July 2023

My name is Brian Sims, and I am a US Army Infantry Veteran in Long Term Recovery. 

For me, that means I no longer have to use drugs, alcohol, or attempt to take my own life as solutions to the struggles life may throw at me. Today, I have a host of friends, family, co-workers, and supporters across the nation who make up my support network. I am also blessed to be part of many other’s support networks. I am also a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist and Certified Event Interventionist. I’m also a VERY PROUD alum of the Fellowship RCO’s Men’s House! 

I come from a long line of family who dealt with substance misuse. My mother and father have nearly two decades of recovery apiece now. So, while addiction may be genetic, I’m here to tell you that Recovery is too!

I have had many bottoms in my life, including arrests and homelessness. I cheated, lied, stole, pawned everything I had (any anyone else’s too) to support my ability to self-medicate. In the end, I was living in a beat-up BMW running between Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville, thinking I would “get it together” eventually. I mean, I had been to nearly a dozen treatment centers (and actually graduated!). I had worked as a Peer Specialist with Fellowship RCO in its early days, deployed as an Emergency Manager over a dozen times saving lives and property with high level government officials, been on Non-Profit Boards and held “high level” positions… I clearly had “it” in me to be successful. So, why not with THIS issue?  

I could quote the Big Book nearly cover to cover. I had sponsored many men in recovery in the past. I had spoken at meetings all over, been part of forming the original Miami Young People’s Group. I LIVED SERVICE. I did my step work…

What was the problem? SURPRISE! It was me.

The “me” part is more than “ego.” I had multiple TBIs when I was in the Army (they’re like concussions, that happen from the dangerous work we do and weapons we utilize while training and deployed). These TBIs physically changed the structure of my brain. The drugs, lack of sleep and nutrition, compounded the issue.  

I had been placed on many different medication cocktails at the VA. I know today that they just weren’t the right ones. You see, for someone like me, I need to treat both my substance misuse alongside the other mental health barriers I experience. When I work on both of them daily, those barriers become less and less. That includes being aware of my thoughts and emotions, and advocating for myself to my Doctors and other clinicians on how we can formulate a plan to mitigate those issues, TOGETHER. 

The 12 Steps gave me the strength to do that. I needed to clean up my side of the street enough so I didn’t walk around racked with guilt and regret. I needed to rid myself of that “pitiful, incomprehensible demoralization” we in 12 step fellowships have shared.

Today, my life is truly something I never thought it would be. About a year and a half ago, I was asked to start a Veteran Recovery Program at Miami Recovery Project. I expanded that program to Veterans, First Responders, and their loved ones. Then I took it out to other Recovery Community Organizations, including Fellowship RCO. Today, we have 15 affiliates across the nation, all working together to help Warriors in Recovery. It is now the largest network of Certified Peer Specialists for Veterans outside the Department of Veterans Affairs, and we continue to grow each month. 

When called upon, I also served as the Executive Director of Miami Recovery Project. My team and I were able to secure contracts with First Responder Agencies and Miami-Dade Drug Court to provide Peer Supported Services from our staff. A staff that grew from 3 to 8. Monthly, we went from serving 20 people to over 90, regularly. Now we stand prepared to receive nearly a million dollars from HUD to run the newest Homeless Street Outreach Team for Miami-Dade County, which will add more staff and funding for our overall impact to people who were in the same situation I was once in. 

I’ve had the honor to speak at State and National Recovery Conventions, podcasts and radio shows. I am chair of multiple committees throughout the state for recovery related issues. I helped to create the RCO Toolkit for the State of Florida so we can aid new RCOs in forming. These are all more things I feel so blessed to be able to contribute to because so many other Champions of Recovery put in their hard work before me.

I couldn’t be more proud of having the opportunities my higher power has given me so far in this work. I’ll do them as long as He thinks I need to. And if/when that changes, I have the faith that the next thing will be equally amazing. 

Don’t get me wrong… although I still get frustrated sometimes. Sometimes , I remember that this is the nature of my disease. More often than not, a couple phone calls, some prayer and meditation, and usually a bit of “restraint of pen and tongue” get me through. All things I’ve learned over the years in Recovery.

You see, I believe that being in Recovery doesn’t make me special or grant me any “favors” or considerations. In fact, I believe it just lets me enter the stream of life with the rest of the “normies” who are dealing with all the other issues every human being does. Loss, pain, grief, heartache… These are shared human struggles. No one is immune to them. 

I do, however, feel like the Recovery Community is blessed to have tools and fellowship to work through them more easily. That’s what I found at Fellowship RCO. It truly is a special place, staffed by the most amazing people. Rick and Sara especially, THANK YOU. You helped save my life.

The 101st Airborne Division has a unit motto from a Cherokee word: “Currahee.” It loosely translates into this: “We Stand Alone, TOGETHER.” I think that sums up what recovery is about. Each one of us, no matter our pathway of recovery or how we define it, is responsible for the work we need to do for our own wellness. And while each one of us may do that part alone, we band together in those shared struggles and successes, so we can accomplish our individual missions, one day at a time. So if today is a struggle, just remember that “this too, shall pass,” say a prayer, and grab a Battle Buddy to work through it. If you don’t have one available, call Fellowship RCO, because you are never alone in Recovery.

– Brian W. Sims, CRPS-V, CEI National Director, Project: REBIRTH