2016 was a big year in Tyler’s life. It was a year that initially turned from bad to worse. Tyler had begun hanging out with some new friends, and began abusing drugs, which quickly spun out of control. Marijuana, alcohol, and then prescription medications were soon followed by trouble with law enforcement.

His grandmother, Teresa, describes this difficult time. “I raised him since he was 6 months old,” she said, “and he had always been a quiet, creative child, and had kept to himself. He suffered from abandonment issues, and I tried my best to be both Grandma and Mom to him. At first, I was glad he had found friends; but soon, they were getting into serious trouble, and it was not good.”

“I wasn’t doing as I was told,” Tyler adds. “I tried some outpatient programs, but they didn’t work for me. Drugs had become more important to me than family, and pretty soon, my probation officer gave me no choice. It was either a program with the Villa, or jail. I got two weeks notice before I moved in to LIFE House.”

LIFE (Live In Freedom Early) House is a residential program for young men, ages 13-21, with substance use disorders. LIFE House offers the chance for recovery from addiction and an opportunity to learn new ways to live a healthy and successful life. It is a component of Villa of Hope’s Behavioral Health Services Program, which addresses our area’s drug addiction crisis and much-needed mental health services for young people. Our first clinic opened at Village Gate in February 2016 and exceeded capacity within 7 months. We launched a second clinic at Water Tower Park on November 21st.

Clinic expansion is critical to meeting the chemical dependency and mental health needs of our community. Your support is critical for us to continue meeting this demand.

July 7, 2016 was move-in day at LIFE, and for Tyler, it was tearful; he felt remorse for the fact that his drug addiction was separating him from his family. New friends at LIFE comforted him, and helped him settle in. But then began the real work.

“I learned new coping skills,” he says. “I learned deep breathing exercises, and meditating instead of smoking. And for the first time in my life, I learned that talking to other people, and expressing my feelings, helps on so many levels.”

“Tyler faced his addiction head on and did the hard work that it takes to come out on the other end,” says Mercede McNeill, LIFE House Program Manager. "Young men such as Tyler are the proof that you can recover from addiction with the right supports. I’m so proud to have gotten to know him in his struggle because it made watching him grow in recovery that much more special.  And just like Tyler, Life house is here support any young man needing support through addiction and recovery."

While move-in day had held tears, Tyler was equally sad to leave his new friends, both youth and staff, on the day he was discharged. He recalls a cake, a celebration, and the other young men sharing with him how he had impacted their lives. These were tears of happiness and recovery.

Since then, Tyler has gotten a job, helping his grandmother in providing aide service to the elderly. What are his hopes for the future? He wants to become a hip-hop artist. And if that doesn’t work out, he wants to go to college, major in counseling, and become a therapist, working with youth at Villa of Hope.

2016 was a big year in Tyler’s life. He turned 18, and he turned his life around. It was the year his grandmother says, “He went into LIFE House a troubled teen, and came out a man. I am so highly impressed with LIFE House. And I’m so proud of Tyler.”

We are enriched by Tyler’s success story, but it’s Tyler who thanks us. “Thank all of you,” he says, “for the amount of time that you guys put into me. I’m forever grateful.”

This season, may your holidays, like Tyler’s life, be filled with renewal and Hope.