Negative habits, societal pressure, fear: To move forward, you have to let these things go. It’s hard but necessary work, and what we impress upon each of our participants at The Fortune Society.
For those in our Treatment Services program, these steps are particularly vital—but possibly unfamiliar territory. “[Participants] have to be courageous to try something new,” notes Substance Use Counselor John Cleaver. Working with 12 to 30 participants at given times, John is kept busy by the demands of his role. Still, he is inspired by the change he sees daily. “You want [the participants] to…go beyond expectation.”
That expectation includes attending supervised classes, as well as one-on-one counseling sessions with John. Many of the participants that John works with are a part of our Alternatives to Incarceration program and consequently court-mandated to participate in Treatment Services. Still, the holistic services we provide offer flexibility in addressing other issues that may be compounded by their substance use histories. “…it’s easy to move [individuals] around,” he notes. From obtaining their High School Equivalency diploma to securing essential employment skills through our job readiness workshops, we understand that successful reentry is not limited to one aspect of an individual’s life. “We like to get them well enough so that they can participate in [other] things [that Fortune offers],” John mentions.
Still, in spite of all that we provide, the primary responsibility to achieving success lies with the participants themselves. Our role is to illuminate new paths or, as John notes, “…help them find their way,” but they must make the resolve to walk confidently in it. Many do, but some need additional effort: “It’s tough because a lot of times people just aren’t ready to change.”
Indeed, readiness is unique to each individual, but regardless of how long it takes, the investment of Fortune staff members like John does not waver. Through repeat counseling sessions, he shows them ways to “avoid traps of the past.” Sometimes, that includes separating societal expectations from personal goals.
Substances like marijuana and alcohol are normalized, even celebrated, in popular culture and many home environments. But the misuse of these substances can be debilitating. For young adult participants especially, the popularity of these substances intensifies challenges associated with controlling them. “It’s a fear of stepping away from the crowd,” John notes, “[And many times,] they come from parents who [also misuse these substances],” adding more complexity to reaching new paths forward.
Nevertheless, at Fortune, there are viable ways to not only step away from negative crowds, but embrace applauding ones. Through our Creative Arts program, for instance, participants can discover the vibrant world of the theatre, and uncover new ways of being their full selves.
Celebrating Fortune’s 50th anniversary and anticipating the next, infusing creativity into the organization’s daily programming is one of John’s wishes. “It could be art, it could be internships—there should be more variety in the day,” he notes. Opportunities for something new is an effective crime and substance use deterrent, especially when paired with positive community support. With courageous motivators like John within that community, those who need help get exactly that, creating an ecosystem of care that’s mutually beneficial for all. “[My role] is challenging but rewarding—I like it.”
*Written by David Leon Morgan