survival, a Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream, describes surviving early childhood poverty and homelessness. His mother was an alcoholic fighting her own demons. He attributes his imagination, inner strength and ability to be his own hero with helping him grow through it. White believes that “all we want is a chance to make the right choices to see the kind of changes for the betterment” and considers his mother a hero for giving him up so that he could have that choice, chance, and change. He credits the village that raised and elevated him for what he has been able to achieve. White believes that caring for others creates contagious change and advocates for creating a caring environment in which we elevate everyone and pay it forward. And above all else, be kind!
Donald Antrim, author of One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival, describes growing through suicidal illness by going to the hospital and staying. When nothing else worked, and after a call from the author David Foster Wallace, he consented to being treated with ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), which he says was a miracle cure. He learned to have a high regard for doctors and hospitals, that we don’t do anything alone, and the value of patience — it took a long time to get better. His advice is to try not to be afraid of the hospital, to seek treatment if you need it, and rely on your friends and family.
Jordan Thomas, founder of the Jordan Thomas Foundation, describes losing both legs (below the knee) as a result of a boating accident when he was 16. He got through it with the love and support of the people around him. Through struggle, pain, grief and hard work, he learned the value of asking for help, the joy of being of service, and the value of authenticity. He found his life’s work as a result of the accident and started his foundation in the hospital to help young amputees get unaffordable prostheses. His advice is: it’s OK to not be OK, things change (are impermanent), and “be true to who you are and go pursue your passion and your love for this life because, gosh, it can just, in an instant, flip.”
John Casey, founder of The Sustainable Journaling Project, describes living with gender dysphoria and finding his way to transitioning in his 40s after meeting other people who were gender non-conforming. He took baby steps throughout the process and had a ‘transition buddy’ that helped him meet his goals. His advice to everyone is to develop a list of resources on which to rely, and to keep a daily journal as a way of checking in, documenting and honoring the experience.