I knock on the door of a single story duplex in Van Nuys, California, and I am greeted by a tall handsome man in his 30’s wearing a track suit. He welcomes me in and apologizes for his appearance. He is perspiring and seems slightly winded. As I walk into his house I notice a sharp looking treadmill in the corner of his living room. He points it out and says, “Gotta keep the weight off, you know, for the ladies!” and laughs.
This is the story of a journey to manhood. This is John’s story.
John was born in 1975 to a loving family in the San Gabriel Valley. Throughout his childhood, John had struggles that lead his parents to seek medical attention for him. After several years and even more doctor’s appointments John was stamped as having mild mental retardation, Tourette’s disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, seizure disorder and ADHD. At encouragement from “professionals” John’s parents enrolled him in Devreux High School, which is a private facility for people labeled with developmental disabilities. John experienced tough times throughout those years. He had a reputation for having angry outbursts and attempting to solve his problems with his fists. Luckily, he always had the strength and support of his family. After graduated from the high school program at Devreux, John had no ideas about his future. John had limited knowledge and understanding of what his life could be, which is the reality for anyone who spends the majority of their life in an institution.
John was discovered at Devreux by a JNCS Supported Living Director. She found him very engaging, enthusiastic, and caring. The concept of supported living was explained to John and he became very excited at the thought of having his own home, getting a job, and becoming an adult! John’s parents were a little more apprehensive about the concept of “supported living”. They were basing their thoughts about John’s future on what they had been told for so many years by medical professionals, social workers, and care givers. With fear and love in their hearts, John’s parents did support his decision to pursue supported living services through Jay Nolan Community Services.
It is now over ten years later. John is a little older, a lot wiser, and infinitely happier. He is one of the longest employees at CVS and has watched several managers, colleagues, and even the company itself, change names. Taking extra shifts whenever possible, John saves his money for goals he sets for himself. His latest goal is a vacation in Las Vegas. John takes pride in the appearance of his store and even though his job duties have evolved over the years from janitorial to processing shipments, John always takes the time to grab a broom or duster to make sure the store looks great. His work ethic is admired by his current supervisor, who has a particularly special relationship with John. They tend to play practical jokes on each other and keep the daily management of the store positive and pleasant.
John goes home to his two bedroom duplex that he shares with a roommate named Raul. Raul is a support staff member through Jay Nolan Community Services that has been in John’s life for many years. Two years ago when John needed a roommate he immediately asked Raul. The guys share the household maintenance and utility costs. They do some grocery shopping together and mostly spend time chilling out in the living room.
John also has support staff members during the day and on the weekends. Along with working on his personal goals, John enjoys reading about the real estate market, going to the library, hanging out with friends on Friday nights, and playing sports. John is quite a good basketball player. He is also searching for the right woman to share his life with. He describes his type as “Jennifer Lopez”. Currently John is concentrating on his health because he was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He has made a commitment to himself to lower his blood sugar so that he no longer needs to check his blood sugar twice a day. This was the inspiration behind purchasing the treadmill. I asked him about the treadmill and John explained, “It was a big purchase, so I took some time researching and price checking to make sure I got what I wanted. Rudy (Jay Nolan Community Services support staff member) helped out a lot.”
As I talked with John more, he explained that he felt obligated to help out with his parents, as they are getting older and he is excited that his relationships with his sisters has improved over the years. John said that every year his circle of support gets together for dinner to celebrate the fact that he had no hospitalizations. I asked him to share with me how many years he has been able to celebrate this accomplishment and he responded, “six years”.
John shared his true tale of triumph over diagnosis, labels, reputation, and institutionalization and his story will continue to evolve for years to come. Jay Nolan Community Services provided John with the structure and support to become into a true success story.