It never ceases to amaze me what a group of like-minded individuals can accomplish.
At the Academy, I am constantly reminded of the strength and resilience of our students’ spirit. Last month I was able to witness one of the most important traditions of the John Volken Academy: graduation. Eight men and women willingly subjected themselves to two years of privation from their families, loved ones, and the status quo of their former lives.
One doesn’t mistakenly stumble into a two year long term treatment center by chance. By the time we got to this point, our lives were pretty rough and unbearable. So naturally, making the decision to come here is a life-changing event. Another life changer would be graduation. For some, it was an impossible task, short of a miracle, to finish anything we had started. We were powerless to even cancel a Netflix account. As those eight graduates progressed through the program, they were given more responsibilities and were able to give back to the place that gave them their lives back. They were now able to walk across the stage and face their friends and families with new eyes and new perspectives.
Listening to family members share their experiences with their sons and daughters reminded me of how important it is for me to stay and see this experience through. The families were able to speak of the heartbreaking times when they were not sure if their children would still be alive when they woke up. Mothers and fathers were able to speak about being able to finally sleep once they knew their sons and daughters were safe at the Academy. One mother in particular, bravely announced that she would “no longer love her son to death.” As she wiped tears from her face, the impact of her powerful words could be felt in the reactions of all who bore witness to the October 1st graduation.
Graduations are a compelling reminder of why we wake up at 6 am, make our beds, take care of our appearance, take pride in our work, talk the talk, and walk the walk of changing our lives.
These 8 men and women are ready for the joys and tragedies of life.
Their previous lives were all but forgotten to the love-filled auditorium. Their old ways of living were now nothing more than a far away star on a clear October night. Their new lives burn bright and shine life to those lucky enough to be a part of them. I am one of those lucky ones who was able to get to know each of our graduates and each impacted my early recovery here at JVA for the better. Lindsey, Traci, JD, Brett, Troy, Neil, Zach, and Chris each have a special place in my heart for helping me become a better version of myself.
Two years is a long time; it seems like an eternity. However, the years of life that our graduates have added by changing their lives now will echo an eternity. Humanity will now benefit from their presence and love just as I have benefited. I look forward to the next opportunity to see more of my brave friends walk across that stage and collect their certificates of completion.
-JD, Community Member