TJ was a well-adjusted adolescent until the age of 13. He was born into an upper-middle class North Shore family. He was an only child. During his 13th year, his dad got very sick. They had a very close relationship. As father and son they did everything together. As his dad got progressively ill, TJ became more and more depressed.
The pain of watching his dad slowly die was unbearable and terribly frightening. Each day, he would come home from school and check on his father s condition. They would chat a while and then he would get his dad something to eat. After dinner, he would check in on him a couple times during the night.
On a chilly afternoon, when he came home from school, he went up to check on his dad as he did every afternoon, and his father did not look well. TJ asked his dad how he was feeling. His father responded by saying, not so well. Then his dad stretched out his hand to his only son and grabbed it. He looked into, his son s eyes and said Son know that I will always love you! Then he put his hand back on his chest, closed his eyes and took his last breath.
TJ realized that his father stopped breathing. He went screaming down the stairs and out his front door, pleading for help on behalf of his dad. His next door neighbor heard his screams and called 911. Within minutes, the local ambulance company arrived on the scene and attempted to revive TJ s dad. Unfortunately, he didn t respond, and they pronounced him dead.
Needless to say, TJ was devastated. From that moment on, his life changed forever. He tried to remain strong for his mom, but was so angry at losing his dad. He blamed God and became angry at the world. Unbeknownst to his mom, he started to drink and smoke cigarettes. At this point, he was still attending school and going to most classes. But his mother noticed that his attitude had changed radically. He was consistently irritable and became agitated at the slightest circumstance. He became increasingly hostile towards his mother, and very passive aggressive and oppositionally defiant to any authority in his life.
His transition from junior high school to high school was a disaster. He was staying out to all hours and becoming much more careless with his drinking. When his mother confronted him on his behavior, he would shout her down and tell her to mind her own business. This out-of-control behavior continued for much of high school.
At times, TJ was so out of control that he would not come home for days. Each time his mother sort counseling, he sabotaged the process. He would meet the counselor, and basically tell the counselor that his mother was out of control. He would say that she was overprotective, overbearing and was still grieving the death of her husband. He was so convincing that at times a number of therapists really believed him.
By the end of junior year, TJ was drinking regularly, smoking pot, and now mixing a cocktail of street drugs and consuming them on a regular basis. One night during the summer between his junior and senior year in high school, he had a fight with his girlfriend, because she would not snort heroin with him. At the end of the night, he went missing and was found passed out by the family pool. He d overdosed on heroin. Had she not found him when she did, he would ve died. He repeated that performance at least five times during his senior year.
Right before graduation, TJ was complaining of intense headaches. At first his mother thought they were being caused by all the drugs he was consuming an ongoing basis. He vehemently denied that the headaches were caused by drug use. He begged her to take him to the hospital. She agreed.
After a series of tests, they discovered that he had a brain tumor the size of an orange growing in his head. A second opinion was sought and confirmed what the first specialist discovered. Surgery was recommended immediately.
Immediately following graduation, TJ had emergency brain surgery. Doctors felt that they were successful and that they caught the tumor in enough time to save TJ s life. As he was recovering from his surgery, TJ once again became very angry with God. He wanted to know why God was still punishing him. First his dad, and now a brain tumor; he wanted to know what he d done that was so bad that God was so mad at him.
His anger at God and his life circumstance became his excuse for getting high and acting recklessly. His drug use intensified, as well as his alcohol consumption. He was a mess. His mother cut off all fiscal resources. So now he stole to acquire the funds to buy the drugs and alcohol that he needed to ease his pain.
To support his growing habit and dependency on drugs, he hooked up with the number of petty thieves from his affluent neighborhood and they started systematically robbing houses. After about four months of this outrageous behavior, he was arrested.
The police charged him with eight counts of serious thievery. Because of the seriousness of his crimes, and the alleged amount of money stolen, his bail was set very high. His mother could not post bail. She was afraid if she did, he would run and not listen to her.
TJ was facing four years in an upstate prison. At this point, he had been in jail for eight months awaiting his sentencing. His mother had heard about a small program that allegedly was transforming broken lives and helping young men to become whole again. She wrote to the director and begged him to intercede with the district attorney on behalf of her son. The program director agreed to lobby for TJ to be given an alternative sentence to incarceration, and be mandated to 36 months at this long-term, nontraditional residential treatment center for addictions.
After a lot of back-and-forth correspondence, the District Attorney agreed to take a risk on TJ s behalf. He was mandated to a minimum of 36 months of residential treatment. If he fails or runs away, he will serve a full four to six years in a state prison.
Since beginning treatment, TJ is like a new man. He is filled with so much gratitude for being given a second chance to reclaim his life. He has spent every day these past three months expressing gratitude for being given this alternative to refocus and redirect his life in a positive way. His brain tumor has started to grow, but he truly believes that everything is going to be all right. He has become a wonderful example of recovery, one day at a time and that miracles do happen!