Success Stories

Personal Stories of Recovery


Progress now a way of life for Hendricks 

James Hendricks can proudly list off in succession the accomplishments in recent years.

“I haven’t used drugs or drank since 2013, I haven’t been in the hospital since February 2014, I quit smoking, started exercising, I completed treatment court,” he says, drawing his eyes up while trying to recall all the rest. “I’ve been taking my medication, staying in treatment with Stairways, went to school and I was released from parole early.”

James’ list would seem exhaustive save for the potent force behind said accomplishments: his willingness to accept help and buy into the services available to him.

“The fact that I’ve committed to the mental health treatment I’ve gotten has helped me achieve all of that,” James, 37, said recently. “I’ve come to the realization that it’s not a coincidence that since the age of 14, I’ve been having episodes.”

James was 14 when he was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a condition that worsened as he started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Having grown up the child of parents with drug addictions and an abusive stepfather, this foray into drug use merely seemed like a natural development of his adolescence. His next enterprise was a little more serious.

At 16, he mugged a pizza delivery man for what little change he had, stole a bike from a neighborhood kid and robbed a gas station attendant.

James was charged with three strong-armed robberies and terroristic threats. He would split the next five months between Hamot’s inpatient unit and Belmont Pines psychiatric hospital before being transferred to a residential program for troubled youths for nearly a year.

In between the time he was released from the hospital and entered the residential program, James again began smoking marijuana. And just three months before he turned 18, James and his cousin severely assaulted the man they were working for.

For his part, James was sentenced to five years. None of his mental health issues resurfaced during his stint, as James complied with taking medication.

“It’s not a time when you can be vulnerable,” he said. “I had to do everything to keep my sanity.”

The ensuing years alternated between times of personal growth and setback for James; he became a father and married but struggled to find employment and was hospitalized several times.

In 2013, when he marked the otherwise joyous occasion of completing parole, James took the opportunity to stop his medication and begin using drugs and alcohol. He then separated from his wife and went down a self-destructive path that ultimately culminated when he broke down an apartment door while he was under a delusion that he was a police officer.

The resulting charge of criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief landed James another nine months in county jail if he agreed to go through treatment court.

James felt depressed and as though he was squandering an opportunity. “Here I did five years of prison and nine and ½ years of parole and here I am in a whole other mess of trouble.”

Though he was paying a steep price, James did come to a realization. “By the time I’m in there… I realized I should probably be taking my meds,” he said.

That part of James’ recovery could easily be overlooked if not for the achievements that followed.

Shortly after graduating from a halfway house, James was approved to live in Stairways’ Fairweather Lodge, a peer-supported residential and work setting. As part of the Lodge community, James thrived and saw an environment that could support his desire to gain employment in the machine industry.

“I wanted to learn more about machines, it was something I had kinda fallen into,” James said.

James’ desire led him to begin taking classes at the Regional Career and Technical Center, where he is learning a trade that appeals to his natural mechanical skills.

In addition, his parenting skills are being put to the test as well. James has assumed greater accountability and is enjoying more time with his daughter, 11 and two sons, 9 and 6.

“I have a responsibility with them,” he says.

While previously a struggle, responsibility no longer seems to prove as problematic for James, who attends weekly group meetings at the Forensics clinic and practices budgeting and living skills with psychiatric rehab services.

 “I would like to impress upon people that if you work with Stairways, Stairways will work with you,” he said. “If you do, it will help you achieve your goal.”

James has done his part as well.





"Stairways helped me to work on recovery, one step at a time." -Ron S


© 2014 Stairways Behavioral Health. All rights reserved. 2185 West 8th Street · Erie, Pa 16505 · Phone: 814-453-5806 · Fax: 814-453-4757 · Toll-free: 1-888-453-5806 · Contact Us · Sitemap