From Incarceration to Independence: Monarch Helps Coley Barringer Work Toward a New Life
Coley Barringer is the first to admit he struggles every day as he recovers from the mental illness that kept him institutionalized for nearly half his life and resulted in a stint in jail for arson. But he’s also excited to talk about how far he’s come and his hopes for the future.
For the first time in his life, Barringer, 28, is settled into a small, but cozy, apartment of his own. He cleans it himself and cooks simple meals. He keeps his two goldfish aquariums in pristine condition. He is learning to budget, pays his own rent and other bills, and recently saved enough money to pay cash for a new sofa and buy a new cell phone. He shoots basketball and walks for exercise. He is pursuing his GED and dreams of one day being able to work in his family’s business.
But he can’t do it alone. Although Barringer craves independence and is working hard to achieve it, Monarch staff support him 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helping him with daily tasks and offering encouragement and advice.
“I am thankful for them,” he said. “They help me stay motivated and on track. I know there are things I have to do better at, because I have a lot of goals.”
Staff members remind Barringer often that he’s “the captain of the ship,” said Monarch Developmental Specialist Michael Blalock. “It’s up to him where he steers it. We help him learn things like coping skills, boundaries and consequences. He takes it from there, but he knows we’re here for him.”
After three years of support from Monarch staff, Barringer’s most immediate hope is to transition soon from 24-7 staff assistance to being allowed “alone time” from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. He wants to spend evenings by himself watching TV, playing his Xbox and sleeping without anyone else in the apartment.
“I believe in Cody, and I think he will achieve his goals,” said Monarch Program Manager Tara Sellers. “He has shown great progress, and I think he’s doing better than he sometimes gives himself credit for. He has come a long way from where he was, and we are proud of him.”
At age 13, Barringer was diagnosed with DiGeorge Syndrome, a disorder caused by a chromosome defect which can result in heart problems, poor immune system function, complications related to calcium deficiency, and behavioral and emotional issues.
When his behavioral problems and anger issues became a safety concern at home, he was institutionalized, but the challenges continued. After years of wrestling with self-described anger and personal identity issues, he set a fire in the wood shop at his development center and was incarcerated for a year.
“When I look back on it, the fire was the stupidest thing I ever did and is the biggest regret I have,” Barringer said. “I didn’t know it would have so many consequences, but in a way it was the turning point because I ended up at Monarch not long after that.”
“I’ve had a pretty rough life,” he said. “It feels good to finally have goals and be in my own place. I didn’t know if I ever would.”