Author to share mental health and addiction journey during Shaler North Hills Library visit
Monday, December 30, 2019 | 3:48 PM
Social worker, addiction specialist and author Jeffrey Parker will discuss his experiences with epilepsy, alcoholism and mental health issues at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at Shaler North Hills Library.
He published “Take the High Road: It’s not where you begin it’s how you finish; a must read for those with disabilities and addictions” in September 2019.
Parker, of Pittsburgh, said that he wrote his book to “instill hope and inspire people and let them know that regardless of their situation, anything is possible.”
“In these current times where there is a growing awareness and concern about addiction, about those we care about who are suffering and questions on how to help, this is an excellent opportunity to come hear a person from your own community who has lived those struggles and found a way through,” said Beth Lawry, the library’s adult services manager. “We would encourage people of all ages, from those suffering themselves to those who may know someone suffering, to come hear a personal story of success and perhaps gain some insight into the issue and a path forward.”
Parker described his difficult childhood, which continues to influence him today. He experienced his first epileptic seizure at the age of 2. The now 57-year-old recounted wearing a “football helmet” for part of his childhood because he was averaging 12 grand mal seizures daily, “flopping all over the place and getting injured and all kind of stuff.”
He grew up in Rankin in low-income apartments. When his parents divorced, he and his siblings moved in with their father, a Pittsburgh police lieutenant.
“It ended up being an abusive, emotionally and physically environment. And I have two older brothers. And we were all trying to kill each other all the time. It was just completely chaotic.”
At 6 years old, Parker started running away from home. Eventually, he ended up moving in and out of homes managed by the Office of Children, Youth and Families or from psychiatric facilities, where he was heavily medicated.
“I had severe depression probably from the time I was 7, 8, 9 years old. I started taking pills to attempt suicide. I picked up my dad’s gun. … I thought about putting the gun to my head at the age 9.”
At 17, he left a juvenile treatment facility and got his own apartment. However, his issues didn’t end.
“Alcohol was my drug of choice, and I drank myself into oblivion every night and I was a staggering drunk and I would fall on my face and have big eggs on my head.”
Parker decided that he needed to change his life when, at 30, he almost went to prison for aggravated assault but was acquitted by reason of self-defense. His father’s recent death also impacted him. So, he earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from the Community College of Allegheny County and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. He works as an addiction specialist at Tadiso Inc.
“I came to find that I am far more capable than I imagined. At one point in time, I could barely read, with the ADHD, and here I am a published author. I still am shaking my head and still have to pinch myself every time I come in to work and see my name on my office door,” he said.
Parker will sell his books at the event. His presentation is part of the library’s “Meet the Author” series, made possible by Friends of the SNHL. Questions and sharing are welcome.
Register online for the talk at shalerlibrary.org or call 412-486-0211.