Brother Be Well Wellness for Boys and Men of Color

Left to fend on his own by his abusive adoptive father, Mykel developed several side hustles by the time he was 15 years old. Then he struck gold with his first major job, working at a painter’s called Earl Scheib Paint Shop. “I was paid minimum wage,” he notes, “but I still felt grown-up, because I was taking care of myself.” Mykel began to thrive again in this working environment. He joined a friend group and learned to drive. 

But these steps forward couldn’t erase the festering damage done by his home life. Driven by resentment and emotional turmoil, Mykel had already turned to the bottle to solve his problems. “I was a budding alcoholic by the time I was 17,” he admits. Mykel had become excellent at leading a double life. By night he would drink himself into a stupor. But when morning came, he would starkly down bitter BC powder to fend off his hangover, and brush his teeth regularly throughout the day. No one would catch a hint of alcohol on him, he determined. Competent at work and never showing the consequences of his habits to his coworkers, Mykel slipped into an unseen destructive pattern even as he prepared to join the Army. 

As a fresh recruit in 1973, 17-year-old Mykel only saw more reasons to continue his drinking habits. The soldiers around him drank habitually, after all. But despite their shared vices, Mykel had a hard time fitting in with his military comrades. He was discharged in 1976 due to trouble assimilating. At this point, the downward spiral took a savage dive even deeper. Mykel had become abrasive and solitary. He alienated friends and family. Job opportunities soured as he got fired from every position he managed to land. Desperate, Mykel turned back to the Army, re-entering in 1979. It didn’t help. 

“At this point,” Mykel adds solemnly, “I had been introduced to crack cocaine. It didn’t take long to get hooked.” Drugs and alcohol became Mykel’s only friends. He’d driven away the good relationships in his life. His drinking habit increased to a nightly event, and he stopped caring about whether or not he smelled of alcohol at work. Worse, so long as he did his work well, his co-workers and bosses never made any comment. Mykel bounced between jobs and the Army, discharged again in 1992 and fighting with his superiors wherever he went. 

His mental health took the brunt of the damage. Mykel remembers his first panic attack. “I thought I was stroking. I was shaking a lot, and I thought I was going to seize.”

Mykel approached Kaiser Permanente for help but was refused the inpatient stay he felt he needed. The Veterans Administration, however, admitted him into inpatient services. Right before being admitted, Mykel danced a near-deadly waltz with his alcoholism. He was left with no memory of the night, only eight empty bottles staring him down as a grim reminder of what he’d done to himself. 

“No more!” Mykel said firmly. He was ready to recover. Mykel detoxed in only 7 days, his determination at the memory of those eight empty bottles pushing him aggressively forward.

During the 60-day recovery course, Mykel was officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II, better known as Manic Depression, and PTSD from his childhood and military experiences. 

While relieved to finally have a diagnosis for his symptoms, Mykel still suffered debilitatingly from them. His panic attacks would strike without warning and lasted anywhere from five minutes to an hour. They wracked his body with tremors and drove him into a manic-depressive state afterwards. Mykel also struggled with heavy anxiety about any events or social occasions on his calendar. Once self-driven and always the type to hit the ground running, he found himself with nowhere to go. All he could do was embark on the daunting road to recovery… but where would that lead him? Could he actually make it?

Pin It on Pinterest