Faced with an upward road to reinventing himself, Mykel took that vital first step forward. He actively worked with his doctors and therapists to clear his body of the addictions that had clouded his life and isolated him. Day by day, step by step, he was able to begin repair work on the many friendships and relationships he had damaged in his long struggle with addiction and mental illness. Mykel knows he isn’t going to be the one who can declare those relationships mended, but he has something the drugs and alcohol had stolen from him for decades: hope.
For Mykel, simply recovering wasn’t enough. The more he studied his issues and sense of self, the more his attention turned outward to others who might be suffering the same crippling problems. At around the same time, a caring co-worker connected him to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The new partnership contributed a great deal to saving his life. Through NAMI, Mykel embarked on a 10-week course to further educate himself and to connect with a community that helped others in similar circumstances.
NAMI Sacramento’s Executive Director, David Bain, took notice of Mykel’s enthusiasm and sense of purpose. He invited Mykel to speak at Grant High School in North Sacramento. Mykel spoke brilliantly, urging both the student body and the staff to educate themselves on mental health and substance abuse prevention. This lit a spark inside of Mykel, and from that point there has been no stopping him. He became a passionate advocate. Mykel wanted to pour himself out for the sake of others; to this day, he considers such service to be one of his driving passions.
Mykel went through Peer-to-Peer training with NAMI and was accepted as the organization’s FaithNet Coordinator. He is an active member of his congregation, Del Paso Union Baptist Church, and advocates for mental health awareness through communities of faith. He also worked closely with Alcoholics Anonymous and veteran support organizations like HomeFront, an instructional class for family members of veterans living with mental health issues.
Now, Mykel is a proud Army veteran, a family man and strong father to his children, and an advocate. He enjoys his life and his hobbies. Mykel still loves the 49ers. His hobby is barbecuing, especially for large family gatherings that he hosts monthly. He also loves his church community. His unerring faith in Jesus Christ is something else he attributes to his dynamic recovery.
Pointing to Dr. William Anthony, Ph.D., Mykel defines the steps to that recovery as “a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by the illness.”
But Mykel goes on to say that the journey of recovery is a lifelong one. It has its good days and bad days… and that’s okay. “You have to make adjustments every day.” He leans forward, folding his hands with a thoughtful expression. “Yesterday, I felt great. And today… today I feel good, but I have to watch out for signs of my symptoms. It’s a little hard to explain, you know, but my body knows.”
Mykel Gayent is a man who has refused to let illness or the years it took from him impact his future. Temptation from ghosts of the past still stalks him at every corner, but he’s determined to exercise his recovery like a muscle and stay strong. His humility and drive work excellently together, pushing him, ever pushing him, further along on the vibrant road of recovery. He reaches out along the way, extending a warm hand weathered by trials to anyone struggling with the same issues.
Once upon a time when he was first diagnosed, Mykel was told by his psychiatrist not to talk about his diagnosis. The psychiatrist said there would be stigma, that it would isolate Mykel. But Mykel knew that sort of recovery path wasn’t a fit for him. In fact, to Mykel, the act of discussing his issues with others plays a vital role in his continued healing.
“If I can help someone else with their issues by talking about my own,” he says firmly, “then that’s my blessing for the day.”