PLATTSBURGH — Danny Johnson’s life has come full circle.
The Plattsburgh man, 47, works as an administrative assistant at Behavioral Heath Services North in Plattsburgh, where he was a client battling depression and addiction just a few years ago.
The difficulties he experienced as a child made him vulnerable to substance abuse later on, he said.
“I was molested as a child,” he said. “That’s was the only way I could be someone else — (when) I was intoxicated.”
Johnson started drinking when he was 14 or 15.
“That’s the norm where I grew up at,” he said.
In 1994, after many years of abusing alcohol, Johnson called Conifer Park, a treatment center in Schenectady.
He stayed in the area after completing the program, getting a job as a cook.
“I was in a positive space at the time,” Johnson said.
But things spiraled downward when he tried crack for the first time in November 2005.
Johnson had always wondered why people spent so much money on the drug, he said.
“(But) it was just a feeling of freedom,” he said of being high. “It is something that you just keep chasing.”
His drug habit made it difficult for Johnson to keep a job, and at one point, he had six different ones in a single month.
Then in July 2006, he moved back to Plattsburgh to be closer to his family.
But being in his hometown wasn’t enough to pull him out of depression, and it wasn’t long before Johnson attempted suicide.
“I took enough (drugs) knowing I was going to die.”
‘ABLE TO CRY’
After he made a second suicide attempt, the staff at CVPH Medical Center referred him to the PROS (Personalized Recovery Oriented Service) program at Behavioral Health Services North.
That’s when things took a positive turn for Johnson.
“I had decided that I wanted my life to change, and I was going to do anything and everything I could to make that happen.”
Program groups are small and close knit, and the counselors at the facility were friendly and nonjudgmental, he said.
“Whatever was said in the group stayed in the group.”
“I was able to cry,” he said. “And when I was brought up, men don’t cry.”
After completing the PROS program, Johnson enrolled in a technical program at CV-TEC in Plattsburgh, and when he graduated, BHSN, located in Plattsburgh and Morrisonville, offered him his current job.
Johnson has been working there for about six years.
“They’ve seen how I changed and how I progressed and how I moved forward and helped me feel good by myself,” he said of the staff there.
“At first it was very hectic. It was stressful; I was doubting myself,” he said. “I had to switch my role from being a client to being an employee there.
As part of his job, Johnson visits local low-income residents to inform them of their health-care options.
To prevent repeated trips to the emergency room, Johnson refers his clients to doctors who accept their insurance.
Johnson said it gives him a sense of fulfillment to be the person to help others now.
“I am very lucky to be working here.”
While his road was a difficult one, he said he believes people are presented with challenges so they can find the strength overcome them.
“I don’t think if I was an addict, I would be where I’m at now.”
‘RIGHT TO CHOOSE’
While life events aren’t always in his control, Johnson said he has learned he is in control of his attitude and outlook.
“I now know I have a choice,” he said. “I choose things that make me happy instead of things that make me sad, depressed.”
There is always hope and assistance available for those battling addictions and mental illness, he said.
“It begins with them. They’ve got to take that first step.”
Email Felicia Krieg: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg