Help, Sorry, Love focusing on troubled youth in the Fox Valley
Steven, of Yorkville, knows what it's like to call out for help, not be heard, and fail to be understood. At age 31, Steven said he has been heard.
After struggling with anxiety and substance abuse issues for much of his adolescent and early adult life, Steven said he has found refuge in the messages cast by nonprofit organizations, such as Help, Sorry, Love.
Jon Conover first started Help, Sorry, Love, a foundation serving the Fox Valley area, in 2015. It offers a number of workshops, programs, and events aimed at helping community youth to use resources and talents in order to beat their struggles through time, love and encouragement.
"August 2011 was the last time I ever touched any kind of opioid," Steven said. "Started working out, started losing weight, (and) as time went by I started feeling healthier and healthier. That's when I met (Conover) and his sister."
Around that time, Steven was working as a dishwasher in a kitchen where Conover's sister, Rachel, worked as an executive chef. He said he has been grateful for everything Conover and his sister have done for him.
"Rachel was there and she kind of turned me onto cooking," Steven said. "I was hired on as a line cook, started cooking and been in the kitchen ever since then."
On Friday, Help, Sorry, Love, hosted a workshop at Elgin Community College called "Generation You-Nity." Among those in attendance was Steven.
Conover said hosting the conference to help support community youth dealing with struggles — whether it's issues related to identity, substance abuse or mental health — makes sense on many levels.
"The hard part is for them to understand that and to feel that in a real way, because there's so much Christian rhetoric — and I hate to call it that — but for lack of a better term, where all these terms get thrown around and they almost lose their effectiveness, or their power, in a sense," he said.
Conover noted the way in which TV appears to glamorize expressions of hate, division and the loss of identity. The conference is to show them there is a better path forward, he said.
"They come to a conference like this looking for leadership for people to say, 'here's the better way and here's how to apply it to their life,'" Conover said. "But, they have to feel that right here, if they're going to step out here and start applying those things and say, 'man, I'm ready to make a change. I'm ready to move forward.' And, that's a special thing."
Steven said much of his troubles began when he was a student in high school. Around that time, he faced a lot of the same pressures that today's youth encounter, including a need to fit in, a desire to please others and be himself.
"I was always following that other path — somebody else's path," Steven said, adding how he grew up as an only child who had recently moved to Michigan.
During that time, Steven noted that he followed what he described as a "rough crowd."
"I wanted to relate with them so badly to where I was constantly on edge," he said. "I was always nervous."
At age 16, Steven said he was offered a few painkillers to take off the edge and that's when he fell victim to substance abuse. Around that time, he started using a number of different drugs, including crack, Vicodin and heroin.
Steven noted that he went through many years of turmoil where he was always looking to get his next high, before he decided to get help. He said relationships with members his family worsened and his health started to deteriorate.
"That's what kind of threw them off," Steven said of his family. "Everything was good and within, maybe, a course of a year, it flipped. I was more angry, I was very hostile and I was very on edge."
Steven said he went through a cycle for a period of time where he was in recovery, only to relapse and start all over again.
"I had to go from Illinois, back to Michigan, back to Illinois, and back to Michigan again and then, it's just all that happened in between there of wondering 'where I'm going to live the next day?'" he said. "Who's going to trust me to stay with them? What am I going to do in the next day? Am I going to be alive the next day? Where I am going to get my next hit of dope?"
That's when Steven said he had had enough of life's complications.
In early 2010, he started a detox program in Michigan.
By August 2011, Steven said he was clean and no longer receiving doctor administered dosages of Methadone, which is used to curve withdrawal symptoms.
During this time, Steven said he made amends with family, moved back to Illinois and held a number of jobs.
"A lot of really cool places, I had the privilege of having the experience of working at and learning new stuff as far as culinary arts," he said.
Steven said he only has a few classes remaining until he receives certification in the culinary arts.
"I work at a retirement home," he said. "I kind of feel blessed to work with a lot these elderly people that have a lot to share and a lot of history. I know the Lord has put me there for a reason... If I was working any other restaurant job, I wouldn't be here today."
Steven said he loves line cooking and how it has played a part in making him the man he is today.
"It gets exciting when you get a lot of tickets out at once and you have a lot going on at once," he said. "It's all in your own hands. You're making food and it's amazing how much food you can produce when the pressure is on."
For information on Help, Sorry, Love, go to helpsorrylove.org