One man shares his journey of recovery
Mitch Cooper, of Charlotte, has experienced the best life has to offer.
A professional musician, Cooper played for Fetchin’ Bones and later started his own band – The Inn. He and fellow musicians performed throughout the United States and Europe, where the group opened for several legendary bands, including Blues Traveler. In the 80s and 90s, he had fortune, all the material items one can imagine, and fame.
Cooper, 48, has also experienced the worst life can offer. With status, came an introduction to drugs; lots of drugs. Eventually, he was in and out of mental health institutions, living on the streets, in shelters, and anywhere he could find refuge. After decades of living a life, that most would characterize as tremendously successful, Cooper’s drug addiction and mental illness left him homeless and hopeless.
“The idea of being popular had finally taken its toll,” Cooper effectively articulates. “My drug problem and mental illness just got worse. At that point, I decided not to be in the public anymore. I didn’t talk to anyone for five years. Not family, not friends. I disengaged from the whole world.”
Mental illness and substance use disorders are critical or serious challenges. September is observed as National Recovery Month to draw attention to these issues and to raise awareness about people in need of treatment and recovery support services, offered by organizations like Monarch, which provides support statewide to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse challenges.
"My hope is that through education and awareness, people will recognize that while the road to recovery may be difficult, the benefits of preventing and overcoming mental illness and/or substance abuse issues are significant and valuable," said Monarch’s Chief Clinical Officer Daniel Brown, MSW, LCSW. "Mental illness and substance abuse issues not only affect those who are suffering, but also their families, friends, and the larger community. This underscores how crucial it is to provide access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services."
Mitch Cooper is among the 31.3 million people aged 18 or older who received mental health services, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2010, 2.6 million people aged 12 or older, who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem, received treatment at a specialty facility, like Monarch, in the past year. There are millions who also go untreated, according to the National Survey of Drug Use & Health.
“It's imperative that people understand that the benefits of preventing and overcoming mental illness and/or substance use disorders are significant and valuable,” Brown said.
Cooper has been in recovery for the last seven years. He is a resident of one of Monarch’s Transitional Housing Units in Charlotte, where he is supported by a residential counselor, therapist and provided services to aid in his continued recovery. He has reconnected with his family, now has a great church family and has started performing again. He is part of a trio called the Hillbilly 3. The guitarist, banjo player and violinist play in small venues on open mic nights, charity events and perform at church functions. Cooper said despite not making lots of money now, he’s the happiest he’s been in years.
“It’s no longer about the money for me, I just want to focus on recovery and helping others, especially those who are homeless,” explained Cooper, who volunteers to assist people who are drug-addicted and homeless and works with Speak Up Magazine, a publication that provides a voice for that community. “Monarch saved my life. I’m actually living again instead of existing. I would be dead right now without Monarch. It was tough for a while, but now I’m as happy as I can be.”
Monarch provides support statewide to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse challenges in more than 55 North Carolina counties. Monarch is nationally accredited by The Council on Quality and Leadership and is CABHA certified. The agency is an affiliate chapter of The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States. To learn how Monarch is “Helping Dreams Take Flight” for people in our communities, call (800) 230-7525 or visit www.MonarchNC.org.
For information about Monarch’s behavioral health and substance abuse services in your area, please call (866) 272-7826.