I remember how Eric and I met. It was 2011, I was sharing with family that I wanted to speak out about mental health and addiction based upon my own long term recovery. This is when my brother in law told me about a guy that gave a presentation to him and a bunch of his social worker colleagues and that he was a very inspiring speaker. I wanted to reach out to him but we didn’t know his name and there wasn’t any record of that presentation to find him. I continued to reach out to organizations, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) NJ to gather resources to speak out about my own diagnosis and life in recovery. I was introduced to NAMI’s IOOV (In Our Own Voice) program. IOOV is a presentation given by trained presenters who live with a diagnosis of mental illness. So I decided to volunteer to get trained as a presenter. As I was waiting for the training I contacted the NAMI group in the county that I lived in and joined. As I was speaking to someone in my travels about mental health, they told me I should contact Eric Arauz. Me, being the way I am, I looked him up, looked at his website and called him. I left a message and he returned my call. He asked me about myself and said he would call me back after a road trip he had to take. As my training for the IOOV class approached I found out that Eric was one of the trainers, I didn’t even know Eric was a trainer in the first place, weird right? Seemed like synchronicity. I remember the first day of my training, I was the first one there and so was Eric. I introduced myself, and he said that I was on his radar, whatever that meant. After all of us were finished sharing our stories, and the training was done, Eric said that we had a lot in common and that I could call him anytime. From that moment we had a connection. Later, I was talking to my brother in law and showed him Eric’s website, come to find out that Eric was the speaker who spoke in front of him and his colleagues in the first place. Do you see how that went full circle? That, to this day, boggles my mind. As time went on Eric and I spoke on the phone almost 2-3 times a week and shared stories of our lives, it was like I inherited a brother. He was in the final stages of publishing his book “An American’s Resurrection” and was very excited to get it done. I remember the day the book was published, I bought it immediately and read it. I was blown away by his story and how he put it out there for the world to see. At that time I started doing video and offered to shoot a video based on his book. He was excited to get it done, so we met up and shot the video. After the video was done, I forwarded it to him and he told me he loved it. He told me that his mother asked him how someone would just do that for him? Eric was my friend, a brother, and an inspiration for me. Every time I do a presentation from here on in, I will think of you Eric. You helped me to dig deep within myself and taught me that it was okay to be open with my story. You played a pivotal part in my advocacy for mental health and addiction. I will never forget you Eric, thank you, you will be missed. Rest In Peace Brother.