To say Joni is passionate about her work is an understatement. One of our incredible Recovery Mentors, Joni tears up while reflecting on her lived experience and how it has led her to a job that she loves – walking alongside and supporting Peers through their mental health challenges.
“I love it! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The only way I can describe it is – it makes my soul sing. Being able to see my Peers and be a part of their recovery journey is such a privilege. It is a reciprocal process as we learn from each other. We are equals and we support each other – it truly is a blessing.”
Joni has struggled with mental health challenges and drug addiction from a young age and through to most of her adult life. Yet even in the thick of her turmoil, she knew that a different, better path lay ahead for her.
“I just had enough, I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired. I knew the only place I was heading was death. I was so hooked into the drug scene and everything that comes with it. I had lost my family, my children, my friends, and I lost myself. I felt so disconnected and was longing to feel connection in my life.”
“I got clean – drug free, and then spent time working through my pre-existing mental health challenges. I then went on to study a certificate in Community Skills, Peer Support and Wellness Recovery Action Planning for Mental Health and Addiction.”
Pulling herself out of many years of decline has made Joni a strong woman today.
“I have always been an empathetic person, but you become very hardened in the drug scene. I lost myself. Since getting clean, I have been able to reconnect with who I truly am. I have recognised that I AM a strong person, and I AM proud of how far I have come.”
“Learning to live with mental health challenges has been and is a journey. I feel that I am in a good place in my life and can support my Peers with their recovery journeys. I genuinely care about people and if I can support them in any way with their goals, I will.”
Joni would like to see the broader community take a more pragmatic approach to mental illness, stepping away from judgement and stigma that hurts so many.
“Some people look at you sideways when you have mental challenges, and it needs to stop. I grew up in an era where you didn’t talk about having mental health challenges, it was swept under the carpet like a dirty secret. But secrets make you sick.”
“I would like to see mental illness talked about openly without shame, and with hope. It’s challenging just like any other illness and recovery IS possible. You CAN lead a fulfilling life!”