Recovery Offers Opportunity to Bring Hope to Others

As a peer support specialist (PSS), Penny Markey finds personal and professional reward in sharing her journey with people healing through their own mental health diagnoses or recovery from substance use disorder (SUD).

She has overcome drug addiction, profound loss of loved ones, abuse and homelessness that happened throughout her life. Today, Penny’s motivation as a PSS is that sharing how she has persevered will help others realize there is hope.

She firmly believes that her mission is strengthened by her personal experiences. PSSs are people who have been successful in the recovery process who help others in similar situations including advocacy, connection to resources, support in building relationships and mentoring. She currently serves as a PSS in Robeson County.

Penny has received services through Monarch’s Lumberton Facility-Based Crisis (FBC) center and receives individual therapy services for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression through the Robeson Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic from Senior Therapist Louvonda Townsend, MSW, LCSW.

Penny moved from Baltimore, Maryland, to Lumberton over four years ago to rekindle a former love, which ultimately did not work out. She had been pursuing recovery prior to moving to North Carolina and was living a sober life.

Her life, Penny confides, has been marked by a number of traumatic experiences that have affected her deeply.

Her drug habit began after her brother was murdered. She was married then with a 9-year-old son. Because of her addiction, her son went to live with her mother-in-law. During 10 years of active drug use, she shoplifted as a source of income, ended up serving time in jail and was homeless.

At the age of 35 years old, Penny realized she could not continue her current lifestyle and pursued recovery. When her son was 16 years old, he returned to live with her. At the age of 59, she is proud of maintaining over 24 years of sobriety.

Years into recovery, while living in Baltimore, Penny lost her son, his wife and two young granddaughters during a tragic house fire, before moving to North Carolina.

She recounts with tears in her eyes that she leaned on the support of others in her recovery network and continued to maintain her sobriety through the tragedy. Penny also experienced the traumatic deaths of her three brothers, as well as an alcoholic and abusive father.

Her therapist, Louvonda, has seen her gain back self-confidence and begin to enjoy the things that matter in her life, caring for her beloved mother, Margaret, who lives with her, and traveling. “She has a great inner strength and has a healthy support system. Penny is living her life on her own terms and loves to help others,” Louvonda describes.

She explains that once she experienced what recovery meant, there was no looking back.

“I never wanted to ever wake up sick again, ever,” she shares, adding that she began listening and taking advice from others pursuing recovery. She took suggestions that reinforced her journey to live drug-free. She went back to work and saved money.

In January 2019, she turned to Monarch’s Lumberton FBC for support. Monarch’s Lumberton FBC services are two-fold: one that offers a non-hospital, medical detox program for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) issues and, the second, that treats people experiencing a mental health crisis, at times in combination with an SUD.

Today, as a peer support specialist, she takes the life lessons she has learned and uses them to help others. She meditates to calm her mind. She turns negative thoughts into positive ones. Penny is grateful that the people she helps see hope in the support she provides.

She is grateful for Monarch being in her community, offering her hope, strengthening her recovery and supporting her mental health. “They gave me hope in a new town that I could trust someone from the very first meeting,” she says of Monarch services.

Serving as a PSS, Penny believes she is right where she needs to be. “That is my purpose. And that’s what I’m supposed to do. And that’s why I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through. I don’t wish I had another life,” she says. “That that was my road to go down because I am supposed to serve. I believe we’re all supposed to serve in some way.”

Penny spreads a message of hope to people who cross her path and she also has a supply of Monarch’s Mobile Crisis contact cards so that if someone does need or ask for help, she is ready.

Posted on: Tuesday January 3, 2023