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I live by one mantra: Choose Your Struggle. For much of my early life, I was told that I was living with a debilitating issue of Mental Health. As my condition worsened, I was prescribed more drugs at ever higher doses until, in my early 20s, I was daily taking more than the estimated lethal dosage of one drug and abusing many others while living with a full-blown Substance Misuse Disorder thanks to prescription pills. At 23, after two suicide attempts, an overdose, and time spent in an inpatient hospital and a rehab facility, I decided enough was enough and pledged myself to withdraw from all of my prescriptions. My symptoms disappeared almost immediately. After entering recovery and rebuilding my life, I pledged myself to one mission: choosing my struggle. In a world where many don't get a first chance, I realized just how lucky I was to get my second. I decided to dedicate my life to making a difference around the topics of Mental Health and Substance Misuse & Recovery. After years of having my struggle chosen for me—to simply make it through the day—I finally chose what to struggle for. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, I live with my wife and dog on Daniel Island, South Carolina. A graduate of Northern Kentucky University with a B.A. in Psychology, I strive every day to end the stigma around the topics of Mental Health and Substance Misuse & Recovery by telling my story and helping others tell theirs. I have certifications in Psychological First Aid, Drug Policy and the Social Contexts of Mental Health and Illnesses, Suicide Prevention, and Coaching, among others. Additionally, I am the Founder and Principal Consultant at Ornelas Station Consulting. You can find my podcast, the Choose Your Struggle podcast, on Stitcher, iTunes, Castbox, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. I am available for virtual speaking opportunities and have extensive experience in communicating in this medium.
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Date Selected: 9/21/2021