Dear John, "I Had No Choice But To Leave All Of It Behind"

When students of JVA are near the end of their addiction rehabilitation program, we ask them to write letters to John to reflect on their experience of recovery. Some talk about what brought them here, how they’ve changed, what they’re taking away and what they’re learning to give. We’re sharing these letters to bring light to what addiction really is from the eyes of those who’ve been there, and those who’ve found their own way. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our students for their bravery, honesty, and generosity. Letters may have been edited for length and clarity.

Dear John,

Before I came here. I was too cowardly and too weak to make any real decision about my life. I came here because when a life is as empty as mine was, there’s really no choice but to leave all of it behind. Now, John Volken Academy is my home; it really is, and I’ve felt that for a very long time. Basically, since I got here I was a zombie just going through the motions my first couple months, but I never fantasized about going home or seeing my family. I never toyed with the idea of making a plan or even wanting to. I came here so broken, and I felt a comfort in these walls from my first day here. Was I scared? Was I anxious? Absolutely. But I also felt safe for the first time in almost a decade.

Male participants enjoy a meal together in the meal hall.

I want to say something monumental and profound, but it’s really as simple as this: I am grateful. I am a grateful alcoholic, and I am a grateful bulimic. This place has given me people in my life I can always count on, and they love me unconditionally. I’ve learned how to laugh, how to cry, how to forgive, and how to accept myself with Troy, J.D, and Anna by my side. Darren never gave up on me, and always pushed me to change and grow into a person he knew I could be. I know I frustrated him endlessly some days. But he was always, always there for me. Traci and Pam taught me how to take ownership for my behaviours, and helped me grow into the leader I am today, by never going easy on me.

I want to say something monumental and profound, but it’s really as simple as this: I am grateful. I am a grateful alcoholic, and I am a grateful bulimic.

Thanks to the last two years here, I love and accept myself in a way I didn’t even know was possible. I am looking forward to my life because; thanks to you, it will be filled with the things I love, like writing, singing, family, and sports. Thanks to you, I get to go home and meet my nephew and I get to be a part of his life. Every challenge I had here was worth it. All the discomfort, sadness, and pain I felt here ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. I found myself here, and I owe the John Volken Academy my life. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart

– M

Recovery from addiction is more than fighting a dependency on drugs and alcohol. Finding value, passion, and skills are the key to lifelong sobriety.

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