Spotlight: A Veteran's Journey

Mike* joined the military right out of high school in the early 1990s. While joining the military was a big change in culture and lifestyle, Mike adjusted well. He worked hard and thrived, even during his posting in Alaska.

“Everything was going well for me, until one visit home on leave,” Mike says.

While hanging out with friends near the end of his break, he smoked marijuana.

When he arrived back at base in Alaska, fear set in: The Air Force conducts random drug testing. He had been in the Air Force for close to 3 years by this point, and he became increasingly worried that one decision would ruin all he had achieved. Mike decided to take some medication to clear his system, yet took too much and became so dehydrated that he was hospitalized. While in the hospital, he began to experience symptoms of depression.

The depression worsened, and Mike’s mother flew up to Alaska to bring him home. At a Bay Area Air Force hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The treatment he received helped, and he was proud to receive an honorable discharge from the service a year later.

Life After the Military

Back in his hometown, Mike found a good job, got married, and had a son. After a few years, however, faced with increasing stress at work and problems in his marriage, feelings of depression returned.

“I ended up in jail a couple of times,” Mike says. “That’s when my wife left me.”

For the next eight years, Mike struggled to manage his mental health condition and keep a job. Job opportunities dried up completely. At the recommendation of his therapist, Mike reached out to the Department of Rehabilitation. There he was connected with Caminar’s Jobs Plus Program.

“I met with a Jobs Plus job developer, who told me about employment opportunities at Goodwill. He helped me apply for a job as a processor and I was hired,” Mike says.

Back in the Workforce

While working at Goodwill, Mike received ongoing coaching and support from his Jobs Plus job coach, who helped him learn to manage his medical appointments, stay on track with his medication, monitor his health, and seek support when needed to stay well.

“I have continued to feel good about my work. My success is directly related to the guidance and support of Jobs Plus. I’m very grateful for the assistance of Caminar,” Mike says.

* This program graduate's name has been changed for privacy.