Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Friend in Need...

This morning my friend's son woke up to his second day in wilderness. For another bright young man the journey has begun to make his way back to the high potential future everyone expected for him.

I was sitting at my desk preparing for the lifts to open when I received a text. "Have time for a call?" It sounded benign enough. "Sure", I replied. My friend and former co-worker wanted to call to tell his story of pain and disappointment surrounding the behaviors of his 17 year old. The young man had been smoking weed and doing other drugs (probably), seemed depressed, was spending excessive time playing video games and had been involved in some petty theft. His grades were well below his potential and he appeared to be in a downward spiral. The family had employed the services of an Educational Consultant and the recommendation was a stint in Wilderness Therapy.

The graphic detail of my friend's story caused me to flash back to the trauma and angst I felt five months ago when we were planning to place Jack at Open Sky. I knew we had to do something. It was clear that I couldn't provide Jack with what he needed. I could not believe that my son was in such a situation. It couldn't be happening to my family. This rendition of "this is gonna hurt me a lot more that it's gonna you" could not have been more true.

My friend first learned about Open Sky from me. I revealed my family's situation to him and others at a party we held for Lindsay's 50th birthday. He sat listening intently as I told of the circumstances and emotion that preceded Jack's leaving. He offered support and kindness going forward.

The second time my friend found himself talking about Open Sky was when an expert was suggesting his son go there. He called me to ask my impressions of the "results" of Jack's time there. I have nothing but great things to say about the organization and personnel there. Knowing it would be a gut-wrenching experience it was my advice that he follow through and commit his son to the ten or so weeks that he would be.

I don't think someone can hide the kind of pain that comes with this decision. That said, I have another coworker that has tried to do just that. She has a daughter that has been "sent off" a couple of times. The details of the young woman's location and condition have been a closely guarded secret. My daughter, who is a friend and classmate of the girl doesn't know what's happening. All she hears are the rumors as to her condition and circumstance. I can only guess that it's shame that prevents the family from sharing their story.

I guess the point of this post is that, while it was painful, Lindsay and I were able to provide a small amount of comfort to another family that is going through a horrible experience because we share Jack's story. When Jack came back from wilderness his motto was "vulnerability is power". He has learned that by exposing our weaknesses we can address and overcome them. I have learned that we can also join with others to provide support and make it acceptable to experience problems.

There are thousands of teenagers out there that need help getting back on track. Shame and embarrassment sometimes get in the way. There is nothing to hide. All of us have a path and in some cases that path involves corrective actions. Nobody's perfect. It's time to lift the veil off of behavioral and mental health issues.

Consider contributing to one of these funds so families that need help can afford it.

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