Ripple’s team is made up of peers in recovery, people who have faced the challenge of living with a diagnosed mental illness, or an addiction, or sometimes both. We understand that our recovery is a journey, not a destination… But we also believe that no journey is a true success without the company of good people to travel with along the way.
Chris Pochna is Peer with lived experience in both mental health services and addiction recovery. Her journey started in 1988 at the age of 8 years old when she started to battle anorexia mirabilis. Also known as holy anorexia or inedia prodigiosa, an eating disorder in which one starves themselves to acquire some level of spiritual enlightenment or growth. In Chris’s teenage years, she was extremely self-conscious of her physical appearance and began experiencing severe depression. Like many other young adults living with depression at that time, she was prescribed medications by a psychiatrist.
Prozac and Ritalin, which were common did very little to help, and one caused her to become very sick in the process. With no progress and her depression worsening, she had been prescribed a new drug called Zyprexa in 1998. One of the well-known side effects of this particular drug is weight gain; this made a bad situation worse. A year later she started another battle, this time with oxycontin, and then heroin. In 1999 she made an appointment with the Connecticut Counseling Centers and began the journey to take back her life.
Chris went on methadone and was off three years later, by this point her Anorexia Mirabilis had long since turned to Anorexia Nervosa and plagued her for years to come. During her recovery she found employment, working first as a security guard, then graduated trade school to be an electrician where she eventually worked on high voltage railroad systems. In her 30’s she became addicted to pain pills again, this was due to several congenital spinal conditions, as well as Epilepsy. A neurologist had recommended she go on disability after almost getting hit by a train while suffering a seizure. She received SSD and retired. Today she wants to share her story, help others, and perhaps inspire a few people along the way to do the same.
“I have no idea what my fourth decade of life will bring. What more can happen to me? My future is as uncertain as anyone’s, but there’s a unique type of suffering I experience. I’m now going to work with RIPPLE because of the kind-hearted nature of this not for profit, I believe together it’s possible to become an extream success.”
Acting Board Treasurer, Recovery Innovations for Pursuing Peer Leadership and Empowerment, Inc.
Desiree Barton is a Peer with lived experience within the mental health and addiction services system. She has come along way since age 7 when she first started talk therapy but also acknowledges that there are still obstacles to overcome, and some of those at times can be overwhelming. She has first-hand experience with anxiety, depression, PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and Diabetes.
She is an avid reader and loves to learn about new things, her passion for knitting and crocheting has been a positive, creative outlet for since the age of 4 and continues to this day.
The only thing she loves more is working with and being around animals. In the future, she hopes to be in a position where she can train therapy animals for those in need.
Since joining Ripple this year, Desiree has become interested in obtaining the training necessary to be a Certified Recovery Support Specialist…
“Right now I don’t have the luxury of looking back on my struggles and seeing them from the other side, I am still in transition and seeking help. Plans for the future are starting to look up, Ripple and I are going to work together helping me become an RSS myself. I think that is a big step in the direction of hope.”
Board Secretary, Recovery Innovations for Pursuing Peer Leadership and Empowerment, Inc.
RockingRecovery.org Web Development Team
Late Night Peer Support Group Co-Host
Marianne Jensen has a long history of lived experience, and she had received treatment for depression, PTSD from a sexual assault that occurred when she was much younger. Despite these events in her life, she moved on, obtained a degree, and started her family. Later she was given a diagnosis of ADHD after having difficulty maintaining concentration on her job, staying at her desk, and not interrupting during meetings. Her co-workers immediately noticed the difference when she began taking medication without telling anyone.
All of her education and job successes came to a screeching halt in 2014 when she was diagnosed with obstructive hydrocephalus (a rare brain condition) and a brain tumor. She has since survived several brain surgeries but has been left with permanent brain injury and memory loss.
She struggled and began feeling “less than” or “not adequate” because of the brain injury. For a short time, it had gotten the better of her. In 2017 she was briefly admitted to the hospital for depression.
Since then, Marianne has learned a lot and takes advantage of recovery resources and supports that she has discovered along the way, many more than she ever knew existed.
“I know I am not the same person I used to be. I can not remember the specific changes other than the obvious things, inability to work, drive, and use my memory. I have started re-writing my life. My new life, my new chapter because my book wasn’t finished. I didn’t understand that I was no closer to being finished with my life than when I was phasing out of kindergarten. Was that the end of my educational career? No!
There is still a whole life ahead of me. It will not be determined by my past, but by my current set of skills, desires, needs, and dreams. I started out small by volunteering to regain my confidence, and then I started working a small part-time job. Right now, that is all I can handle, and that is okay. I know my limits, and I know what I want and don’t want. I no longer have to live up to someone else’s rules or expectations. I am happy being me.”
Board President, Recovery Innovations for Pursuing Peer Leadership and Empowerment, Inc
Jeffrey Santo is a Peer who started his journey into the mental health services system in the second grade. First diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder in 1982 and like so many other children, prescribed Ritalin. When that failed to work he was given Haldol, in all they tried 5 different drugs to solve what they saw as a problem. It was not until 2011, nearly thirty years later he would be correctly diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Today, in addition to Asperger’s he is a Diabetic and lives with depression, anxiety, and PTSD that can be traced back to a traumatic brain injury in 1986.
He has gone to school culinary arts and loves to cook for large gatherings of people. He hopes to blend this experience with his work as a Recovery Support Specialist, perhaps cooking at peer retreats, a respite, or teaching classes for people in recovery to eat better and live healthier lives.
Jeff also has an interest in all things metal; he is a welder, fabricator, machinist, and blacksmith. His workshop is a refuge from the world and has become a space where creativity can heal the stresses of everyday life.
“There will come a point in your life when you realize something that will change the way you see yourself. You’ll look back and see that on your darkest day, when everything was falling apart, and accept the fact that you survived… The paradigm shift happens when you become aware that on your darkest day you were still stronger than everything that was working against you.”
Jeffrey Santo, RSS
Executive Director, Recovery Innovations for Pursuing Peer Leadership and Empowerment, Inc.
Webmaster for RockingRecovery.org, Late Night Peer Support Group Co-Host
Certified Recovery Support Specialist, SMART Recovery Facilitator
Keep the Promise Coilition (KTP) Member, Catchment Area Council (CAC) Member