“Intervention works, treatment is effective, and people recover!” That mantra was adopted by the Juvenile Justice Commission for the recovery rally and walk held at its Johnstone Campus in Bordentown Campus on Sept. 29. The event began with over 300 adults and juveniles joining together for a recovery walk around the campus.
Valeria Lawson, executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, spoke of the importance of praising success stories of those who come through the JJC. “When we have people successful in recovery we need to recognize and support them.” She acknowledged the worthwhile nature of such a cause and understands how important it is because “drugs and alcohol touches so many families.”
One of the counselors from the program elaborated on the importance of the continuity of care after the kids leave the facility. “The first 30 days are crucial. If they are not linked with services right away, the potential for relapse is great … there has to be a great deal of effort placed on bridging the gap from residential inpatient to outpatient. These kids all have a story and they deserve a chance to succeed.”
Several of the youth at the program expressed concern about their upcoming release date and their desire to head down the wrong road again. Keianna, a 17-year-old female who was addicted to pills and alcohol, stated her desire to get involved with aftercare and to find a job as soon as she is released in December.
“I got certified as an EKG technician while I have been in here, so hopefully I can find a job doing that. I definitely feel like I learned how to cope with my problems a lot better. I realize that I can’t go back and get involved with the same people. I have to stay away from any place where there may be drugs.”
Deseannah, another female resident of the program, has aspirations of joining the Air Force upon her release in November. She wants to focus on rebuilding relationships with her family but candidly admits that she is worried about falling back into old behaviors. She pointedly recognizes that the key to her success is acceptance of her addiction: “I have to understand that I am in recovery and then I have to go out and do something positive about it.”
Frank Matthews, 24 and a graduate of the program, came back to share some of his experience with the audience. Matthews is a true success story. He left the program and continued treatment upon his release. As a result, he was able to get a baseball scholarship to Stockton College where he attended classes for two years. He transferred to Rutgers College, has a double major and is maintaining a high GPA through his junior year. He also works at Integrity House, a treatment provider in Newark, NJ.
He imparted this bit of advice to the captivated audience, “There are no successful drug dealers out there. Successful people are those who give back to their communities. Change starts today! Sacrifice and doing the right thing can be hard sometimes, but it is really the only way to be successful.” He also reminded the kids not to worry too much about society judging them. “Those who judge you don’t matter and those who matter won’t judge you.”
Joe Davis, another speaker at the event, has been in long-term recovery since 1988. Davis is in a wheel chair as a result of a gunshot he sustained when he was still using. He described people who work in this profession as heroes and said, “This isn’t a job, it’s a calling.” He also told the group, “If you cannot read, write, and understand the English language with complete proficiency, you will be left behind. We are responsible for who we are and, more importantly, for who we become.” Spoken by a man who has overcome a great deal and taken a difficult path to achieve the successes he has today.