Greg didn’t think of himself as a “street kid.” He was just a regular kid whose parents didn’t understand him. He hated school, and he was sure his teachers hated him. He didn’t mean to be disruptive, he just had zero patience to sit still for more than five minutes. At least when he was being yelled at there was some action.
His parents tried to help. That is, they lectured him about doing better in school and trying to get along with the other kids. But it wasn’t much use. He simply didn’t know how. He was alone. Alone with his frustrations, alone with his loneliness.
He was surprised at first when the “street kids” started befriending him. After all, who’d want to hang out with a loser like him? But he soon discovered that these kids were just like him — kids who just didn’t seem to fit in with everyone else. But somehow they fit in with each other. Somehow, they formed some kind of group. He was no longer a loser; he was accepted.
The group had its own way of dealing with being a little “different.” They did things adults warned them not to do. Things even the “regular” kids thought a little… out there. Things like vandalizing other people’s property, or smoking on school grounds. These kids were constantly seeking action, just like he’d always done in the classroom. When there was nothing happening, they’d make something happen. They thrived on excitement.
It was as small leap from cigarettes to marijuana, and then on to more serious drugs. Some of Greg’s friends were casual users, but most of them started using more and more. They started coming up with ways to make money to support their drug habits.
It didn’t take long for the police to catch up with Greg. It was his first offense, and they let him off with a warning. But when he was caught stealing cash from the local store at 2 a.m., they hauled him in and booked him. He had a choice: jail or rehab. He chose rehab, thinking it was the easier of the two. But he couldn’t take the structure, or being told what to do all the time, so he ran away. He was caught and sent back to jail, where he stayed for the next two months. As soon as he got out, he went straight back to his old friends and started using drugs again. He needed money to support his habit, was caught stealing again, and was sent straight back to jail. By now, Greg was over 18 and was legally an adult.
This cycle repeated itself three more times before Greg decided he’d had enough of jail. He asked to be sent to rehab instead of jail. The court agreed, and he was once again in rehab. But he wasn’t interested in quitting, he was only looking to be out of jail. Once again, he couldn’t stand the discipline and ran away.
Again he was caught! Despite his promises to stay put if they let him go back to rehab, the courts wouldn’t allow it. He was an adult, responsible for his actions, and so he served out his sentence in jail. He was finally released and went back home. By this time, his parents wanted nothing to do with him. They packed his bags and put them — and him — out on the street. Their parting words were, “Call us if you ever amount to anything.”
Homeless, Greg turned to his “friends,” but no one would take him in. He could no longer deny that the term “street kid” really did apply to him. Only he wasn’t a kid anymore.
Greg was broken. He found himself in a place so low that the only way to go was up. He wandered into a small forest and hoped to die in his sleep. When days later he finally wandered out, he was ready to make a change.
This time, when Greg entered treatment at Retorno, he wasn’t just there physically — he actually started treatment. He began to talk, and it all came pouring out. His frustrations in school, the lack of warmth and understanding at home… for the first time he was able to express everything he’d locked away for so long.
After treatment, Greg decided to stay in Israel, away from his former “friends” and destructive patterns. He made Aliyah, and today Greg is a soldier in the IDF. He’s clean and he has a good relationship with his family. After his tour of duty in the army, he’s thinking of opening his own business, perhaps with his older brother who also settled in Israel. Looking back at his time in Retorno, Greg says, “It took me a while to admit that I wanted to change. It was hard, but now I have a chance to be happy.”