It has been just over 18 months since I joined YSS as CEO, and I’m telling you, the experience has been surreal. Every day, I wake up and head to work for the organization that saved my life. Every day, I have the opportunity to help create an environment that provides hope and opportunity to thousands of kids. Every day,I realize just how blessed I am. And while each day is memorable, there are a few that stand out.
On January 1, 2017, I celebrated 21 consecutive years of sobriety – one day at a time (thanks to the grace of God, a 12 step program and a community that supports recovery). To celebrate, I got my anniversary “chip” at my 12 step home group from my sponsor. For my celebration, I invited youth in our YSS Adolescent Residential Addiction program to join me.
The meeting was full; a packed house. I couldn’t have been more proud to see the kids introduce themselves to the group, one by one. Many in the room also set off on the road to recovery at YSS, some just a few months ago, and some more than 30 years earlier. At the end of the meeting everyone stands to thank the speakers and congratulate those who received their chip. The line of people stretched the length of the room and around the corner. After 20 minutes of shaking hands and accepting congratulations, there was one hand left.
A young man warmly reached out and took my hand in his. As the smile broke across my face, I could feel my heart swell with pride. The young man’s name was Nick*, a teen and recent graduate of the YSS Adolescent Residential Addiction program for boys, also known as the Youth Recovery House. While maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was. There was Nick, working his program, staying sober one day at a time.
MORE ABOUT NICK
After months of struggling with alcohol and drugs – drinking or smoking every day, stealing to get his fix – Nick’s parents brought him to YSS. He was 17.
“At first, I didn’t think I had a problem. As long as people left me alone, I’d be fine. The only consequences were getting caught,” Nick recalled. “But about a month after being at YSS, I started to realize that not everyone used (drugs and alcohol) like I did. And when I use, bad stuff happened. I knew that when I stopped, my life would get better. And it did.”
Today, Nick is in recovery and he and his family are healing. He received his driver’s license (something Nick’s parents wouldn’t allow before because they didn’t trust him). He has a part-time job. He’s studying hard in school. And he has hope for his future, with aspirations to attend college and continue enjoying playing music.
“I AM GRATEFUL MY PARENTS TOOK ME TO YSS. I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A PHASE.
I WAS WRONG. BEING AN ADDICT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU GROW OUT OF. YOUR
PROBLEMS ARE EASIER TO SOLVE WHEN DRUGS ARE NOT PART OF YOUR LIFE.”
Seeing Nick at that meeting was a full-circle moment for me. I couldn’t have been more proud of him. Proud of YSS and our staff. Proud to steward the support of so many, including our generous supporters, ensuring that we’re here, every day, providing hope and opportunity. Thank you for believing in YSS.
President and CEO, YSS
*The name of the youth in this communication has been changed out of respect for the client privacy.