In my role as Concordance’s Marketing Manager, I am privileged to spend time getting to know our participants and their unique journeys and then share their stories with the world. I am fortunate to watch our participants transform at Concordance – I’ve witnessed this first-hand while engaging in conversations with participants earlier this month. In the participant lounge at our St. Louis Center, participants at various stages of our program were comfortably chatting, and the room was filled with smiles and laughter. It was clear that underneath the happiness was all the hard work our participants had put in converting into achievement, and the ability to view themselves as more than their past. Instead, they could now see themselves as successful individuals. No one reflected that more than Demetrius.
Demetrius walked into the lounge with such an assurance – head up, shoulders straight, and an assertive stride – clearly unafraid of any questions I may have. Demetrius recently began the full-time employment phase of our program, working with a hiring partner through the Concordance Employment Agency. At 60 years old, he is revered and respected by team members, participants, and colleagues alike. I had the chance to speak with him about his hopes for the future, and I’ve included a recap of that conversation below.
Demetrius grew up in a two-parent household with his four siblings in St. Louis. He remembers his parents being very strict, and his father being physically abusive. Because of this environment, he was eager to graduate high school. After his graduation, Demetrius immediately joined the Army, but after serving for three years, he landed back home in the middle of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1980s. As his substance use disorder began, so did his criminal activity, and years later, he landed in prison, serving a total of 10 years.
While in prison, Demetrius began to make positive choices for himself, including earning a degree in theology. He heard from a friend that Concordance was a caring environment and a place to really grow. After completing the Concordance pre-release programming, Demetrius walked through the St. Louis Center doors in January 2022.
So much of that direction begins with individual and group therapy sessions during our Intensive Outpatient phase of the program. Demetrius noted that his opinion on therapy has completely shifted during his time at Concordance. He told me, “I was raised to see therapy as a negative and that I didn’t need it, but now, I enjoy it! And because of it, I have a totally different outlook on life.” As a result of the tools, strategy, and decision-making skills gained in those sessions, Demetrius has been able to reconcile with his father after years of estrangement. Demetrius shared that his father was able to come to Concordance and see first-hand the impact it has had on him.
As for his future, Demetrius is looking forward to continuing in his career with his current employer. He was recently asked to supervise others and is excited for future opportunities within the company.
As we ended our conversation, Demetrius paused and smiled between sentences and said, “Concordance has taught me to be more open-minded, while staying focused and being intentional about every step I take.” He paused again, “This type of community and this type of support is unheard of, but I am glad I heard about it.” As he progresses through Concordance towards graduation, Demetrius looks forward to continuing to better himself. He also hopes to stay involved with Concordance as an Alumni and help those who have walked the same path as him.
It is journeys like Demetrius’ that keep me inspired in my own role at Concordance. I am honored to share the accomplishments of our participants, and I am proud of the work that they’re doing to heal themselves, reunite with their families, and become more involved in their communities.