We had the good fortune of connecting with Thomas Guerra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Thomas, what are you inspired by?
I am inspired every time that I see someone who was at their worst point in their life, find recovery and begin to change their lives. Recovery is what inspires me. People who have found recovery before me and people who now use their experience to help others are my inspiration. I was able to find my purpose through helping others and now I can be the inspiration that others need to seek recovery.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I definitely did not expect to be where I am today when I was younger. I did not have anything to be proud of until I was in my early 30’s. Up until that point my addiction led me to believe that I was not capable of going back to school or being successful. When i finally got into sustained recovery is when I went back to school and received by Associates Degree. I initially started that degree in 2001. I didn’t get this 2-year degree until 2013. This is when I started to believe in myself again. I followed that up with my bachelor’s degree in 2015 and then my master’s degree in mental health counseling in 2018 from FIU. I went from being in active addiction and getting 3 DUI’s to getting in recovery and obtaining 3 college degrees. I had many barriers while pursuing my education. The biggest one was a relapse during my bachelor’s degree. During that time, I had to stop attending school, I was fired from my job, and the mother of my kids left with my daughter. When I reached out for help on campus, I found out that there was no recovery support for students. This led me to fall deeper in my relapse. Luckily through the help of some friends in recovery I was able to get sober again. When I started my graduate degree, I founded Panthers for Recovery in an effort to support students in recovery on campus. Through this student organization, I found the true meaning of service to others and I found my purpose. I used my experience with Panthers for Recovery to help later on when I founded the Miami Recovery Project.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My idea of a good time is a little different than it used to be. We got a really good basketball team this year, so I would definitely take them to see the Heat play. The next day, I would put my friend to work while he is here. I would take them to an outreach event that we do regularly in Overtown. During the outreach, we provide food, clothes, and overdose prevention medication to the houseless community. Following this I would take them for some authentic Cuban food at La Carreta.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would have to shoutout my parents for never giving up on me even when I was deep into my addiction. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Miami Recovery Project is all about believing in people before they believe in themselves. Through recovery, they are able to start believing in themselves.