Class of June 2011
FFS alumni Emily M. returned to the school on September 23, 2011 to attend the memorial service of fellow Betton House member Karl (Buddy) R., with whom she graduated just a few months ago.
Emily arrived at FFS in August 2008 with a serious eating disorder, depression, truancy charges, and difficult family relationships.
She said that her stay at FFS was an important and necessary chapter in her life. “It taught me how to live, which I never learned at home.”
Emily is enrolled at Marywood College in Scranton, Pa. maintaining a fit spiritual condition has been very important to her since leaving the school. “Without a Higher Power in my life, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today. I am completely grateful for the life I am leading through the help of God and his will for me,” she said.
Emily continued, “Another big help to me has been my sister. She helps me through anything. I have also been depending on other alumni a lot as well. Being able to keep in contact with some people that I graduated from high school with is a great feeling.”
“I know how I was when I started working on my recovery, and the biggest advice I can give is just try to open you to a higher power. You’ll be surprised.”
Class of June 2011
Nash B., June 2011 graduate, came to FFS for a visit on his way back to Ohio after attending a memorial service for Karl (Buddy) R., fellow member of Betton House and a close friend. Nash arrived at FFS on October 24, 2008 after attending a wilderness program.
He was sent to The Family School for drug use, defiance, poor school attendance, and his difficult relationship with his family. He started out in Family One with Mike and Robin D. His biggest help during his stay was friend and junior sponsor Matt W., family leaders Mike and Robin D., sponsor Bill C., and Dog Corps leader and former boss Rita A.
Nash was content with mediocrity during the first part of his stay at The Family School. “After my first year here, I told myself that since I was a year sober, I was cured. I got into a negative relationship with a girl at school and it really opened my eyes to the unmanageability of my life,” he said.
Once Nash started to understand the true meaning of the term “alcoholism,” he realized that drugs and alcohol were only a symptom of his problem. He began to work on his defects of character and grew internally as a result.
After doing well for a significant amount of time, he earned the position of Dog Training intern. “Working with Rita A. really helped me. Being able to experience what a little bit of trust and freedom felt like helped me realize how great life is,” he said.
A few of the goals Nash strived to accomplish while he was attending FFS was to be able to maintain the relationship with his parents. He has currently been balancing his time between his family, his job, and school. “The time-managing skills I was able to learn while I was there (at FFS) have helped me so much today. I find it a lot easier to do school work also because of the study skills and managing I do,” Nash added.
Nash currently attends Columbus State Community College and has a job in his town. He stays active in the program and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings frequently.
Class of June 2008
Mary C. graduated from The Family School in June 2008. She came back to visit on September 27, 2011 with her daughter, Navia.
Mary arrived at The Foundation Family School with a bratty attitude and problems with drugs and violence. “I didn’t like what that lifestyle did to me,” she said.
When asked about her stay and what the school had given her, she responded, “This place got me back on the right track. I had a bad childhood, so my focus was definitely not on my education or bettering myself. After my stay here, I was able to focus on myself and maintain the right attitude to live a happy life.”
After leaving FFS, Cato continued her education at ASA Institute of Business and Computer Technology in Brooklyn, NY. She received an associate’s degree in medical assistance (occupational studies) and has also studied EKG techniques and phlebotomy.
She currently takes online college classes to attain a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
She advises the newcomer to “…take advantage of all the resources you have here. You won’t have nearly as many of them when you leave.”
Class of June 2011
Brian O. arrived at The Family School on June 8th, 2009 a troubled young man with an abusive relationship with his parents and a drug and alcohol addiction. He had been expelled from public school and was court mandated to attend The Family Foundation School.
At first, Brian thought he could fake his way to a shorter stay by putting on a veneer, trying to pretend that he had no problems. This was not the case, however; staff saw right through his scheme and understood that he was a very angry young man.
Although Brian had his struggles, he did have one ultimate goal in mind: to live a happy, sober life. Without the help along the way from friends Jordan N., Jameson R. and sponsor Gerald J., Brian says that this goal would have been unreachable. By working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, he lives a peaceful life in sobriety.
“While Brian was here, I learned a lot from him. He taught me to have fun in sobriety and to take myself less seriously. He also taught me not to let my emotions control my actions. Through my experience with him, I have seen him grow a lot since he has been gone from FFS and I am using that to motivate myself to continue doing well while I am here,” said one of Brian’s close friends, Joe T.
Brian currently resides in Hillsdale, N.J., and works for a landscaping company. His job is physically draining, but he says that he loves the challenge. He plans to begin college soon.
Departed March 2011
Scott M. returned to The Family School on September 23, 2011 to attend Karl R.’s memorial service. Buddy and Scott were both members of Betton House and developed a close friendship while enrolled at the school.
Prior to his arrival at FFS, Scott lived recklessly; taking drugs, skipping school, getting into legal trouble, disrespecting authority, and fighting with his family.
When he arrived at The Family School, he was full of rage. Throughout his stay, however, he learned how to control his anger and improved his family relationships. While here he learned how to have sober fun. One hobby he enjoyed while at FFS was skateboarding. “Skateboarding was one of my favorite activities. I used to love going to the French Woods skate park,” he said.
He recently finished high school and currently keeps very busy. He works three jobs and is proud of himself for the work he has accomplished. He has called back to talk to students attending FFS and maintains relationships with alumni. Scott plans to continue living life with honesty and unselfishness and to remain sober, one day at a time.
Class of June 2010
Aaron Z. arrived at The Family Foundation School on October 3, 2007 because he was, in his own words, “a self-willed brat.”
“Before I got to this school my life was a mess. I got to the point where I was ready to surrender,” said Aaron.
When asked about his drug use, Aaron stated that the specifics of his use do not matter; selfishness was the root of his disease. Aaron spoke in-depth about his program, testifying that he did not join the program to simply quit drugs, but “to stop being miserable.”
Aaron created lifelong friendships while attending FFS and is extremely grateful to have made these types of connections. He explained his attitude when he got to the school as “closed-minded, to say the least.” Once he began to get to the point of surrender he was able to achieve internal growth.
He graduated in June of 2010 and stated that he is still working his program daily. The best asset he has in his life is his strong connection with Alcoholics Anonymous. Aaron’s advice to the newcomer is, “Be as open-minded as you can, and be willing to accept what is right for you. With those two things you’re almost guaranteed happiness,” he concluded.
Class of June 2011
On October 1, Jack S. came up from Florida to visit FFS. He was accompanied by two alumni from his graduating class, Michelle J. and Jillian M. He greeted his old friends with an exuberant smile and a hug, eager to tell everyone about all his amazing experiences in sobriety: attending AA conventions, sharing his story with his father at AA meetings, and beginning college.
Prior to arriving at The Family School, Jack was a wreck, both emotionally and physically. He used drugs, drank alcohol, and took advantage of his mother’s weaknesses. He attended a wilderness program before arriving at FFS, so he had been warmed up to a structured environment, sobriety, and a healthier lifestyle.
Upon arrival, Jack was placed in Talbot House, where he remained for the entirety of his stay. He gained a strong connection with a Higher Power and mended his relationship with his parents.
Today, Jack goes to Florida Gulf Coast University and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings frequently. He keeps in touch with FFS alumni and speaks to his sponsor daily.
He works hard to be able to fully understand that the root of his addiction is his thinking. “I learned to stop listening to my thinking,” he said.
“Jack is one of my best friends, and has helped me so much in my recovery. As my junior sponsor, he literally changed my life. Our bond has been a highlight of my life which I will cherish forever,” said Ron R.
Jack’s advice to the newcomer is, “Always stay aware of everything around you. Don’t be asleep to life, and keep an open mind throughout everything in your life.”
Class of June 2011
On December 17, 2009, almost two years ago, Michelle J. arrived at The Family Foundation School. She was facing what seemed to be an impossible task: to transition from a chaotic lifestyle that she described as “horrendous” to a life of sobriety, humility, and unselfishness.
“My life just consisted of drugs and alcohol, which lead me away from my academic life and, eventually, my passion of art,” said Michelle.
With a one-way ticket to a therapeutic boarding school and a realization that self-will was not the right way to govern her life, she immersed herself in the principles of The Family School and of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“All the people here stuck with me and never gave up on me,” said Michelle. “That was the most encouraging, and that was a vital part of my success.”
Michelle mentioned Christine S., Dawn P., Joe T., and Talbot House as some of her biggest helps throughout her 19-month-long stay.
“During her last six months, I saw Michelle change so much. She was a true role model for all of us,” said Ashley S., one of Jorgenson’s Talbot House surrogate sisters.
With an RA anchor pin, work study, and just three months left in her stay, and acceptance ticket into college, Michelle could have easily started counting down the days until she reached “freedom.” Instead, she put her fears aside and left her beloved family, Talbot House, to offer Betton House more support. “I was scared of change, but I knew I had to defeat this fear for myself,” she said.
Michelle currently lives in New York City, New York where she is enrolled in college and is majoring in Visual Art. She consistently works her third step and attends AA often. Her message to the newcomer is, “Say a quick prayer when you’re stressed to stay sane and continue to be open minded.”
Class of June 2011
On August 27, 2008 Jill M. showed up at the doorstep of The Family Foundation School with her twin sister, Emily. She was confused, immature, and scared, addicted to drugs and alcohol and facing truancy charges.
Jill was placed in Family Eight, where she was very quiet and passive. She was a long way from her North Carolina residence, and the FFS lifestyle was a huge shock to her. She didn’t really start working on herself until she moved to Wilson House, where she was enveloped in a sense of warmth, comfort and camaraderie, and began to feel safe enough to really open up. “One of my biggest helps was my family leader, Woody,” said Jill.
However, in December of 2010 Jill had a figurative rug pulled out from under her feet. After Wilson House closed its doors, she was placed in Talbot House, where she stayed for the remainder of her FFS career.
“I became pretty good friends with Jill close to the end of her stay,” said Ron R. “When she moved to Talbot House, she was a huge support and a positive asset to the family. I truly believe that she will have the spirit of Talbot engraved in her soul forever. It was also good to see her come back to spread some hope for the newer students or students going through a hard time; I could tell it had an impact on them.”
Jill graduated from The Family School on June 25, 2011 and is currently living in New York City, attending City College with a major in photography. She stays in constant contact with fellow alumni Jack S. and Michelle J. She frequently calls Talbot House to catch up with her old friends and to share her hope and experience.
Class of June 2010
Chris B. arrived at The Family Foundation School on October 31, 2008. Before he came to FFS, he was committing crimes and using drugs, living a lifestyle which he describes as “madness.” After being convicted of several felonies, including grand larceny, theft, and drug-related charges, Chris was court mandated to attend The Family School.
“The thing that I had the most trouble with was taking my Third Step. It was very difficult for me to turn something as important to me as my life over to a power greater than myself. Before coming to the school, I did everything on my own; and when I was asked to give up control, it seemed impossible. But I did it regardless, because I knew that if I really wanted to be and stay sober, it was something I needed to do.”
After a few months at FFS, Chris began to enjoy sobriety. He was able to get back in touch with the things that he really enjoyed doing most, like skateboarding and playing guitar. After doing a lot of hard internal work, Chris received an RA anchor pin as well as an internship as the kitchen work study, where he discovered his love of cooking.
Chris touched many lives while enrolled as a student at The Family School and continues to help others when he comes back to visit. Though most of the current students arrived at FFS after his graduation, he continues to spread his experience, strength and hope through the population.
“I love when Chris comes back to visit. Most of the time, we play guitar together; and even though I wasn’t here during his stay, he is very open to helping me. He is a very positive influence and role model for students,” said Ron R.
“When I first got to FFS, Chris was one of my biggest supports in the school. I was able to come to him with any trouble and he always had the right thing to say,” said Adam B.
Chris’ message to the newcomer is to keep praying. He says that everything happens for a reason, and it is our job to find out these reasons and thus to carry out God’s will.
Currently, Chris lives at East Ridge, a small community that focuses on self-improvement and internal growth based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. He expressed a hope to work as staff at The Family School temporarily as an act of giving back to the school that gave him a second chance at life. He enjoys his periodic visits to FFS.
December 2010 Program Graduate
Nadine N. came back to The Family School on October 8 and 9 to pay her respects to friend and mentor Terry M. at his memorial service. It was the first time she was able to make the long trip up to Hancock since her graduation, and she was excited to catch up with staff and students she’d grown close to over her two-year-long stay at FFS, as well as to see all the new changes that had been made since she left last December.
Nadine was close to Terry M. before his passing and the poignant service moved her greatly. “It was pretty emotional for me,” Nadine blushed. “I love Terry so much. I cried a little bit when I heard Lindy speak. The service was beautiful.”
After graduating the program and getting her GED, Nadine moved in with her father in New Jersey and got a job at a gym. “I love my job,” she said. “I teach a spin class, aerobics, and weight lifting… stuff like that. It keeps me in shape, and I have a lot of fun.”
Vibrant as ever, Nadine bubbled over with stories of post-FFS sober fun. “I visited seven countries this summer,” Nadine said. “Sweden and Switzerland were my favorites. The people were so gorgeous; I kept doing double takes on the street!”
Nadine stressed the idea that life in sobriety isn’t perfect, and expectations breed failure and resentment. She is passionate in her belief and lives her life accordingly. “I’ve fallen on my face a couple of times with my living situation and family. I still have to manage anger and stress, but it’s a process: I’m just living my life.”
June 2011 Program Graduate
Prior to arriving at The Family School, Owen D.’s life was in shambles. His life was filled with drugs, and the relationship he had with his parents was horrendous.
By the time he got sent to a wilderness program, his life was completely chaotic. At that point, Owen had moved out of his house and was living in his car.
Owen arrived at FFS on April 21, 2010 straight from the wilderness program. He was placed in Mann House and his goal while he was here was to learn how to love life without abusing any substances.
Owen bonded with staff members Jan C. and Marcia E. They both helped him gain a strong connection to a Higher Power and implement time management and coping skills. He also connected with students Dave M. and Hunter L., who helped him with his struggles among the student body.
To the newcomer, he says, “It’s so important to find someone you trust and to be completely honest with them. You’ve got to be able to tell them anything to keep your problems from building up and slipping back to your old way of thinking.”
Owen is currently enrolled in Columbus State Community College in Ohio. His spirituality is still a very important part of his day-to-day life. He frequently calls to talk to students and attends AA meetings to maintain his sobriety and receive experience from other members of AA. He also has two jobs in which he works 30 hours a week for a landscaping company and a Panera Bread Cafe.