James Tonecha, an admissions officer at Adult & Teen Challenge Ohio Valley, works in the agency’s call center, interviewing potential clients, providing information about the program and sharing details about the services offered with outside organizations.
Not so long ago, he was one of the people who came to ATCOV looking for help. James, 24, a native of Apollo, Pa., entered the program about two years ago and worked as an intern before joining the staff full-time in June 2022.
“My life was an absolute mess,” James said of his life before entering ATCOV. He was living with his then-girlfriend at the time and some high school friends who really weren’t a good influence on him. “I just basically reached the end of myself,” he said. “I reached my version of rock bottom and I made the decision to come to Adult & Teen Challenge.”
He came to the program first in January 2019, stayed for 30 days and left. He relapsed and came back to the program in July 2020 and completed it. He describes the man he was when he arrived at the program as a hardened alcoholic who also used marijuana.
Realizing he needed help was a long and painful process over 22 years.
When James was 14, his mother died of cancer. Six years later, his father died in an accident. “That pretty much sent me over the edge into full-on drug addiction,” James explained. James was raised in a Christian home and said he grew up “playing at being a Christian” but not really taking it seriously. “But I think deep down I always knew the truth so I just realized it was time to surrender—actually live my life for God and stop playing games,” he said.
After he finished the program, James knew he wanted to stay and help others struggling with addiction as he did. From spending a year drawing close to God and feeling so close to him and intimate in my relationship with Him, I felt like that was the door that was opened for me to step through,” James said. He turned down job offers.
“My heart is to use the testimony that I have to help people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction,” he said. “That’s what I’m called to do and I’d rather do that than go and make money.”
He thinks it’s important for someone his age who’s been through what he has to help other people and to let them know there’s a way out through Jesus Christ. “I had this God-sized hole in my life and it just got bigger after I lost my parents,” James said. He tried to fill it with other things: possessions, bad relationships. Nothing worked until he arrived at ATCOV and turned his life around through a relationship with God.
“I’m living such an excellent quality of life now,” James said. “I’m serving God. He’s provided for me in ways that I couldn’t even imagine.” God has provided James with a job and a place to live, a path to get out of debt, supportive friends and colleagues and a church family. “I have so many things that I never had before and he’s just provided for every aspect of my life,” James said.