19 Apr Jonathan’s Success Story
Jonathan’s Success Story
Some get speeding tickets. Some get in fights. Some get tattoos. Jonathan got strung out on marijuana.
He was 14 then. He’s 18 now, and it took him four years – and DATA – to get clean.
“I don’t know if she was impressed or not,” he says, a soft-spoken, dark-eyed young man from West Palm Beach. “I don’t think so. But then I started smoking more often and leaving school early and not going at all. I just wanted to stay home and smoke with my friends.”
When Jonathan failed ninth grade at his charter school, he failed to make the connection, too.
“I didn’t think I had an addiction,” he remembers. “I thought I could quit any time.” He pauses. “I just didn’t.”
At 17, Jonathan got in a fight with his stepfather and found himself before the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, where a mandatory drug test found the pot. He was enrolled in an informal diversion program, with a 7 p.m. curfew, a 12-week anger management course, monthly drug tests and weekly visits to DATA.
“I was wasting money and ruining relationships,” he says. “I had a lot of friends, but toward the end only two or three, and those were the ones I was getting high with.”
Jonathan flunked another drug test. Now he was facing either probation until he turned 19 or drug court with the random drug tests ramped up to two or three times a week.
Through it all, there was DATA, in the person of Kari Greer, the therapist with whom he was ordered to meet once a week.
In drug court, Jonathan’s mother announced, “As soon as he’s 18 I’m kicking him out.” Jonathan moved in with his grandmother, but his weekly meetings with Greer were spotty. Some weeks he didn’t show up. Some weeks he showed up late. But DATA didn’t kick him out.
“We’re not kicking kids out of the program because they don’t follow the regimen we think they should follow,” says Nicole Playton, DATA’s director of treatment services, “because…well, life happens. These are kids who have no reason to come here, so we don’t beat them up.”
When Jonathan showed up, he was praised for showing up; and if he showed up late, he wasn’t shamed for being late. He was praised for showing up.
“I didn’t take it serious until about August, when I got tired of being on probation,” he says followed by another long pause. “Oh, and the fact that they were going to put me in the residential program,” he adds, sheepishly. “I didn’t want to go there.”
With Miss Greer, he did exercises to uncover the triggers that drive him to smoke. “If I got stressed, I would smoke. If I got mad, I would smoke,” he came to see. “And anything got me mad.”
They practiced a technique called Pros and Cons. What are the positive things about smoking pot, and what are the negative? “The only pros I could come up with was, I would be high,” he says. “The cons were failing the drug test, failing people who trusted me, and letting myself down.”
He hasn’t smoked pot since March. “I got tired of wasting money and losing family and friends,” he says. “Once I put my mind to it and actually tried to quit, it wasn’t hard.”
In November, Jonathan went off probation. He moved back in with his mother, has a job at the Burger King near his house, and is on track to graduate high school in June. He investigated the possibility of joining a Police Explorer program and is considering becoming a police officer.
Nowadays, he spends his time freshwater fishing, playing video games and, his passion, going to local carnivals and fairs.
“DATA taught me that I’m a good person when I don’t smoke,” he says, “because they treated me like a regular person.”