THE BLOG

9 P.M. on a Saturday Is When I Received the Call

07/08/2013 02:40 pm ET | Updated Sep 07, 2013

Sixteen-year-old Jimmy is standing outside of a house. His so-called friends are inside smoking pot, hooking up, and doing who knows what else. He picked up the phone and called me. What was done on our 10-minute phone call changed the course of his teenage years.

First, let me give you some background.

Jimmy is a junior in high school. He is incredibly smart (tests in the 98th percentile), yet in the past year his motivation and interest in school has dropped. He thinks all the time, yet until we started working together, he shared little of his thoughts with anyone. More than anything else right now, he is lonely. He is looking for more meaningful connections with others, specifically, in the types of relationships he has with his peers.

Jimmy talks about the pressures to drink and smoke pot to be part of a specific group. Though he would do it, he would often wonder why he would hang out people that he does not feel comfortable with. Very early on in my work with him, we started to put attention on determining who in his life brings value to him. When his answer only included his family and no peers or friends, he really had to do some thinking. Unfortunately, he just wasn't ready to do what it would take to change things, explaining "I'm not ready yet to make drastic changes, I just need friends." That was true at least until the night of this phone call.

After our 10-minute phone call, Jimmy decided to leave the party. He had a conversation with one of his friends and explained that he is just not into the drug and hooking up scene. He was preparing to be laughed at and teased, instead he was shocked. The friend had a better response than he expected. His friend actually respected him and confided that he too sometimes wished things would just slow down and be the way they used to be.

Yet when Jimmy suggested they just leave the party to go do something else, his friend turned him down. "It may not be the most fun, but at least it's better than sitting home alone!"

Jimmy thought about it, and then had a realization: It wasn't!

That's when he called his parents for a ride home, then called me again. His first line on the phone to me was, "Remember how you always talk about having to be willing and ready? I think I am."

Over the next four months, his life changed.

In follow up meetings with Jimmy, I was able to teach him some basic techniques to help him.

• With confidence and how he views himself.
• Learn what it means to look for individuals who bring value to his life.
• Surround himself with the right people -- not the ones that set him back.
• Have a clear sense of what he wants moving forward, with school, family, and relationships.

He started looking at himself in a really positive way. His grades started to improve. His attention was on finding out who brought value to his life. He even contacted a boy from his multi-media class whom he'd always wanted to spend some time with. This boy was not into drugs, in fact, it turns out that they were looking for something similar. A few weekends ago they took their video cameras into downtown Chicago and shot a short film, then spent hours editing it.

Jimmy is alive again. He's back on track.