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Overcoming mental illness
BEAUMONT-By: Leslie Rangel
We might hear about mental illness after a headline grabbing mass shooting but not lesser crimes like drug dealing or burglary.
Experts believe one out of every five Americans is living with an undiagnosed mental illness.
one Beaumont man shares his story of drugs and addiction and how getting diagnosed with a mental illness helped him change his life.
"I mean I used a lot of drugs, not just crack," Garry Lewis says.
He's from Beaumont.
His criminal record fills up nineteen pages.
He started using drugs at 14.
"I was selling drugs and using I had what you call a dealers habit," Lewis says.
He was known as "Slim Goody"
"Before it's all said and done, you will eventually get caught," Lewis said.
And Slim got caught again and again.
At the age of 53, the court ordered him to get treatment.
"I was in a halfway house and I kind of really knew I had an addiction but I didn't know I had a mental illness," Lewis remembers.
He dealt with feelings of anger and depression.
"I felt stuck, yeah down and out, not really knowing how to live life on life terms," Lewis said.
And then he was diagnosed.
"For me, I was diagnosed with major depression and bipolar. I didn't have no idea what that was," Lewis says.
This picture is during recovery.
He quit medicating himself with drugs and alcohol.
"I had to save me from me and I've done it," Lewis said.
He's been sober for 5 years.
"It's just a good feeling inside to let people know that you can change your life if you really chose to," Lewis says.
Despite his criminal past, his life has turned around.
"I'm a certified peer specials and I help people by going out and telling people, never let your mental health diagnosis define you as a person," Lewis says.
He works at the Spindletop Health Center in Beaumont.
"I am the evidence that you can change your life and that's what I do," Lewis said.
He works with people to show others they you can live with mental illness.
"People that have mental health diagnosis doesn't mean they are murderers or killers," Lewis says.
For Lewis, Slim goody will never return.
He says his motivation is his success.
"It is what it is, I've done what I've done, I'm just so glad that that part is over and I'm doing something new."
Lewis says one of the joys of his recovery is reconnecting with his parents who are approaching the age of 90.