Ironwood Maine Resident Testimonial – N., Age 17

Ironwood has given me the opportunity to start my life over and rebuild my family.  I have been able to take a long, hard look at myself and my past, and reflect on the way I treated my parents and myself.  I have discovered that I am worthy of happiness, and a future of positivity.  I am in control of my actions, behavior, and attitude towards life.  I’ve learned to laugh every day, appreciate all that I have, and cherish memories with the people I love.  My family has placed me here to challenge myself, re-evaluate my values, and live in a safe environment, where I can no longer self-destruct.  At home, during a lifestyle that now disturbs me, I was a depressed, verbally abusive, and drug-fueled teenager with no respect for my parents and the people who love me the most.  Now, I cannot even picture myself living the way I was, and I cannot imagine that I would ever live like that again.  I caused incredible pain to my family, and they deserved none of it.

When I first arrived at Ironwood, I had nothing nice to say about anyone or anything.  “I hate the food, I hate the kids, I hate the staff, there is no help for me here,” I would say to myself.  After the acceptance started to crawl into my life, I began to invest and fully commit to the program.  Slowly, as I became more comfortable, my life felt like it was finally betting back on track.  My interest in education was regained.  Miss Kathy inspired me to take school seriously again.  She lit an academic fire within me, and I was motivated to work hard, focus, and hopefully finish high school here.  At home, it felt impossible to sit through a day of learning. I was irritated, distracted, truant, and my effort was non-existent.  After I started to abuse drugs and alcohol, I would rather stay home and drink or use alone than set myself up for a successful future.  It became my one reliable friend.

I had blown away all my other real friendships.  I no longer cared for them.  I was unreliable and couldn’t maintain or even obtain healthy relationships.  I plan to work on developing social skills that have been absent from my life for so long.  I wish to create connections with staff and peers, so when I go home, I can surround myself with positive influences.

Having my freedom, the ability to go where ever I want, and do whatever I want, my privilege, and possessions taken away from me made me realize how much I have taken for granted, and how lucky and blessed I actually am.  I have learned that when I abuse these luxuries, they can be taken away from me overnight, and they were.  And it’s the greatest thing that could have happened to me.  I now have a deeper appreciation for the things in life that I actually need, and not what I desire.

Having to finally deal with myself and my emotions was extremely difficult for me.  I had gotten so used to not feeling like myself, and forgotten who I actually am, and what it’s like to live in a clear reality. Being separated from my family was something I have never experienced before and made me feel things I had never known.  I was placed in an environment where there are consequences for my actions, and I finally care that my wrongdoings matter, and can actually affect me and the people around me.

I have isolated myself so long that it’s been difficult to open up to people, express my feelings, and experience trust.

Something I have never done is given myself credit for my accomplishments.  I haven’t appreciated myself and the growth that I’ve made.  In level three, I plan to change the way I treat myself, and have more respect for my capabilities and compassion for others. I would like to explore the leadership qualities that lay deep within me and incorporate them into my life.  A leader isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right and identify when something is wrong.

Whenever I have been asked what I want to do or be in my future, I’ve always shrugged my shoulders and let out an: “I don’t know.  I don’t have to worry about that yet.  I’m just a kid.”  Well, I have recently realized that adulthood is close enough to where I should start tossing ideas around.  I can’t avoid it forever.  I have to make my parents proud.  I hope I’m able to sit down and talk to my parents, have a conversation, express my emotions, and work through problems.  This is something we have never been able to do, and we will have to push through unpleasant barriers to get there.

When I look back, when I’m old and wrinkled, Ironwood will just be another chapter in the book of my life, and this chapter, although challenging and uncomfortable, will make it possible for me to be happy for the rest of the story.