A Letter of Gratitude: My Son’s Journey

Life-is-what-you-make-of-itAs many of you know, I don’t post much on FB and when I do, it’s rarely personal.  This is a long one and many will not finish.  I’m not posting it for sympathy or kudos.  I’m posting it for a few reasons – to let others know they are not alone, to thank a handful of people and for those who know someone to give them some support.  

Many years ago my son was asked ‘Did your mom prepare you for the path, or did she prepare the path for you?’ Interestingly enough our answers were different.   Over the past few years, my son has struggled with what is now being called ‘A Failure to Launch’.   It seems pretty rampant in kids of his generation – we as parents take care of everything and so our children never really learned how to cope with the negatives in life (aka We Prepared the Path!)  My son would go for periods of time where I didn’t worry about him and then something ‘bad’ would happen and he would turn to alcohol and drugs.  This had been going on for about seven years. I was told to kick him out, put him in the military, etc. Not an easy thing for a parent to do – he’s my son and I love him, how could I do that? The timing wasn’t right for either of us, until this past fall.   I’d reached my limit and told him he needed to get help or he was no longer welcome in my life.   You’d think that was the hard part, boy did I learn a lot over the next few days!

There are so many programs out there, how do you know what is the right one?  We both used the internet to try to find the right place – we wanted to deal with the cause, not just the the symptom (abuse).  Didn’t want somewhere local – at 23 he could check  himself out and his ‘friends’ would rescue him, didn’t want one that was AA or religion based, etc..   With so many options – how do you know what works, what doesn’t.  I’d heard stories of people going bankrupt and of kids that were on their nth program.  We’d been told not to send him to any type of program in Florida, we wanted a wilderness program… it was daunting!   And then we lucked out when we called a program that recommended an Educational Consultant.   What a god send.  So here is my first THANK YOU –  Dick Baroody!  Dick spent hours with my son (and I) to find out what the issue was, what motivated him, my thoughts and feelings and then he recommended four places.  Places that he had personally been to and he felt would work for my son.  We looked at them, but my son got the final say.  He picked Pacific Quest – in Hawaii (I know, I should have a problem that sends me to Hawaii!), based on horticultural therapy and Hawaiian principles of life.   All in my son’s wheelhouse!   He decided on October 23rd  that PQ was the program that he would go to ‘for me’.  The next morning at 9:00AM we boarded a plane to DC, that would eventually find us in LAX. He to continue on to Hilo and me back to PA.  Dick worked with PQ to expedite the process and while we were in the air, my neighbor faxed all the paperwork!  Putting my son on that last leg was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I watched the gate close and as we texted each other our final good-byes and love you’s the doubt and insecurity was overwhelming.   And right on cue, Dick was texting/calling me – giving me the support I needed to stay strong.    My son landed some five hours later and PQ sent me a text that they had him.  They took his phone and his laptop and I was now dependent on others to take care of my baby!

Here is my second THANK YOU – Andrea Sussel!  She was my son’s therapist during his stay at PQ.   She and Dick kept me informed and kept me SANE.  While their main goal was to help my son, they also helped me.   When I had my doubts they gave me encouragement, when my son signed himself out, they were right there with me in spirit, helping me to stay strong, they prepared me for his ‘rescue’ letter (that letter that says this place is a prison, they abuse me, etc… — come on who won’t believe their kid over complete strangers!)   They gave me weekly updates and PQ sent me pictures. Over the first 6+ weeks I felt that my son was gaming them, I worried that it wasn’t working.  And then something clicked – maybe it was just time, maybe it was the Impact letters- don’t know and don’t care, I started to see a difference.  And then he did his Rite of Passage.  I will not go into the details – they are kept secret for a reason, but that phone call on December 24th – it was the BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER.   My son was committed to being sober, he was looking forward to going to a Transition House, he knew that he couldn’t come home now and maybe ever… all the arguments I was prepared for – were gone.   Dick and I talked and he came up with three Transition programs for us to look at.    So here’s my third THANK YOU, to the program manager at the Transition program.   He and my son had a long talk (as did I) and it seemed the right fit.

On January 6th my son completed his stay at Pacific Quest.  We got to spend two days trying to fit in as much as we could before he left Hawaii (yes, he wants to go back, who wouldn’t!) and on January 9th we parted in Phoenix, him for Denver and me back home.  Was it hard – Yes.  But as he said to me on October 24th as he boarded the plane to  Hilo – “I got this mom”.   He was ready to face the next step in this journey.  He’s been in Denver for a little over a week and he seems happy, he’s working on finding an internship, he’s settled in, has gotten back into rock climbing and disc golf…

And it is a journey… he needs to learn how to cope, how to pick himself up when life knocks him down, to be independent.    I need to learn to let him make his mistakes and let him clean up after!  I need to  embrace the positive and forget the negative (forgive and forget!)   We both have a long way to go and for the first time in years I really believe that we can make it.   And now to my last THANK YOU – to those friends that were there daily over the past three months (okay past seven years!) – you know who you are!   There were others that showed support – but not a day went by that one of these amazing women didn’t reach out just to see how I was doing (my neighbor had an edge as we walk our dogs together every day!).  All texted me in Hawaii on my first day there asking how I was doing and how my son was.    While Dick was wonderful – they were extraordinary!   And I know they will continue to be my support team.

There is so much more I could write and that will have to wait for another day!   And one last THANK YOU to all that have helped my son and I on this  journey…

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