All Kinds of News for December 06, 2017
An alumnus of Q&A Associates young men's program The Journey recently sat down with Angie Shockley, Founder and CEO, to discuss his life before and since he entered the treatment world. Matt* completed his time at The Journey on July 20, 2015, after being in the program for almost a full year. Prior to enrolling at The Journey, Matt had completed a wilderness program and spent a short time at a therapeutic boarding school. His journey into the therapeutic world began at age 14 when his parents recognized some significant issues in his life with drug and alcohol abuse, significant anger, impulsivity, and a lack of self-management. He was transported to his wilderness program, which was quite a shock for him, as it is for many adolescents who don't recognize their own struggles and challenges. Looking back, Matt can express gratitude for that initial intervention and how it propelled him down a path of self-discovery to adulthood.
Below is the discussion between Matt and Shockley.
Shockley: What do you think started you down the road to needing treatment?
Matt: Not knowing how to manage my life; my issues with drugs and alcohol; my anger issues, which wasn't really anger but it took me a while to understand that; and just being a kid who was hanging out with older kids and making bad choices.
Shockley: During your time in treatment, what worked for you?
Matt: Wilderness and being at The Journey. Wilderness helped me realize there's more to life than what I knew. Getting back to basics and actually living off the land helped me to understand that things are not just handed to you. Up to that point, I had never had to survive by myself. I learned things like bow drilling, but it wasn't easy. I was on solo for several days because I refused to do it as intructed and I couldn't bust an ember. When my solo started, I really didn't care about anything. I was going to just wait it out. My wilderness therapist talked to me a lot about how I wasn't providing for my family (wilderness group) and how that wasn't showing them I cared. Slowly, over the days on my own, I began to realize that I could be as stubborn as I wanted, but it wasn't changing anyone else. All the staff and the other kids were moving on. Then one day, I busted an ember because I followed the instructions and did it like I was supposed to. That was a moment of change for me.
Being in The Journey also helped. It helped me to slowly get back to reality from wilderness. I began to slowly make some of my own choices and began to understand that the consequences were mine, good or bad. I realized I could choose to be successful. Having freedom but with some structure to bounce me back was important. The staff was also really important. Having different personalities and lifestyles helped me to always have someone to relate to. The relationships have been lasting and continue to help me.
Shockley: What didn't work while you were in treatment?
Matt: Being told what to do all the time was really hard for me. I like to be involved in my process and decision making. If someone is telling me to do something, they should be willing to do it themselves. When staff and clients are on the same team, it makes it much easier to take feedback.
Shockley: Why was a young adult transition program important for you?
Matt: It slowly shows you the reality of life, what life really is. The Journey staff was like bumper guards for me. I could make choices and then there was always someone there to support me, no matter what. I truly got to see the consequences of my own choices but know that the support and love was unconditional. If I had gone right home after wilderness, I would have relapsed into old behaviors. I know that wilderness is designed to create a success for almost everyone who goes through it, but it wasn't until The Journey that I learned to apply the skills I got in wilderness. It was crucial for me to have those bumper guards and lots of guidance while I was figuring out life, what I wanted to do. My parents did a great job with me, but when I was young, I was going to do whatever I wanted, no matter what they said or did. They gave me the boundaries I needed, even when I didn't want them and didn't respect them, but having them early on helped me get better boundaries during my time at Journey.
Shockley: What worked about your transition program?
Matt: An opportunity to have a job right away. Having everyone around, working together in a powerful and motivating environment was important. It wasn't a "sit on your hands" environment. Learning how to do the basics like grocery shopping was really important. I thought I knew all the basic life skills, but I didn't. I still use everything I learned in my life skils classes at Journey. Learning how to manage money was another really important skill. Learning how to manage my life in real life situations was also importnat. And I'm really glad I had supports through all of that, which meant I didn't have to navigate all of that alone. There was always someone to talk to who could help me process my own struggles. It was also important to learn how to deal with the "alpha" - because there always is one in life. I had to learn how to not take things personally and how to deal with different personalities and other boys who had different challenges from my own.
Shockley: What didn't work in the transition program?
M: Honestly, I can't think of anything. I would say that having strict rules in a transition program wouldn't have worked for me. I needed to be able to experience some freedom and learn from my mistakes. Sometimes it was hard in my peer group because they were all different, but having relationships with staff helped me through that. Those staff relationships showed me the joy of helping others, of mentoring other young men. I love giving back and helping others as much as possible, and it's because of my experience with the staff at Q&A.
Shockley: How important have relationships been in your treatment history? What made them special for you?
Matt: They have been crucial and they have been real relationships. My wilderness therapist and the therapist I saw while at the Journey were both really important to my growth. Having the ability to find someone I could truly relate to was one of the best things in my relationships. My relationships with the staff at Q&A have been an ongoing positive influence in my life. I feel like part of a big family and I know I always have unconditional love and support from everyone at Q&A. There's no judgement.
Shockley: How has your relationship with your family changed since you went to treatment? What have you done differently? What have they done differently?
Matt: I just grew up and matured! Slowly, my relationship with my parents has improved. I have more patience for the fact that my mom needs more contact. I talk with my parents almost everyday and I see them every few months. My parents have given me the space to grow up. We always had a loving relationship, but there wasn't a lot of understanding. Now there is understanding and acceptance on both sides. I don't have a close relationship with my older sister, and I know that is something I want to work on. We are just very different people, but I love her and she loves me. There is no resentment there any more.
Shockley: What do you still struggle with?
Matt: Voicing my problems and emotions. I want to keep everything inside. Finding words to express my emotions accurately is difficult for me. I get too attached in relationships with girls. I don't hold healthy boundaries when I should. I do have an addictive personality and can get addicted to the relationship I'm in, even when it's not healthy. When that happens, I'm not sure how to get out of the relationship and it gets really hard. However, each time I go through this, I learn something and I know it's part of my journey. I'm making better choices with regard to dating and the partners I choose in my life.
Shockley: What are the challenges you feel you have conquered?
Matt: I have grown up! I was put in a situation that required me to grow up. I've begun to learn how to manage situations in my life...but it's a journey, not a destination, and I will keep learning. I have found true happiness and I know how to ground myself as needed. That's huge for me! When I first started using drugs and alcohol, I was so immature and young that I didn't know how to self-manage...I was going to be cool, but I hung out with kids a lot older than me and I began doing the things they were doing. That didn't work out. Now I know how to self-manage. I'm aware of my addictive tendencies, but I know how to manage them. I don't like being drunk or hungover any more. I know when to step back and exercise some self control. It's the difference between being immature and mature about substances. I felt a compulsion to use pot in the past, but I am managing that now. Wilderness was a detox for me, and that was important. I got my head clear. It gave me perspective. Now, I know how to self-manage and it's been because I have had people working with me who were realistic in their approach. I am not ever choosing to be completely sober, but I manage my life in a mature, adult way. It is an individaul choice for everyone.
Shockley: What advice do you have for other young adults entering transition programs?
Matt: Save your money! Take it slow; take the guidance. Take the life skills seriously... shopping for groceries is not a joke. It's the little things that make life work, so pay attention to the little things.
Shockley: What advice do you have for parents of young adults entering transition programs?
Matt: Trust the program... trust the people working with your son or daughter. Allow them to do their jobs. Do your homework on the program to make sure they are doing what they say they are doing, but once you find a good program, trust the process. Follow the guidance. Know that it will take time. Show your kid you're being srtrong... don't show the weak emotions or try to rescue them. Strive for true communication... truly listening to each other. Use "I" statements and respect the space so there is true listening.
Since completing his time at The Journey, Matt has graduated from culinary school and has been working as a chef at high end restaurants. He recently returned to the Davis area to explore living there full time. He is considering a business partnership in a local restaurant owned and operated by Shockley's husband, one of his long time mentors. He is also volunteering in the local commuinty and working as a part time mentor with other young men at The Journey.
*The name of this former Q&A client has been changed to maintain his privacy.
About Q&A Associates
Q&A Family of Programs works with young adults ages 18 and up, providing opportunities for each of them to develop independent, functional, and happy lives with a high level of quality. Our clients have struggled to reach independence for a variety of reasons such as the inability to develop and/or implement the life skills needed to be successful, or struggling to obtain consistent employment. Our goal is to help these individuals find meaning and an authentic purpose for their lives and a practical path to achieve their goals.