Introductory note: The following account is true. The names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy.
Why did it happen? How did Spencer Smith, a kid with such loving upbringing, become a drug and alcohol addict? Why did he end up in jail? And how did Cornerstone Recovery Center and its alternative sentencing for drug offenders give Spencer and his family a second chance?
Some of these questions can be answered and some cannot. But we hope this glimpse into one family’s quest to deal with co-occurring disorders will help other families avoid the ultimate tragedy.
Growing up in Texas, Spencer Smith had what should have been a pretty normal upbringing by anyone’s standards. His parents were (and still are) devoted Christians, who practiced what they preached, not just on Sundays, but every day. Spencer’s father, Don, works in a corporate job, which enabled his mother, Kay, to be a stay-at-home mom. They spent many hours with Spencer, his brother and sister, doing things that families do. They were outdoor enthusiasts. Life was good, but that all seemed to change when Spencer turned thirteen.
Spencer, who attended a Christian school, became increasingly rebellious. He would sneak out in the middle of the night, and it was not unusual for him to steal his sister’s car for a late night joy ride. An avid model builder, he began building pipes and bongs instead of cars. At first Kay and Don found it funny, until it wasn’t anymore.
Around fourteen, Spencer got involved with smoking and drugs. Though he was a bright kid, he was having all kinds of trouble at school – so much that he was kicked out. He became increasingly rebellious, and as Kay Smith noted, “He had never learned to function like a kid.” Indeed, eventual drug addiction would deprive Spencer Smith of a longer childhood. (And even today, they maintain that his “arrested development” makes him younger than most 23 year-olds.) His life became an endless search for and abuse of a variety of drugs, including crystal meth, nitrous oxide (“hippy crack”) and hallucinogens. Unfortunately, at age 14, there was little Kay and Don could do medically. At 18, he could be locked up, but, ironically, their help was hindered by their son’s youth.
As Spencer’s drug addiction continued, he became more alienated from everyone in his family. He never made it through high school, though he did get a GED. His experience in a Texas community college lasted only weeks. Spencer became a convicted felon who, at 18, served a year in a Texas jail and stints in various rehab programs. But even that was not enough help for a young man who was diagnosed with a paranoid/schizoaffective disorder, suffered several psychotic breaks and was hospitalized in Texas.
By the time Spencer was 18, Kay and Don had moved to South Florida for Don’s job relocation. With Spencer about to be homeless, they brought him to Florida and enrolled him in a dual diagnosis rehab program. What they saw was a son who was “drugged up like an elephant…a zombie…lethargic and depressed.” His addiction kicked back in, his physical condition deteriorated and he was in violation of his Texas parole. Fortunately they found Cornerstone Recovery Center and the A.S.A.P and what Kay and Don call “God’s plan” for their troubled son.
Don, Kay and Spencer Smith found Cornerstone by chance, and then took a chance on Cornerstone. As Spencer recalled, “The people there were different.” And Don recalls, “ They’re genuine. They’re real and they will call him out on things.” They were different and real, because many staffers had been in recovery themselves. This made a great impact when Spencer, who went back to Texas, relapsed and came back to Cornerstone. At that point, Cornerstone introduced the family to Alternative Sentencing Assistance Program – or A.S.A.P.
Executive Director, John Reeck took control of the situation, accompanying the family to court, working to get his parole transferred to Florida, and introducing the family to this probation-approved alternative to jail time.
There are many reasons why alternative sentencing for drug offenders is working, especially when it comes to what we call the “double whammy” of co-occurring (mental health and mental illness) disorders, which is Spencer’s challenge. Putting dual diagnosis people away without the benefit of treatment inhibits the opportunity for rehabilitation. It puts a strain on the individual, their families and the system itself. Here are a few key A.S.A.P. benefits afforded to Spencer and his family:
Briefly, here’s how Cornerstone’s process works:
Drug addiction and mental health disorders are co-conspirators that work against a person’s recovery. A.S.A.P. is a great choice for repeat offenders, as it provides structure and a recovery plan that includes the kind of therapy and psychiatric help that dual diagnosis individuals need to get sober and return to a productive life. With the help of A.S.A.P., Spencer Smith has finally begun to understand that drug addiction and criminal behavior have consequences. As of this writing, Spencer has been sober for 90 days, living in a halfway home for a month, and he has job at a call center. He’s paying his own rent. And, according to his parents, “Even in his limited way, he is reaching out, trying to help others.”
At Cornerstone Recovery Center, we help you develop strategies that help people make good choices for life. We are well versed in the Marchman Act- Involuntary Assessment and experienced in providing support for legal proceedings.
Note: We are often asked if insurance covers these additional services. In general, the answer is “yes,” but we can assist in getting an absolute answer depending on the circumstance and the insurer.