People in Recovery Need Peers’ Help with Depression, Self-Worth

Kevin Stringfellow Kevin Stringfellow relates to the depression and struggles with self-worth similar to what many people in recovery feel because he’s experienced them, too. An accident more than 25 years ago left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Kevin’s Story

Kevin’s connection to Vision Warriors comes through Kirk and Deena Driskell. He went to high school with them both and worked with Kirk, as a real estate agent for Power Realty Partners, for almost 10 years.

In high school and college, Kevin was active and athletic. In 1993 while he was in college at an off-campus party near a lake, some friends decided it would be fun to throw guys into the water. A few friends grabbed Kevin and tossed him over the railing of the dock into the lake. He fell several feet down to the water, landing in a very shallow portion near the edge. When he hit, he damaged his spinal cord, paralyzing him instantly.

Instantly he went from being athletic and independent to being paralyzed from the neck down. He could not move any of his extremities on his own. He wasn’t even able to breath on his own for the first few months after his accident, requiring a tracheotomy tube to breath.

Like many in college, Kevin was a recreational alcohol abuser. If not for the accident, Kevin can easily see how that could have led to addiction problems later in life. Instead, because of the choices made that day, another type of fight and recovery became necessary. After rehab at the Shepherd Center I Atlanta, Kevin was discharged and moved back home. There he began the long process of coping with his new way of life and battling the resulting depression and loss of self-worth.

Kevin Stringfellow, center, with Kirk Driskell and Sarah BausanoAfter many years of depression, Kevin went back to college to finish his degree. He graduated in 2005 from Georgia State with a degree in Finance. In 2008 he earned his real estate license. A friend suggested that he call Kirk, who owned Power Realty Partners, a real estate brokerage located in downtown Alpharetta. He almost didn’t take the job with Power Realty because the building was so inaccessible. Fortunately, Kirk had plans to move into the building next door and asked Kevin to wait it out.

Accountability and Transparency Essential

“Unless you love yourself, you can’t let others love you,” Kevin said.

That took him a long time to learn after the accident that paralyzed him. He felt a great loss of self-worth after the accident. It took him eight years to get back to school and getting on with his life. Kevin said the only way he managed this was by getting back to church and discovering her personal relationship with his Heavenly Father. That’s where he began to understand the truth vs. lies that ruled his life about how he saw himself, his situation and most importantly, how God saw him.

“It wouldn’t be easy for me to roll into a room and speak, if I didn’t believe,” he said. By understanding how God sees him, Kevin said he’s able to live his life and help others.

He believes in the Vision Warriors’ message that recovery requires discipline, transparency and accountability. If men in recovery are transparent they may not like the answer they get from other guys. But if it comes from a place of love and intended for betterment and positive change, it should be well received. “A true, authentic response may not be what you want to hear, but if it comes from a place of love, it can always be useful,” he said. “A wise man is one who can learn from someone else’s mistakes.”

He hopes Vision Warriors can reach younger men before they make the same mistakes of their older peers. They can learn from others’ mistakes rather than making those poor choices themselves.

Recovery requires a person to live up to a high set of standards. Viewing yourself through God’s eyes and having strong Christian men in your life who are vested in your growth and well-being help you remain accountable to being the man God made you to be.

A person who’s not being accountable or transparent can listen to other Vision Warriors that he’s not doing what he should be doing. That’s why you aren’t getting better. People outside of recovery don’t understand because they haven’t been in the same situation. They won’t be heard, while a Vision Warrior in his own stage of recovery will be believed.

Peer Support Groups Help Anyone in Recovery

It doesn’t matter if it’s a traumatic injury or an addiction standing in your way. The support of other people going through the same issues, problems and challenges can ease your recovery. It’s only by having a safe environment to be transparent and fully known that a man can have the freedom to battle through pain, sacrifice and live a life of discipline.

Kevin believes such environments are central to his personal growth, happiness and purpose. He is involved with a men’s group and Re:New mentorship through North Point Community Church, and is a volunteer peer supporter at the Shepherd Center.

“There’s nobody better to talk to you than somebody struggling with the same things in life,” he said.

He’s been talking with one guy for 25 years. They’re not calling to “boo hoo” together. They talk to get the perspective of someone in the same situation. They brainstorm together about shared problems and how best to overcome them.

For mental aspects of his recovery, Kevin turned to groups such as Re:new at North Point Community Church. Organizers of this program based it on Romans 12:2 in the Bible:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

Kevin said discussions in Re:new, help with understanding your false beliefs that cause negative emotions and destructive behaviors. By understanding the truth in the way God sees us , you can bring   destructive behaviors and negative emotions under control.

“I think Kirk does a good job of that. Guys who are alone, depressed and drinking, tell themselves a bunch of lies,” Kevin said.

Alcoholic Uncles Fail to Commit to Recovery

Kevin’s perspective on recovery comes from more than his experiences as a person with quadriplegia. He’s also nephew to two men who suffer from the disease of alcoholism. “My two uncles, who are twins, were out in Texas drinking themselves to death.” One of them died from complications caused by his drinking.

His family had nowhere to place his surviving uncle until Kirk opened the Vision Warrior home in Alpharetta. It gave them a place for his uncle to live as he battled with his addiction. He had nowhere else to go. He had burned all his bridges with relatives and friends, which is common for drug and alcohol abusers. For a while, living in the Alpharetta Vision Warriors house worked.

“Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to give up that part of his life, or surrender,” Kevin said. Like anything else, you’ve got to admit you are powerless over your addiction.

“That’s why it resonates with me, I guess,” Kevin said. “If it had not been for Kirk and Vision Warriors I’m not sure what we would have been able to do for my uncle.”

His uncle eventually left the house without surrendering to live his life sober. He and his family remain grateful to Vision Warriors for taking him in.

“It taught us a lot and I know it taught him a lot,” Kevin said. “While we don’t have contact with my uncle at the moment I know he has a glimpse into how things can be different. We pray every day that he decides to turn back to fight for that disciplined life Vision Warriors offers men battling with addiction. You just have to want it for yourself and understand that your worthy of it.”

“Vision Warriors has been a blessing to so many men and their families that I hope they find opportunity to grow and help many more. It would be a shame to take something away from the community that reconciles its men to become productive fathers, sons, employees, community members and leaders,” Kevin said.