When I first began working at Covenant House one of the first youth that I started working with was a 22 year-old young man named “Joshua”. Joshua was a very kind and polite young man that struggled with very serious addiction issues. When I first met Joshua I found it hard to believe that he struggled with addiction issues, as he loved sports, was well put together, and was very ambitious in reaching his goals.
As I got to know Joshua, I came to understand that his younger years were a very difficult and painful time for him. Addiction was a prominent issue within his family after his mother passed away when he was a young teenager. He disclosed his mother had been sick with a terminal illness and his brother and himself had to grow up faster than most boys their age. Joshua also mentioned that his mother’s illness was very difficult on his father and he often was not emotionally available to Joshua or his brother. One day Joshua disclosed to me that his father started drinking after his mother passed away and would often take out his pain on him and his older brother. Joshua stated that his brother took on the role of his father, even though his older brother was young and not much older than himself. Being that his older brother was his caregiver and role model, Joshua began to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Joshua’s brother began to experiment with different drugs and because Joshua did not want to be left behind he started trying drugs too. Before Joshua knew it he could not find employment, support himself, or cope with everyday life because of his heavy drug use.
Joshua came to Covenant House for support with getting into a long term treatment center. Joshua’s stay at Covenant House was difficult because he would be sober for a couple weeks and then go back to using. During his stays with Covenant House, Joshua struggled with his sobriety and there was always a fear that he would not come back to the Crisis Program and we would find out he had overdosed. Finally, after months of ups and downs, Joshua got into treatment. I could not have been happier for him as he so badly wanted to address his addiction issues and move on with his life. Sadly, after just one week Joshua left treatment and last we heard he was heavily using and not doing well. Although it is so difficult to hear that a youth is not doing well, as a youth worker one has to accept that it is the youth’s choice and we can only be there when the youth is ready to change.
Over the next few months Joshua would come to Covenant House to use the Community Support Services Drop-In space for food. When Joshua came in he looked terrible. He had lost a lot of weight, was living on the streets, or staying in an unhealthy environment with his brother. Again, I was waiting for news that he had passed from an overdose.
Many months later I was doing some work in the community when I heard someone yelling my name. At first I did not know who this person was calling my name, until I realized it was Joshua. He looked amazing! He had gained weight and looked clear and alert. Frantically he began to tell me he had been clean for three months, had his own place, and was working full-time. Joshua began to thank me and the staff in Covenant House for always believing in him. Joshua said that if it was not for the Crisis Program and the Community Support Services program he would not have got clean. Joshua stated that despite not feeling a lot love from his own family, he always felt the staff at Covenant House cared about him unconditionally, no matter what stage of his addiction he was in. As a youth worker I often do not get to follow up on how the youth are doing once they leave the program. There are times when I wonder how they are doing and hope the best for them. Thankfully, in this youth’s case he chose to turn his life around and he is now doing well.