In recognition of National Recovery Month, we honor Bernard Taesali for sharing his life story of resilience, recovery and sobriety.
After one year of receiving treatment at Pacific Clinics, Bernard earned his high school diploma and attained his peer partner certification. Today, Bernard is a peer partner and health navigator supporting individuals who receive our services.
At what age did you begin experimenting with alcohol?
My first addiction was to alcohol. I started drinking and smoking cigarettes during my sophomore year in high school at the age of 15. I felt that something was wrong with me and it made me sad, angry and guilty. I couldn’t focus on any subject long enough to learn it even though I tried my best. When I drank, I felt smarter than everyone. This continued throughout high school and as a result, I did not graduate.
Fast forward to adulthood, did using substances help you cope with the things you saw when you served as a military contractor?
I was 30 years old when I started contracting. I would drink myself into a stupor. I figured that I had become an alcoholic who couldn’t change and that made me feel even worse about myself. Due to an injury, I was given opioid pain killers for pain management. When I started the regimen of pills, my addiction spiraled out of control. Over time, my physical injuries healed, but the scars of my mental and emotional injuries got worse.
What kind of support system did you have while going through the treatment process and how did that help you? Did faith play a role in you seeking treatment?
I was raised in a Christian household with a lineage of pastors and reverends. My family and I would attend church every Sunday, where my dad’s uncle was the minister and sang in the church choir.
By the time I was 28 years old, I was spiraling out of control. I asked to be healed, but I felt abandoned. My faith became as small as the mustard seed parable, and when my dad passed away in 2006, I became enraged and angry toward God.
My mother prayed for me, and my siblings sent me to several treatment centers, but I wasn’t ready yet. Years later, I was referred to Pacific Clinics where I met my therapist who was amazing and helped me talk about my experiences. I was diagnosed with bipolar I and that was the beginning of my recovery. After so many years struggling, I am thankful because my prayers were answered, and I have the experience and skills to help others on their path to recovery.
Although Bernard faced many trials and tribulations throughout his life, he has come out on the other side and urges others who face similar experiences to seek treatment. He states, “I am proud of myself…I am not bipolar, I have bipolar! It does not have me!”
Written by Tiffany Garcia, Communications Manager