It has been two months since our 18 year old son has been back home for good from treatment. It's been great to have him under our roof after twenty-seven months away. We all have been making adjustments to living together again. Not perfect, but rather a work in progress. We have continued with our family therapy calls with his therapist from Utah, by phone. That has been very important and helpful when we need to bring up difficult subjects and clear the air at times. It gives each of us a voice.
Dr. Tim Thayne, author of "Not By Chance: How Parents Boost Their Teen's Success In and After Treatment" says "The choice to place your teen in treatment was the hardest decision you have ever made. And the second hardest decision you will make is to bring him home again.”
Very true indeed. There is so much unknown ahead. We have to focus on what is right in front of us, one day at a time. My son is in his self-proclaimed GAP year, which means he has chosen to get a job and work right now. Our communication has been tough at times, since he is at the age when he is trying to break away from us and that isn't easy honestly, since we finally have him back again. Another way to look at it is, he was away when he should have been home, and he is home when he should be away. A bit of a flip flop for us as parents.
So for today's post, I want to focus on what positive things have been happening for my son in the past six months:
1) Son passed the CHSPE exam (California High School Proficiency Exam) in June and is done with High School. BIG!
2) Son graduated from his step down program at the end of September 2019. Gave a brief, but important speech acknowledging his successes while away at treatment.
3) Son has looked into college, toured one and began application. Took the SAT, but has decided a GAP year is his path currently.
4) We agreed on a contract of boundaries and house rules for his return home. Still a work in progress on implementation of household duties/chores and our expectations, AND his.
5) Son wrote a relapse prevention plan, which was awesome on his part. So far so good.
6) Son applied for a job at Best Buy while in Utah so he could begin work right when he came home. Had interview beginning of October, was hired and has been working, mostly part time. Increased work hours coming slowing, but achieved his first forty hour week at Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
7) Saved some money, spent most of it on paintball equipment and some clothes. Started saving again.
8) Planned a trip to meet a friend in Canada before Christmas and renewed his passport on his own.
9) Bought his own plane ticket, with his own money!
10) Started his own phone account, is now off our plan and took over payments of his iPhone purchased in August. REALLY BIG!
His independence is beginning, maybe not quickly, but it is happening. Next up is the driver's license! When I ask about it, his reply is, "I'm studying." Okay then, there you have it. A lot of good. Most of it slow. He is not the best communicator in the world, but that may not be surprising to those parents out there with boys!
For me, it's been a process of letting go. In an email from a parent support group that I belong to was the most perfect reminder of this difficult concept. I am sharing it with you below (many thanks to my brave, unnamed fellow support group parent)!
TO “LET GO” TAKES LOVE
by author unknown
To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To “let go” is not to cut myself off,
it is the realization I can’t control another.
To “let go” is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,
which means that the outcome is not in my hands.
To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another,
it is to make the most of myself.
To “let go” is not to care for,
but to care about.
To “let go” is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To “let go” is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To “let go” is not to be in the middle, arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies,
To “let go” is not to be protective,
but to permit another to face reality.
To “let go” is not to deny,
but to accept.
To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take every day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.
To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To “let go” is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
To “let go” is to fear less and love more.
My family has come so far, and yet the road ahead is still unknown. We are working on accepting that......
Wishing you Peace and Happiness,
Monday, the last day of September, 2019 will rank as a high point for my son and us as a family in so many emotional ways. He will be graduating from his step down program after 27 months away from home and we will all drive home from Utah together. It is a truly amazing journey!
It’s been 821 days (as I write this blog post) since we sent our then fifteen year old son to wilderness, way back at the end of June 2017. Fast forward to this coming Monday, the last day of September 2019 and he will be heading home for good! To recap: he will be graduating from his step down program after eight months in southern Utah, along with seventeen months at his residential treatment center near Salt Lake City and before that, 92 days in his wilderness therapy program in southern Idaho. 823 days away from home! Can that even be possible? WOW!
This has been a tremendous journey, as cliché as that may sound. He is ready to begin a new chapter of life facing many of his previous challenges and plenty of new ones as well. Isn’t that what life is about? Yet, what is different for him and for us as a family, are the tools we have gained and the experience of all the hard work that comes with treatment in general. He is one of the lucky ones, and so are we!
We couldn’t have done this alone. We have been fortunate to have been helped by a host full wonderful therapists, advisors, mentors and top notch professionals in this field. They truly care. The programs have tons of experience helping teenagers with their personal issues and work hard to get them back on track. It is a true team effort and is not for the faint of heart, not to mention the unimaginable cost families have to bear.
One good person led us to another good person to another and so we learned to navigate this treacherous sea of “what shall we do next?” with trust and hope and our “gut” feelings. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and with each new interaction we picked up a phrase or new tidbit of information that took us down another trail to where we are today. The road can be long as we can attest.
We are so proud of our son. He is happy again and reports no anxiety or depression. He still faces the challenges of technology use as do we all. He is now finished with high school after taking the CHSPE exam (similar to the GED) and wants to work for a year before heading to the college experience. He is a good kid, not perfect, not fixed as people want to ask, yet a better communicator and compliant to rules and boundaries. We have repaired our relationships and continue to work at it. At 18 years old, his future direction will be up to him.
I don’t want give the impression that our lives resemble a “package all tied up neatly with a bow on top”, but rather, a chance to see what opportunities lie ahead for all of us! This is a chance at a new beginning. And so we begin a fresh chapter with our now adult son living with us again, back home in Marin County and the SF Bay Area, CA. Thank you for reading and for your constant support in our heck of a journey! I will continue to blog and ask you to come back often to check our progress!
Most gratefully and filled with love,
At the end of July my son turned eighteen years old! We celebrated by taking a weekend trip and meeting up in New Mexico. All of us were excited to travel somewhere new outside of Utah for a change! It was a nice way to celebrate and we had a great time! We toured the University of New Mexico, ate delicious Southwestern cuisine, visited the Hot Air Balloon Museum and saw many of the location sites used for the TV show "Breaking Bad".
Eighteen is a "BIG" birthday, since in the eyes of the law, one becomes a "legal adult". For many teenagers turning eighteen means "getting to do anything they want". That is, until they have to pay for it with their own money!
The transition between seventeen and eighteen years old can be a confusing right of passage. Teens want freedom and they want to be taken seriously. Parents want them to be safe, yet know that their kids have to figure things out themselves. As those kids mature, the world of responsibility can begin to close in quickly, making life a bit uncomfortable. So many decisions about their futures have to be addressed. These important decisions include: higher education, jobs, goals, travel and relationships. The common thread is that they all require money, something many teenagers do not have in abundance quite yet.
Getting a job is a great way to teach important lessons of what's ahead for older teens. My son made big strides by getting his first job at a McDonald's in Southern Utah this summer. He has been grilling burgers for more hours than he is excited about, which is actually great news. He has said that now he knows he needs higher education, so that this entry level job is not his only choice for the future! HALLELUJAH!
The other big news is that just days before turning eighteen, my son passed the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam)! Can I hear an AMEN? School has been a huge challenge for him and this signifies the END of his high school classes! It is a relief as a parent to not have to worry about his credits or lack of credits as he turned eighteen! He is ready for something new and so are we! (Come back to this blog for more info on how his IEP - Individual Education Program worked and didn't work in his public schooling!)
We are now about to dip our toes into uncharted territory with an ADULT son who is a couple of months away from coming home for good, from treatment this fall. We will get to write the new roles we will assume. We will still be the parents and he will still be the son, but all our hard work over the past two years will be tested in new ways, once he is back. We are excited, happy, scared and "anticipatory" as the boys in his wilderness were fond of saying!
Until then, CONGRATS and HAPPY BIRTHDAY son! I LOVE YOU!
On June 28/29th we will mark two years into our journey. We are so grateful for the time, which has been full of positive change and family healing. When we sent our son to Wilderness therapy with the help of a transport company in 2017, we took a giant leap of faith. We had no idea what to expect. Would this "reboot" work? Would he resent us? Would we get our son back?
Our decision was excruciating. But ultimately after trying everything, we knew we had to do something drastic to keep him safe and stop the downward spiral. He was just shy of his 16th birthday. Today our family can see a future as he turns 18 next month. We all have come a long way!
A couple of weeks ago, our son was home for a quick visit and I asked him a few questions, sort of an interview. His answers might surprise you!
Warrior Mom: What do you remember from that time two years ago?
Son: I don't have a lot of memories from that time, since the drugs heavily affected me. After wilderness, my memory got better at the RTC (residential treatment center).
Warrior Mom: What was the worse part for you from that time?
Son: The last part of my freshman year was the worst. I was spiraling out of control. I thought that you should have sent me sooner.
Warrior Mom: What are some of the positive parts?
Son: Being sober. My mental health is stable. My happiness level is better. My anxiety is better. My self confidence is better.
Warrior Mom: Thoughts about the two year anniversary of going to treatment?
Son: In some ways it feels short, in some ways it feels long.
Warrior Mom: Do you think that others at your local high school would benefit from treatment?
Son: Yes, I know at least fifteen kids who have been to some kind of treatment. A lot of kids from California are in Utah!
Warrior Mom: What was it like when you visited your old RTC last month?
Son: It was really surreal. It looked the same. Some new kids, a few from when I was there. I liked being there without the same rules. A bunch of us from the step down answered questions about it and what it was like to have more independence and privileges.
Warrior Mom: You also had a chance to go to one of your RTC mentor's wedding. Tell me about it.
Son: It was really fun. We were no longer just staff and students, instead we interacted like friends. I had a good time. We got to decorate the wedding get away car! It was a long day and we got back around 11pm.
Warrior Mom: You have made lots of friends in treatment. Do you keep in touch?
Son: Yeah, I text them and most of them are doing well. One friend and I have talked about working a couple of shifts at our old Wilderness program next Summer.
Warrior Mom: Wow, that sounds like fun!
Warrior Mom: Can you share some of your current goals?
Son: I want to earn money by getting a job. (He was hired at McDonald's last week and has completed orientation and two training sessions on the grill so far!) I want to move into the Bridge Independent Living House. I want to go to college. (We are going to tour University of New Mexico in July).
Warrior Mom: We are very proud of you. You should be proud of yourself, too.
Son: Thanks. I am!
We have so much to be grateful for as a family. The past two years have been filled with renewed opportunities for growth, communication and love. It has been joyful and at times tearful. The financial end of it is unimaginable! We have met so many wonderful professionals and had support from family and friends. We have made many new friends who are going through similar journeys. Thank you to all who read this blog. I know writing it helps me and hopefully I can shed some light of hope for others.
It is a one day at a time process. This hits home to me this very moment, after hearing of the passing of one of my son's most extraordinary teachers today. She was a special person to my whole family. I want to dedicate this blog post to her. Her positive outlook was contagious and she touched all of us who knew her. I am saddened with her passing, yet she was able to see my son in person not long ago and witnessed the 2.0 version of him in action. RIP dear Christy. You were there with us the past two years and of course for all the years before as well. I will miss our weekly walks and your unwavering support. Thank you. My thoughts are with your family.
This event actually happened and the best part is that it took place on Mother’s Day. It is eye opening to see how many parallels can be drawn between life in the animal kingdom and humans. I'll give you a hint....the Turkey Mama is a Warrior Mom too!
In our neighborhood in Marin County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have tons of wild life: coyotes, skunks, foxes, raccoons, deer, peacocks and recently, wild turkeys. They are big birds and hearing them make their “gobble, gobble” sounds in person, can be surprising as well as entertaining.
Our garden is filled with many blooming flowers and newly leafing trees, mainly due to our over the top rainfall this Spring. Our yard and neighborhood at large, has become a newly popular pit stop for a number of wild turkeys. I’ve witnessed them flying over head from the roof across the street to our gravel parking area. I have seen them walking up and down the nearby driveways and hear them often, especially in the early morning. It's been really fun seeing them hanging around!
Below is a photo of one turkey visitor on Easter Sunday. The brown colored, plainish looking turkeys are the females. On a couple of occasions I’ve seen a pair of male and female turkeys together, but not on this day.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and one day my partner was inspecting the fence along the property line. She almost stepped right on a turkey hiding in the deep ivy. The turkey did not want to be disturbed and made a hissing sound at her. It obviously did not want to be bothered, but why was it there? Just days before a coyote had sauntered through our backyard, in the bright daylight, and perhaps the turkey had been injured by the coyote and was just laying there trying not to move. Another thought was that the turkey was nesting.
After a quick Google search, we learned that turkeys can lay one egg per day, until she has about ten to twelve eggs, with a twenty-eight day incubation period. Then ALL the eggs hatch at the same time. The timing for this event is usually at the end of May into the first week of June. The turkey was probably sitting on her eggs, hiding in an out of the way spot, patiently waiting for them to hatch. We did not know for sure, until the next day.
As I was walking through the dining room after breakfast, I glanced through the large window, at the lower lawn area. I looked out to an unexpected and incredible scene. There was the Turkey Mama and what seemed like a ton of baby turkey chicks. They were all making baby chick sounds and scurrying on the lawn looking for tiny insects. The Turkey Mama was grooming herself by rubbing her back on the lawn. It was quite a sight! She made a big dirt spot by rubbing out of a section of the lawn.
I yelled to everyone in the house to come see what was happening. We had family visiting that weekend and everyone starting taking lots of photos, as we discovered this heart warming scene. Our Jack Russell Terrier shared our excitement, barking wildly, mainly because we could not let her outside to disturb the turkey family.
After counting and re-counting, we determined that there were thirteen little babies. This mama had her hands full. Yet, in the middle of the chaos, she found time to keep an eye on each one of them. They were scurrying all over the place, some venturing out a bit further than the rest. Others stayed right by her side. She was patient and kind. And they were as cute as could be!
In a blink of an eye, danger arose for the little chicks called "poults". A blue jay and then a squawking crow came swooping down towards them. The Turkey Mama made an aggressive move toward the predators and the attacking birds flew away for the moment. The chicks laid as low as they could, hiding in the blades of grass to keep safe, popping up when the coast was deemed clear by Turkey Mama. Then she opened her wings and gathered the whole group under her body, which is called brooding. The attacking birds flew by again and again trying to snatch one of babies, and she became the turkey version of a Warrior Mom. No one was going to hurt her offspring! She protected them and then moved the whole group into a safer location away from the crow and blue jay.
The tense moments lasted for about forty-five minutes. When it became safe again, she brought them out to explore other parts of the yard. The chicks watched and learned from the experienced Turkey Mama. She will be the center of their universe for about four to six months. The poults are unable to fly for four weeks and then will roost in trees at night. They cruised all over the yard and it was easy to see who was in charge.
At the end of the day, they returned close to the original nesting spot, but moved on within about 24 hours to a new location. I am sad to say that some of the original thirteen did not survive, but she did her best to ward off the sometimes cruel world. I watched her show her young poults how to do things for themselves. Her job was to teach them, not do it for them. She was also there to protect and defend them. She kept them moving and showed them the way. All of these takeaways were helpful reminders of our "true" jobs as parents. Hopefully we can let our kids "fly" on their own when it is time.
I do not know where they are now, perhaps we will see them walking down the street or hear them gobbling in the next mating season. My guess is that for now Turkey Mama is showing her young everything they will need to know to survive. It was an awesome Mother's Day. And oh, we also received a FaceTime call from our son in Utah. We told him about the Turkey Mama and her poults and sent him a photo in a text. I think he thought it was cool, too!
Full of gratitude, I am...
A lot has happened in the eight weeks since my 17 1/2 year old was enrolled in the step down co-ed boarding school in Southern Utah. He is doing well and according to his advisor, he is not only compliant and respectful, he has become a favorite of the staff and fellow students alike. He is friendly to everyone, continues to make new friends and has stayed out of the normal drama which can frequently happen in a high school setting.
Isn't that wonderful?
You bet! And with the good news and his positive progress, comes more responsibility and privileges. After his initial two week orientation, my son was able to request privileges towards more independence and "freedom". Every Friday there is a staff "board meeting" where the advisors and administration consider the requests of the students. The students have to fill out forms with info of what privileges they are asking for and why they should be granted.
At this boarding school, there are of course rules, but it's not just "one size fits all", as it was at the Residential Treatment Center before. Along with parent's input, the student's off campus therapist's comments, teacher's recommendations and their advisor's observations, the student moves forward at a pace that is tailor made for each of them individually. If the privileges are broken or rules disobeyed, then the consequences are given as learning opportunities rather than strictly punitive, giving the student a chance to learn from their mistakes in a healthy way. It's like a built in safety net, which can be very positive and still instructive.
So far my son has earned many privileges: trust walks in the neighborhood surrounding the campus, dorm alone time, time off campus without staff AND the use of a cell phone. The cell phone we chose to re-introduce him back into the electronics world is an old fashioned "flip phone". It can of course make phone calls, but has a lot of limits to texting and other uses that "smart phones" have made common place. Many have commented that this "retro" style phone is becoming popular again!
My son's therapist says that he likes to "front load" the electronics use for kids at the boarding school, so the patterns of usage and potential problems can be addressed right away. For my son, he jumped back into the use head first. It was actually surreal when I purchased a new phone from the AT&T store and sent it to Utah initially. It took me right back to a time before my son went to wilderness that was not pleasant to remember. At that point, his iphone use was constant. He kept the device by his bedside all night long. He texted non-stop and was on social media too frequently.
He even recently shared that as he was being told he was heading to wilderness that fateful middle of the night, that he texted a friend to "Please keep my string of texts going on SnapChat for me!" That's how out of control he was: as he was being sent away, his texting "string" was still his biggest concern.
As a family, we have discussed these old and often negative patterns in many conversations since the time he's been away (end of June 2017). We talked about the anxiety and depression that the phone has caused for many, including him. We came to an understanding that while we as parents really thought of his electronics use as an addiction and he didn't, there would have to be a balance of use/non-use in the future. We know that we are not going back to the "string tied to tin cans" kind of communication of the past and that the cell phone is here to stay, in all of our lives. Yet, that balance is so essential for our minds, bodies and overall health. That goes for kids and us adults alike!
So when my son came home for his Spring Break, five weeks after beginning the "step down program", he had his phone with him as he came off the plane. The list of his approved contacts were only a handful at that time. The list has been growing, as we continue to talk about who should be added and who should not be. Though it is somewhat limited, he is able to be in contact with his fellow classmates at the boarding school. He has reached out to some boys from wilderness and the Ranch and a few old friends from back home. We will see which ones rise to the top quickly enough. We are encouraging positive connections moving forward!
Well, as you have guessed, it was super easy for my son to resume using his phone, even a flip phone, for more time than we wanted to see. This was expected, especially after twenty months without having one to use at all. We were able to set boundaries of keeping the phone on the charger downstairs in the living room at night, so his sleep wouldn't be interrupted. That was an improvement! We did see some old patterns come back, but we talked about them in family therapy. Part of our agreement is making sure that he is active and participates in family duties and chores, when he is visiting at home and does his homework and other obligations while he is at school. He has been agreeable to those terms. Even my son's therapist says he is working on those same balances with his thirteen year old. It is a common dilemma these days and one we knew we were going to face!
As the newness of the phone wears off, it will be up to him, to make these choices of amount of use and who he can call or text. In the meantime, we have received very good weekly calls from him. It's always good to hear his voice when he's away. Our week long visit was good overall, and we want to continue the conversation of balance as we move forward with this part of our journey. It will be an important topic for many families, I suspect!
Next up, adding a computer, internet and approved social media to the mix. Privilege by privilege we are heading down the ROAD TO EIGHTEEN when he enters adulthood officially near the end of July.
As challenging as re-introducing the phone has been, we are glad he has jumped back in! The question remains: How well will he balance it all?
"The future is ours to see, Que Sera, Sera".
I remain ever grateful,
This past month has been a very exciting time for my 17 1/2 year old son! He has started a new program in a new area of Utah. This program is what is known as a "Step Down" program in the treatment world. It is a small co-ed, boarding prep school with only 37 total students and a place of many possibilities towards a bright future! Much of what he learned at his Residential Treatment Center (RTC) will be put to the test quite quickly! It will be a perfect place to practice!
We left the Ranch last week on a Thursday and drove down to Southern Utah with a car full of clothing, boots, binders and memories! The exact day and time of the departure was kept under wraps by the staff, as close to the last minute as possible, so the students keep participating and working on their issues. In my son's case, he had a vague idea of when he would be leaving, but not the exact day and time. We challenged him to continue to put in the work, in what would be his final weeks of his almost 17 month stay. He was ready and we were ready! He had learned all that they could offer and succeeded in many aspects during his time there.
One of the biggest achievements was that he finished Geometry, and took his final test (a re-test) and passed with 100% on his next to last day! Days earlier he had only scored a 47% on that same exam. In fact he passed three tests during his last week, which helped quite a bit. He had been ready to give up and accept a half credit for the course just weeks prior. But we as parents and his therapist pushed him into getting the studying done! We told him that if he completed Geometry, he would never have to take that class again, ever! Geometry was not his favorite subject (and who can blame him for thinking that!) but he did get the job done and WOW you could see his pride and excitement when he told us all about it on his final day at the RTC. My son also shared he that decided to skip his team's basketball game (his did have a sore wrist, but still getting off campus was always a treat) and so he hit the books in order to finish this daunting math class! It was one of the first times that he directly saw the pay-off for actually doing the difficult work! It was a huge accomplishment!
Another big moment for the kids leaving The Ranch is coming up with a "brand" and having it burned into the wall at the entry of the Administration Building and another on a take-away plaque to keep. There are so many unique symbols from every boy who had left prior to my son. It is considered a very special ritual and as we were landing at the Salt Lake City Airport, his therapist texted pictures to us. We would miss that moment in person, but would be able to participate in the "Goodbye Group" with his fellow students, many staff members and mentors.
As we entered the Bunkhouse, where my son had lived since the very end of September 2017, he warmly greeted us with the biggest smile imaginable! He remembered that is was my birthday and even told me, "Happy Birthday"! Those words were the best gift I could receive! I was very moved! As we were getting ready to begin the Goodbye Group, the boys in the bunkhouse all started singing "Happy Birthday" in unison. That really floored me! Even with prompting from the staff, they were able to show their sweet sides to another parent in their group! That put a big smile on my face!
There is a designated couch at one end of the main room where my son and the two of us sat. He spoke into a small hand held recording device and announced that it was his Goodbye Group, the date and then paused it, as he passed it to the first boy sitting to his right. They each turned on the recorder, introduced themselves and offered words of wisdom, encouragement or memories of my son and their joint time at The Ranch. Some spoke a short time, some a little longer, but all the messages were heartfelt and very thoughtful. The staff members all participated and added their advice and remarks to and about my son. Our son's therapist had a couple of quotes that rang true as perfect advice for his future. One was from Mohammed Ali, though I can not recall what the quote was at present. My son will get a copy of all these special sentiments and will be able to listen to them later.
As the recorder was handed to me, I was overcome with emotions. I was going to miss this place, even though it was difficult having my son so far away from home. This place, that was a safe haven for my son. A place that gave him confidence in himself, where he took care of newborn calves, where he rode horses each week, where he did his own laundry, performed in the Parent Day's Variety shows and succeeded in school! There were so many thoughts and memories swirling in my head, I had to focus on what I was going to say to him as my parting words from the RTC that was his home and school for over a year!
I turned the recorder on, and couldn't speak. His therapist was quick to retrieve a box of Kleenex as I gathered myself. It was very silent and then tears began running down my cheeks. My first words were, "WAY TO GO!" You did it. It may have been longer than we all thought it would be, but YOU DID IT! I am proud of you. You stuck with the challenges, leveling up and then even leveling down. Participating in all sorts of therapy, more than anyone can even imagine! But what stood out to me was that your effort was there, even when it didn't look like if from the outside! You wrote us weekly letters, even if they were mandatory assignments. I am so lucky to have a large stack of them. Yes, they were short and somewhat repetitive but they mattered! I looked so forward to receiving the scan of a new letter every Monday! If for some reason it came on a Tuesday, I was beside myself with anticipation of getting that letter. I was always happy to know that you were okay and were even having a good time!
I then told the boys in the room that their parents and loved ones really appreciated getting their letters, whether they realized it or not! My words to my son then returned back to a simple, yet important theme. I was proud of him, because he was present. I know that being away from home was not something he would have chosen. I know it was hard for him. But guess what, it was hard for me too, not having him home. And most importantly, his original goal (that he stated to the Admission's person on his first day) was to repair and improve the communication and relationship with his moms. I believe as he does, that he accomplished that!
"You did it son! Way to go! I love you! I can't wait to see what's next for you and your future! I'm really excited for you! It's now all up to you! And we are here for you and still have your back!"
The mic passed to my partner who said something awesome to him and I know he was listening from watching his facial expressions. The circle was complete. We then all went downstairs into the CafeA and had some delicious birthday cake that my son had made in the school's kitchen, along with his therapist. There is a tradition (at the Ranch) of getting a cake on your birthday made with your favorite ingredients and that was true for me too: chocolate cake, chocolate icing with Reese's peanut butter cups and Reese's pieces all over the top! What a birthday I had! We said our last goodbyes and hit the road down to Southern Utah. The next day was going to be big! Entering the Step Down program where my son knew he needed be, for now.
In the car, we talked about our various memories of the Ranch and gave tribute to all those people who helped us along the way. We are all excited to see what's next! Our journey continues..... Stay tuned!
I AM ONE FORTUNATE,
“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -”
Happy New Year! Our Christmas visit was awesome! My son came home and that meant that we stayed home for a whole week! No traveling, just staying put! We had a family Christmas, we played basketball, we went shopping and we saw some old friends! Many of those friends had not seen our son in quite some time. They were happily surprised to see a smiling face of a grown teen when they greeted each other.
"What a change!", they shared with me.
"Can you believe it? He's smiling and happy!" I replied.
"Really, he looks great!" they added.
In this case, the change was good. Re-connecting with friends from early childhood was important. They knew each other before the teenage years, when they first started school and when they were just learning how to ride bikes. They had lost their first teeth together, and were once so little and innocent, it was hard to imagine they all had grown up to be the big kids now! Some are driving, some have jobs and some like my son, have learned important lessons about life and friendship by a change of scenery and a path less traveled.
They asked him questions about Wilderness. They asked him questions about sleeping without a tent (my son's choice by the end of 92 days so he didn't have to keep setting it up every day!) They asked him what it was like to not have a phone.
"Wow, I couldn't do that! I probably use my phone too much, I guess!", one realized.
My son has been without a phone (or computer) for over 500 days. What a difference in his brain! He has less anxiety and less depression. He has less to worry about like keeping Snap Chat strings alive or posting on Instagram or getting a ton of LIKES. It's a simple life when electronics aren't taking you over! Oh, did I mention that my son read a book over Christmas vacation? He also had conversations with us. And his distraction level is WAY down! That's another nice change!
Looking back over 2018 we can certainly say that we are moving in a good direction. Yet, just when one feels settled, change comes along to shake things up a bit! Change is a good thing in this case! And the theme of the unknown keeps coming back again and again!
This coming weekend we are touring a STEP DOWN Boarding School together. It is located in Southern Utah. This new environment will allow my son more independence and a chance to make decisions for himself. The school is Co-Ed and that will be a BIG change from the all boys RTC (residential treatment center) he has been at for the past fifteen months. They have school in the AM, and that will be a change from the afternoon schooling at the Ranch. There will be many new adjustments ahead. We think it could be a good fit for a young man heading toward adulthood and his 18th birthday in July. He has more time to practice what he has learned in the past year and a half, before he comes home for good.
We are excited to see a new part of Utah and discover new places in that beautiful state. We know that change is important for growth. This move will be a different experience, but exciting at the same time. We are looking forward to the new changes that are a comin' our way!
I am embracing the unknown! Thanks for sharing our journey!
In the world of treatment, there are standards and rules in place which makes the program's expectations very clear. For the parents who are far away in distance and without daily contact, there is much that is uncertain and unknown about, regarding our kids. Of course there is a weekly scanned letter that comes to my IN BOX via email on Mondays, usually late in the day. That short letter has a tiny bit of info in it. My son is not a long letter writer, but anything is better than nothing. He usually says that his week has been good. He will often write about what movies they watched for "Movie Night", and if he earned a chance to go to it. He hardly ever answers questions from the letter we sent to him the previous Thursday in our weekly letter exchanges. But at least it is something!
There is also the weekly Skype call every Tuesday afternoon. About half of the call is a discussion with his therapist on what's going on with our son. The other half is comprised of our son reading his therapy assignment to us followed by our asking questions or making comments on his work. Most of the assignments are very thoughtful and complete. Some have parts that need to be amended with additional information by him. We get a really short time for "just personal banter". But at least it is something!
This past Thanksgiving we all had a good visit. Our 17 year old flew on his own to the SF Bay Area, on the Friday after the holiday and was able to stay for one week. He did not earn a HOME VISIT this time, instead it was categorized as an OUT OF STATE visit which meant we were not able to go together to our house, but rather to our cabin in Nor Cal instead. We were excited to share that time and also re-connect with our grown nephew, who took the Amtrak train from Portland, OR to join us for the visit. Our nephew had lived with us a few years ago and is about ten years older than our son. We were all so happy to see him and to be together again. The last time we saw him was on our Disneyland trip in April of 2017, which was during a difficult time in our past, B.W (Before Wilderness). Our post Thanksgiving visit was something special.
As I write this, we know our son will be coming back to California on December 23rd. What we don't know is if he has earned the chance to be at home, or if we have to go on the road again and back up to our cabin. We are waiting for the verdict from his Treatment Team. The group goes over his progress and evaluates what tasks were asked of him during the last few weeks. Our son is back at Level 2 and he doesn't seem to be moving back to a 3 any time soon. Nothing is ever quick in our experience in the treatment world. We are still very proud of all the work he has done, day in and day out; week in and week out. None the less, we are still up in the air regarding our plans. But at least we will see him.
Being up in the air becomes an opportunity to live with uncomfortable feelings and and it forces us to realize that we can only live day to day in this world. Looking at our situation through a positive lens also gives us a chance to stay present and not to focus on what we can not control as parents. Our son on the other hand, holds the key to his future in his own hands. It is up to him ultimately. Letting go of our expectations has been one of the biggest lessons we have learned during the past 18 months. Yes, our son has been away for 18 months and yet we have been lucky enough to have seen him in all but three or four of those months. We continue to try and re-build our connections, and we are happy to have the opportunity to do so. That is something!
Fast forward to right now, today. As I finish writing this blog post, I am happy to report that our son is home with us for Christmas. What a wonderfully meaningful present for us and the whole family. We are truly blessed. We are sticking close to home and get to spend a whole week together. I want to wish "Happy Holidays" to you and your families. Thanks for sharing our journey. More to come in the upcoming weeks. 2019 will be a big year! And that is something to be thankful for!
I am Warrior Mom!
Keeping the Faith!
This post is a bit different, but a very important one, none the less. Have you seen this article from The New York Times? It's titled: "A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley" by Nellie Bowles. After reading this piece dated October 26, 2018, I was reminded of our old life, when my young teenage son was on his phone, computer, playing video games and watching TV, ALL of the time. It was a big part of what ruined our family life.
"It's time to get off", I would say to him.
"Okay, I will, I will, I just have to finish this game....post....video....text....movie....coding....fill in the blank. It didn't matter that I turned it off or took it away, he found a way to get it back.
Over and over I would ask for him to stop and he wouldn't or couldn't. Part of it was our fault for letting him have the devices and part of it was his fault for using them. However, according to this article, it is becoming well known in the tech community that part of the problem lies with them too! Most of the big wigs in the industry do not let their own kids have much screen time and have at least monitored it. Steve Jobs' young kids weren't allowed to use Apple iPads! Bill and Melinda Gates wish they would have waited longer to give their four kids cell phones.
What positively changed for us was my son's forced absence of screens. In the Wilderness Therapy Program my son went to last summer, at fifteen years of age, there was no screen use at all. Period. Cold turkey. Nada. What that did for his brain was let some "green" in and allow nature to cleanse and let his mind mature on it's own. His mood became better. He actually could participate in conversations without constant distraction. Without the use, mis-use and over-use of screens, it made him a better person. He became less isolated and ultimately happier.
Another plus from no screen time, was that the majority of his anxiety went away. Bingo! What a concept. If we as adults, who already have formed brains, have a problem, how is a young person supposed to put down the screen? This article points out that the developers know how to program their content to go right to the pleasure centers of our brains. We are at a severe disadvantage that allows the devices to win every time, just like the casinos in Las Vegas, the house (the screen) will always win!
This article is eye-opening to the degree that those in Silicon Valley understand what their products are doing to the people they are selling to (us parents). One tech magazine higher up calls it closer to "cocaine than to candy" as to effects on the brain. Is anyone paying attention? I hope so! It's all around us, and we are paying them to do it to us!
As far as our story goes, my son is able to use a computer to type some school assignments at the RTC. He still has no phone use and no internet use. When we visit with him, we talk about how we will move forward with technology in the near future. The ironic part is that technology is an area of interest and skill for him. We will continue to explore and examine the pluses and minuses of that use. In the meantime, read the article and ponder why Silicon Valley is keeping this dark secret?
I am Warrior Mom. I am a self proclaimed Techy and I'm NOW calling a halt to the excess use of it! Let's put some balance back into our lives, especially our teens!
Modern Map Art takes your favorite cities, mountains, and places and turns them into beautiful works of art. Our maps are a great way to display that nostalgia in your home. They make great gifts, too!