Stories of Impact

Counselor speaking with a client

Celebrating Peer Supporters: Allies, Advocates, and Friends in Recovery

Taylor Stapley was 8 years old when his mom passed away. It sent him into a whole new world of feelings he didn’t know how to cope with. He discovered weed could help with that, that it could shut off his brain and shut out the feelings he didn’t want to deal with. As he grew older and more stressors entered his life, he turned to alcohol as a teenager, and harder drugs as an adult.

Shortly after attending the funeral for his father, his brother was arrested. It was the “nail in the coffin” for Taylor. He went on a nine-month spiral of drugs and alcohol, leading to divorce papers and being kicked out of the house. One morning he woke up and drove out to the highway. Parked on the side of the road, he was deciding which semi-truck to drive into when he received a text from his sister.

“Are you okay?”

Taylor calls it “the miracle.” And it was enough to pull him back. Through tears, he called his therapist. She advised him to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. His sister met him there.

At Providence Alaska Medical Center, he received his first Big Blue Book—the text for Alcoholics Anonymous. For Taylor, it was a clear sign that he wasn’t alone, there were other people out there with the same “crazy thoughts and emotions” he had. And so, he finally asked for help. After completing a 28-day program, plus an extra 32 days for good measure, he found himself on a new path.

Today, Taylor Stapley is a Peer Support Specialist at VOA Alaska. Sharing his story is core to the support he provides to youth dealing with many of the same feelings he once had—and making the same choices to cope with those feelings. 

Group of five people posing for photo
VOA Alaska’s elite team of Peer Support Specialists.

From the beginning of a youth’s journey with VOA Alaska, through mental health counseling and/or substance use treatment, Peer Support Specialists are there every step of the way. They provide transportation to appointments, they help youth apply what they learn in their sessions in the real world, and they assist in job searches and college applications.

They are allies, advocates, and mentors.

They are available. They are connection. They are encouragement.

They are friends in recovery.

They are the physical embodiment of the phrase “you are not alone.”

In Taylor’s words, they are “on the front line, to just help them get ready to live a healthy life. And they know we’re here if they need us. Whatever I can do to help them, I will.”

At VOA Alaska, the lived experience that Peer Support Specialists offer is integral to supporting a full continuum of care for youth and their families. Visit our Transition Program or Family Support pages to learn more about how they can support your family.

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