Friday, August 27, 2010

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition...

Giving up is what makes it permanent.” Marilyn vos Savant

It has been one of those two steps forward, 1 7/8ths steps back kind of months. Or maybe it's actually been one of those years.

And I was thinking along these lines today when my phone rang.

At the end of the line I heard a hesitant young man.

And I said "hello" several times and finally he said, "Jenny?"

I replied somewhat impatiently, "Yes? Yes?" and there was another small pause.

And then he said, "Jenny, this is Corey."

And my heart just stopped.

After a moment of silence he asked quietly, "Are you there?"

And, again I hesitated.

The last time I saw this young man was some years ago. I saw him in an apartment he was being evicted from in the full throes of a hardcore heroin addiction.

His hair was stringy. His eyes were vacant. I could not look at him without wanting to scream or hit him.

I walked away from him. Steve walked away from him. I avoided his phone calls for a few months and then they stopped. I dismissed him from my mind certain he was dead of an over-dose. And the loss was not something I could even think of.

Corey entered Mr. Jenny's and my life a little over 10 years ago. Thrown out of his home by alcoholic and drug-addicted parents he was attempting to finish high school while living on the streets. A brilliant musician and an extremely intelligent young man, we saw him often at our home. He was a friend of our youngest daughters. And, boy, could that kid put away food. He managed to graduate from high school but his life was pretty bleak.

One day we decided to take him in. We told him our rules, bought him some clothes, and practiced interviewing so he could find a job.

He cleaned everything in sight, helped with dinner, ate like a starving truck-driver and took out the trash the second it was half-full.

We helped him find a job and eventually got him into a small apartment.

I remember very clearly taking him to Target and buying him jeans and shirts and socks and underwear. He was quiet and somber. And told me over and over again he would never be able to pay us back. We told him he could pay us back by making something of his life but he still kept careful track of each thing we bought for him. Each pair of socks. Each meal. Each piece of used furniture we purchased for that first apartment.

Mr. Jenny sat him down and told him as long as he made something of his life and graduated from college the debt would be written off.

He went on to graduate with honors from college.

We celebrated that event with dinner at a wonderful restaurant; tears flowed, hugs were shared and with great ceremony we tore up the papers recording the things we had bought.

We thought this young man was on a good road. He had stepped away from his family, seemed to be finding direction and was very focused on the future.

But then he fell.

And fell farther.

And fell harder.

And finally, when it seemed there was nowhere left to fall we severed the relationship with him. Dealing with our daughters addiction at the time was all we could try and manage.

It hurt my heart to think of another wonderful young person destroyed by the powerful allure of drugs when I allowed myself to think of it at all.

Until today.

"I have been clean and sober for over 2 1/2 years," he told me. "I am manager of a Taco Bell." And then he hesitated. "I have a son," he said quietly with a voice cracking with emotion, "He is four days old."

I started to cry.

He started to cry.

"I am so happy for you, Corey," I told him through my tears. "Keep going. You have to keep going."

He told me so many things for the next twenty minutes. There were tears. There were explanations. There were apologies. He said over and over again, "You two were the only ones who ever believed in me."

It was almost surreal.

At the end of the phone call I asked him, "Do you still like homemade macaroni and cheese?" and he started to cry again.

"I always loved everything you cooked," he said. "I haven't forgotten anything."

I told him when the baby was a bit older I wanted him to come with his wife and son to dinner. And I would cook enough to feed an army because I remember how much he ate.

I told him we would welcome him with open arms.

And that I was proud of him.

And that I was glad he had never given up on himself.

And after we hung up I sat where I had pulled off the road to talk to him for many long minutes.

The struggle for happiness is never really over, is it?

It is never over as long as there is breath in your body and the memory of something good in your life.

The struggle to believe in good, though, sometimes just feels too hard.

All those 1 7/8ths steps backward wear you down after awhile.

And I think you forget that it is still 1/8ths steps forward.

Life is a struggle.

Finding the good in things is a struggle.

Looking ahead with hope can feel like too much sometimes.

But really, isn't that all there is on all the 1 7/8ths steps back kind of months? On the 1 7/8ths steps back kind of years?

I have been thinking about Corey all day.

He faced one of the worst kind of struggles...and succeeded.

So who am I, really, to feel sorry for myself when even on the worst of days I am still stepping forward 1/8ths of a step.

It feels tiny, sometimes.

It feels like I am never going to get there.

Corey's journey opened my eyes.

And strengthened my resolve.

I am forging on...two steps forward and 1 7/8ths back!

I am not going to give up.

How can I when Corey didn't?

I'm looking forward to seeing this young man and his new family.

And I am looking forward to telling him that his call today helped me believe in myself.

And I'm looking forward to see if he can still eat like he used to.

I'm telling you. That was just a sight to behold.

PS. I was going to turn off comments for this post because I didn't tell you this story so you could say what good people Mr. Jenny and I are. We are all good people and try to do the right thing when we can. I decided to leave them on, though, because sometimes it's just nice to share how you feel.

post signature


Susannah said...

A wonderful story told with so much heart. It touched me.

Love to Corey and love to you.

Theresa said...

Oh sweet Jenny! I loved this story and it sounds like a "proud as parents" moment for sure! I love it that Corey turned his life around. Sometimes a person just needs ONE person to care enough to help! Without a helping hand, the direction can be totally different! I know that fella was so proud to share his news with you guys!

Enjoy your day my friend! HUGS!

ain't for city gals said...

Thank you for sharing, Jenny. The thing that always keeps me going forward is I think to myself "There but for the grace of God am I"....

Wanda..... said...

The need in him to call you, to share with you the news of his newborn son says it all Jenny! You made me cry!

Terry said...

What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing it! :0)

Cheryl said...

There but for grace go many souls. Glad he's climbing back out of that particular black hole of despair where it's 1/2 step forward and 8 steps back.

I'm grateful for 1/8 step each day too. Thanks for sharing your Corey with us.

La said...

Oh Jenny. This post made me cry. Thank you so much for sharing this very personal story of love, perseverance, and victory. La

mub said...

I think this is such a neat story. It just made my heart happy, so thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, that reading this, the tears flowed from me as well. It hits really close to home since my brother-in-law has had many of the same struggles and is working now to turn things around. It gives me hope hearing your story. Thank you for sharing that, it meant the world to me!


Sami said...

What an emotional, heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing this.

When life was at its hardest for me, it was so difficult to keep going. I felt like I was taking maybe 1/8 of a step, or maybe 1/1000th on some days. But the thought that some day the things I was going through would be over, and that I wouldn't have to be sad or worried or unhappy anymore, kept me going. Corey sounds like an amazingly resilient person; you taught him well. :)

Jocelyn said...

Oh what a moving story! I am an addictions counselor and I have so many times heard these stories....Hope is a major part of our life...and things can work out!!!!

You warmed my heart!!!! :-)

Jeanie said...

Kudos to Corey for having the courage to call you and kudos to you and Steve for giving him the reason to have that courage. I hope this one is a giant step forward for everyone.

Meri Wiley said...

Dearest Jenny,

You know some of my story, and I know some of yours. I understand steps forward and the sad ones that go backward. I'm very blessed to have a husband that helps me see the ones taken forward, because most of the time I get caught up only thinking of the ones I went backwards on. It's such a shame for people like us to even have bad things to think about, focus on, obsess about. It's worse to realize we've let it lead our lives. You can't believe how happy I am for you that you had this affirmation of your goodness, your belief in something bigger. Just knowing you for the short time I have, I feel blessed to have you and Mr. Jenny in my life......can you even imagine how good it feels to be Corey?

Love ya'

Pixie said...

I am so happy for all of you! A very sweet and inspirational story :)

fredamans said...

Amazing how one person can make a difference in someone's life. In this case it was 2 people. Now he is clean and responsible, and called to send his regards, that's something. You really must have impacted Corey's life!
No pats on the back for you guys, sorry but you must know how wonderful you and Mr. Jenny are. No, my pats are for Corey. Well done at cleaning up, and getting on the right path. Best of luck in the future, for you and your new family. Keep a chin up, and God bless you always.

Tracey said...

Wow, that is so awesome that he was able to overcome such a strong demon. And now he has a new little son to be proud of!

Wombat Central said...

I think a lot of us needed to hear that story, too. :)

Cheryl D. said...

Thank you for turning comments. You and Mr. Jenny ARE incredible people! I didn't know you had to deal with drug addiction in your family. I have loved ones in mine that had serious drug problems-including heroin addiction. They managed to overcome it and with the love and support of NA have stayed clean for 20 years. It is possible. It isn't easy, but it is possible!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Jenny I'm glad you let us comment on this post! I think it shows all of us how we can touch and influence lives if we just reach out a helping hand. You were right to walk away when you did, but your influence was still there! I am so glad he contacted you and let you know he is on the right path. It also came at a time when YOU needed encouragement. I feel like I have passed a milestone in my life just recently and I'm ready to look forward more then backwards! Oh and yes you and Mr Jenny are fantastic people!!

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

I already knew you were good people. I won't even go there. I'm really not often moved to tears reading blogs. Laughter, often...tears are very rare. Maybe it is because I had a son who got off track...who had a baby during that time. Maybe it is because I know what it is like to feel as you were feeling and I can imagine what this call did for you...and I care about you, so I'm really glad the call came. Maybe as a mother, I'm just glad that one child has possibly pulled himself out of the dark place.

Whatever the reasons...I'm glad you shared this. It is worth sharing and we can all learn something from it.

Hugs to you, my friend.

Christy said...

I don't think you succeeded in turning the comments off :-)

Thank you for sharing this story.

Jenglamgirl said...

BEAUTIFUL STORY, AMAZING.. life is full of challenges, and we may win and we may loose, but we NEVER give up. We must fight the fight. Way to go for being such and amazing example. Love this post. NOW.. WHERE IS MY TISSUE BOX! snif snif JEN

MosaicMagpie said...

What a wonderful post. So glad Corey made it through and you were able to be blessed by seeing him come through. A strong young man.
How wonderful he wanted to share with you the birth of his son. I am sure he was filled with emotion as new parents are and wondered who can I tell about this happy occasion. You were at the top of that list. What a wonderful place to be.

susan said...

You will forever be part of Corey's story. And as much as you gave him, you received back. What a wonderful reminder of the power of God's grace.

Journey said...

Your story left tears in my eyes. What a beautiful story of strength, courage and love, unconditional love.
You and your husband are very special epeople and Corey is a very lucky man. when all was said and done, he knew in his heart of hearts that you were his rock! Congratulations.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Ah, nothing like a good cry on a Friday morning. But a happy cry.
I understand this more than you know.

Thank you Jenny!

Nancy's Notes said...

Oh Jenny, what an amazing story. A real declaration of unconditional love, your dedication to this young boy is now his story to tell too. What a blessing! I know he will be beaming when he walks in your door to introduce his little baby, to the family that loved his daddy.

Hugs to you, dear friend.


Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

Jenny, that is the most uplifting story. You were so good to him when he needed help and I am so glad he has finally made something of his life. I know you are looking forward to that reunion.

easternsparkle said...

Awww - you got me! Well written - full of emotion :)

Blondie's Journal said...

This is beautifully written and a testament to the fact that we can all turn our lives around if we have the resolve and support of family, friends and even strangers. This really put a lump in my throat. I wish Corey and his new family the best!


Busy Bee Suz said...

You must have been so overjoyed that you forgot to put in the tissue warning!!!! :) I will forgive you.
I love hearing success stories...I am so glad he contacted YOU!!!

xinex said...

What a wonderful very inspiring story. I am glad you shared it with us. It just proves as long as there is life, there is hope and we should never give up on anybody or on oursleves. I am so happy for Corey and her family and I know you and your family had a big part in his recovery....Christine

Amy said...

And that is really all there is to life, isn't it? Finding someone to believe in you when you don't believe in yourself, believing in others, and helping them find their potential, and always keeping on. No matter how far it feels you may have fallen, there is always always a way out of the hole. What a wonderful young man, to be able to climb the seemingly insurmountable hurdles of life! Thank you so much for reminding us of the possibilities and potential we can have if we try.

Marlene said...

I'm so glad you didn't turn off comments...because otherwise I wouldn't be able to smack you upside the head for making me cry!!!!

What a beautiful, touching story!!!

myletterstoemily said...

this is what makes you so special. most
of the time you are hilarious, and then
we get a glimpse of your amazing heart.

i am so very happy for you to have heard
from your young man.

every now and then i will run into a young
adult who used to be a 'mess' and it always
makes me cry with joy.

bless you.

Jessica B said...

Wow. What a very touching and emotional story. So very glad that you found it in your heart to let Corey be a part of your family... like others have commented, everyone needs someone to believe in them. It must feel so good to know how much of an impact you have had on another person. Glad he found the courage to contact you and look forward to hearing how it all goes.

Nezzy said...

This story touched my heart so and gave me hope for those I know who are in the same deepness of life.

God bless and have a fabulous Friday. When Corey comes with his family....please take pics! :o)

Flat Creek Farm said...

Jenny, I'm so glad you shared this story. It touched me so very much. We must never stop believing, in ourselves or each other. What a great reminder. Bless you and your family, and Corey and his new family as well. -Tammy

AliLilly said...

Beautiful and inspirational. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to say thank you so much for sharing this. As I start back to teaching junior high behavior disorders for another year, I am really struggling. The district I work in does not have the best leadership, and I tend to butt heads and then suffer retaliation. Today, you reminded me that it doesn't matter how hard it is if I can slowly erode away the problems with the school and help my students. Thank you.


The Words Crafter said...

I can hardly type. I can't stop crying. This gives me hope for my sister. With her, it's life choices and being taught from early childhood that nothing she did had consequences, that she was never at fault or responsible. My mother and grandmother did that. They did everything for her and crippled her. She never fell down so she never learned how to get up. Now, they're gone. She's fallen down. And she won't even try, much less let anyone help. Thank you for this....

The Words Crafter said...

I can hardly type. I can't stop crying. This gives me hope for my sister. With her, it's life choices and being taught from early childhood that nothing she did had consequences, that she was never at fault or responsible. My mother and grandmother did that. They did everything for her and crippled her. She never fell down so she never learned how to get up. Now, they're gone. She's fallen down. And she won't even try, much less let anyone help. Thank you for this....

Anonymous said...

It took me awhile to read this post as I was reading through tears, but I enjoyed it so much and it has inspired me.

Corey is a very fortunate young man and he seems to be most grateful for you and Mr. Jenny being there for him in some of his darkest hours.

Thank you, for sharing this wonderful story. I wish the very best for Corey and his family and for you and Mr. Jenny. Hugs

Kari said...

I think you left comments on because you needed to hear that I needed to read this today. Maybe a lot of us needed to read this today. And maybe it feels better to let you know, we needed this today. So thanks.

Shellbelle said...

Well Jenny Matlock, I've heard about out you in Blogland, but this is my first time here. Why today? Because Sue at I Need Mom blogged that THIS was the post to read today.

I won't tell you that you and Mr. Jenny are good people. Not that you aren't, but I want to commend this young man for picking up the pieces to his life. There are a lot of good parents (and people) out there whose kids never do this. Corey did and he should be darn proud of himself. I'm a good person and a good parent, but my daughter went through her drug days and she pulled herself out of it when she was ready. Thought I'd go out of my mind for a while there, probably did on more than a few occasions. Sometimes you just have to turn your back. I did, you did. AND then the day comes when you get that call and what a call it is. Congratulations Corey! Enjoy that mac and cheese, you deserve it!

Natasha said...

I'm glad you kept the comments on-you have made many of us think about so many things and for that we should be grateful.

Thank you Mr and Mrs Jenny!

Blessings and best wishes,

noexcuses said...

Thank you so much for sharing this very touching story. I'm so happy for Corey and his new family, as well as, you and Mr. Jenny, for having a hand in Corey's success.

Special thanks and gratitude for reminding me that hope will always be a part of our lives. No matter how far we think we have fallen, there is always a way to pull ourselves back up.

Thank you and God Bless You!

Jennifer said...

That was so sweet, Jenny. I love everything you say, though.

As J.K. Rowling said (which only furthered my love for her and her writing), "But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light."

If I ever forget that quote, I honestly believe I'll probably forget all I know.

'Cause if it weren't for people like Rowling and yourself who are always willing to share their wise words with the world, and my faith in God, I would be nowhere... I would learn nothing...

But I don't just want to be happy. I want to find joy. Because, as my pastor said once, happiness involves happenings, joy is a life-long decision... I want both, but I strive for joy.

Pondside said...

I get calls from past clients - usually around Christmas. They call from all over, just to say 'hi' or to tell me that they're still safe, sober or in a good state, or that they've married - or they'll want me to thank someone that helped them but they don't remember the name. Those calls are always the best Christmas present because I know the work that came before them.

Vicki said...

Jenny, I've been busy and not here enough. Decided to stop by tonight.

Tears are know why.

Hold him tight.

Sue said...

What a blessing to hear from him!

Mac and cheese all 'round. And a big boost of that wonderful kind of energy...the *believing things can happen* kind.

So happy for you, Jenny.


RNSANE said...

I am sure you didn't take Corey in because you were expecting kudos for it. You saw a kid who needed help and you believed in him. You are good people, also, and that's what good people do. Sadly, he faltered and you, then, did what you had to do at the time.

How wonderful that he was able to get back on track and, of course, he called the people that gave him a chance in life. I'm so glad he did that, Jenny, because you and Steve made a difference for him.

That's what life is all about.

The Tablescaper said...

Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with all of us so that we too can learn from it. Just so touching.

- The Tablescaper

Aging Mommy said...

So very glad you did not turn off comments on this post because it is not true that every person is good and certainly not all of us are as open hearted and generous as you were to take in this young man when you did. Then strong enough to walk away when you had to.

How wonderful that he has turned his life around. Despite all you did for him he had a hefty heritage to carry on his young shoulders and no doubt that precipitated his fall. But he got back up.

It is not easy to be happy in life. If is a constant work in progress if you have ever come from an unhappy place. It is always easy to see the glass half full or the road of 1 7/8th steps back and not see that you are in fact moving forward.

Great post. I hope Corey comes to visit you soon.

Bits-n-Pieces said...

sometimes our love, hard work, and worry do pay off!!!

So good to read you my friend. I've been so busy, it's kept me away and I've missed reading you!!

Tina said...

Beautiful story. Just wonderful. Thanks for sharing it with us. It's SO hard to do that tough love thing. So hard. But it's also necessary. Hats off to you both for knowing when and how to do what he needed at that time.

Cathy said...

You brought me to tears - what a great story, and thanks for sharing it!

RockiBottom said...

Thank you for sharing this story. It helps those of us who are also making those tiny steps forward (or upward as i like to call it).

It really helps.

Charmingdesigns said...

Thank you for that...I really needed right this minute

Lourie said...

You know how you get so caught up in something you are reading that you literally become unaware of your surroundings? That happens to me with your posts....especially the ones like this one! Corey sounds like an awesome survivor!

Slamdunk said...

Well I won't fill your comment board with how great you all are (even though you are), but I think the story illustrates how planting seeds can lead to beautiful blossoms--just we never can be sure of the time frame.

Great stuff and thanks for sharing.

Annesphamily said...

Jenny Matlock, you are a blog full of emotions! You constantly make me laugh and cry! It is wonderful to be filled with such emotion. Thank you! Anne