Welcome Back Everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful summer break.
Recognizing that the year ahead is going to be rather unusual, I wanted to take a moment to so send this letter to you. Most of you met me last year before the shutdown (Can you believe we haven’t seen each other in person since March!), but for those who may not know me, my name is Jose Julian, and I will be your Emotional Intelligence teacher.
I very much look forward to learning all about each and every one of you this year. To break the ice, I thought perhaps I’d let you know a little bit about myself first.
Attached is an article that was recently published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
I wrote it for the paper hoping to get some public support for our school and its program. I hope you like it.
See you in all soon!!! — Sincerely Yours, Mr. J
“A Teacher IN Recovery”
Most people have never heard of a “Recovery High School.” To change this let me tell you about how I became a teacher at one.
To do that, I must bring you back to May 27th, 2016. At 3 a.m. on that morning I stood outside watching a fire engulf our family’s home. One hour earlier I was sitting alone on the back porch having a cigarette; a bad habit that I would partake in when I battled insomnia. The fire that I watched burn, the fire that would leave my family homeless, this fire, was my fault.
Guilt, anger, shame, fear, hopelessness-all the emotions I was already trying to cope with in my attempt to get sober came to a head that morning. As bad as I felt that day, looking back now, it was just like any other day for an ‘addict.’ The feeling that your life is over is just way too common amongst those that struggle. When I close my eyes today, I can vividly recall being huddled under that fire-lit sky believing that at thirty-three years old I would forever be defined by my struggles. The endless failed attempts to put my life back together tormented me, and at that moment my dream of achieving some sense of redemption-just like my house, went up in flames. How did my life end up this way?
In the spring of 2001, my senior year of high school, a major news channel had chosen me as their “Athlete of the Month.” The segment highlighted my achievements on the field as well as my performance in the classroom. Back then, I was ‘that kid’- an All-star athlete, honor roll student, class treasurer, homecoming king. This is not to brag. In fact, the truth is that I am prouder today of surviving my failures than I am reminiscing over these past accolades. The point I need to make is that addiction and mental illness can affect anyone. I am living proof of this.
Before I go on, let me make one thing perfectly clear: People with addictive tendencies or emotional instability can struggle with any type of substance-from alcohol and weed, to heroin, cocaine, and everything in between.
Because of this fact, the substances I used is irrelevant to this story.
As I write this, I am thirty-eight years old. I have lost more than I could ever explain due to my substance use. I have slept days, weeks, months away battling depression. I have hated myself. I have spent years regretting bad decisions. I have punished myself more than anyone else could ever wish to punish me because of personal anguish introduced by life naturally. I have been a failure, a loser, an addict.
The destruction I caused, and my struggles are difficult to overlook. Too often I forget that in my time on this planet I have also done some very good things. The thought of which was never enough to grant myself forgiveness.
Getting healthy for me meant reinventing myself. I needed to find my purpose. To accomplish this, I needed a fresh start. A nice idea but a very tough thing to do when you carry so much baggage.
But then I found “Lock Recovery High School” in Worcester, Massachusetts. Or maybe the school found me?
In ‘the program’ (that’s AA and NA for those of you trying to learn) I heard people say, “everything happens for a reason.” Could this really be true? Did I have to struggle myself to help understand how to be a useful asset to the kids at this school?
This has yet to be determined, but what I can tell you is at this school I am surrounded by people that respect me for what I have been through and support me with things I am continually trying to overcome. They appreciate my struggle and try to learn from my experiences. Here I do not need to hide things that have made me who I am. I can honestly say they love me just the way I am.
When I suggested to my students that they write editorials so that people could learn what went on here, many were understandably hesitant.
This left me in a dilemma. As any parent or teacher knows it is hard to make a child go out on a limb and do something uncomfortable. Most of the time we as the adults must show them first by doing that uncomfortable things ourselves. So, I had to ask myself, do I put myself out there?
I am not a fool. The ‘stigma’ does still exist. Some people reading this will judge and ridicule me for my candidness. Some may call me delusional for thinking that these children are so important to society as a whole.
After much internal debate I decided that it was worth the risk.
I have seen first-hand that these young minds are determined to live a life where substances do not derail their dreams. Lives that are focused on making the world a better place- for them, their families, and everyones’ future. We need them to succeed! And if thinking this makes me crazy, then so be it.