Meet Jon Levi, Barn Manager and Equine Therapy Instructor

Written by Journey Pure Staff

What fueled your passion for helping those who struggle with addiction and mental health disorders, and what brought you to Journey Pure?

I was a Sergeant with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and I was over our Mounted Patrol unit. We kept our horses at the Journey Pure facility. When I left the department, I was asked if I would manage the equine facility at Journey Pure. I said yes. That just morphed into being asked to rewrite and teach the equine program.

I am fueled by 25 years of law enforcement. I have seen a lot of death due to addiction. I got tired of that and I wanted to help people before it was too late and they either died or went to jail.

Tell us a little about your position as Barn Manager and Equine Therapy Instructor, and how you’ve developed the Equine Therapy program to be as valuable as it is.

I developed the program based on a book written by Sam Powell called Almost A Whisper. The book is about horses and how they relate to humans and interpersonal relationships and how they parallel one other.

Tell us a little about your farm at JP and how you involve the different animals in the work that you do.

We have 11 horses, one goat, one pig, one rooster, and about 30 hens. The horses are used every day in our lessons and help the clients look inside themselves and learn about herd mentality, boundaries, energy, and self-regulation. The horses are utilized with each lesson to help the clients learn more about themselves. The other animals help the clients relax and are just fun to watch and enjoy.

How is Equine Therapy effective in creating responsibility and building relationship skills for the clients at JP?

While working with the horses, the clients have the responsibility to look deep inside and be honest with themselves. The horses are 100% honest creatures and have only one agenda: Survive until tomorrow and surround themselves with horses that will help them achieve that goal. They are looking for other horses that have the same agenda as them. That is the exact model or way to stay sober. The horses show recovering addicts the importance of living day to day and functioning in a herd. The horses also teach interpersonal relationships.

What is your next goal at JP or something that you’re currently working on?

I would love to just grow this equine class to reach and help as many people as I possibly can. I also want to instill PRIDE in each client and have them leave here with their head held high and be proud they have acquired the tools needed to beat addiction. I would also love to one day have an addiction recovery pride march in downtown Nashville.

What do you wish more people knew about JP and its staff?

Every staff member at Journey Pure generally cares about each and every client that walks in our doors and they are willing to go the extra mile to help.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I love to see the “light” come on in a person’s eyes. I love to tell them every day they are worth it, and they deserve sobriety. I love seeing them get their pride back in themselves. It is priceless to witness that. It is very rewarding.

What is the one moment in your career that you think about most?

It’s not been just one moment that has happened. It is a “certain moment” that happens. When a client comes at first, they have no self-esteem or self-worth/pride. I get to watch them completely change and gain that self-esteem and worth/pride. When they accomplish a goal with the horses, the smile on their face is absolutely magical!

If there’s one thing about addiction that non-addicts don’t understand, what is it?

People who are not addicts really do not understand how REAL addiction is. It is NOT A CHOICE that they have chosen. It is a disease, no different than any other disease that takes over the body and mind.

What type of feedback have you received from those that you’ve worked with?

I have each client fill out an evaluation form on their equine experience when they leave Journey Pure. I do this because I want to make sure I am giving them the best lessons I can. I work for these clients and it is my job to provide the best class I possibly can. The feedback that I have received is that they love the program. They love the lessons. They love how horses are so honest and show them how to get better.

What skill or trait of yours helps you most in connecting with the clients at JP?

I am 100% completely honest with the clients. I tell them I love them and respect them because I DO! My experience as a law enforcement officer brings a totally different perspective and the clients really like it and are drawn to it.

If you could tell one person who thinks that treatment can’t help them, what would it be?

“What do you have to lose?” I guess that would be the thing I would tell them if I could only say one thing.

When not at work, what do you enjoy doing?

I love working out, camping, trail riding, and watching my two daughters play college softball. I love being outside.

Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that you share during your Equine Therapy groups?

Every situation in life is an anchor or a wing. You can wear the anchor and let it drown you or you can take the anchor off and get on a wing of an eagle and SOAR!! IT IS YOUR CHOICE!!

What else would you want people to know about you?

I am just a simple man who wants to help as many people as I can. I just want to be the best man I can be. I feel I owe my clients that. I want to be the best dad I can be and show my daughters how to help people. All that really matters is how you treat people.