Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A New Start

I'm making a new start with this blog, after an absence of several months. The reasons for my absence have been many, but my return today has a purpose: To use this forum as a journal of my experiences as the parent of a child in a residential rehabilitation facility.
My wife and I made the very difficult decision in March to enroll our 15-year-old daughter in a rehab facility for teens who have succumbed to the temptations of drugs, alcohol, sex and other dangerous substances and activities.
The decision was made after attempts to address these issues through counseling, outpatient rehab, stricter parenting, and all the other usual suspects. Nothing had worked, and our child had gotten to the point where we could no longer provide the safety and control she needed.
A rehab counselor told us that if we did not get our child into a facility, she would likely not live to see her 18th birthday. Within five days, our daughter was at her new home and we were addressing our guilt and anger.
In one way, we lucked out. Our daughter went willingly to the facility -- even filled out her own paperwork --and so we were spared the horrendouse experience many families undergo of having her "transported" by a team of strongmen.
In fact, our trip from our home in Southern California to Southern Utah was filled with pleasurable reminiscences despite our trepidation about dropping her off and leaving her in the hands of total strangers.
It has now been more than five months since we have seen our child. We have had four one-hour phone calls with her, most recently this morning. We exchange letters on roughly a weekly basis, and we talk on alternate weeks to her therapist and to a "family rep" who keeps us up-to-date on our daughter's activities and progress.
My wife and I are participating in a series of family seminars, in which we focus not on our daughter but on ourselves. We all carry around enormous baggage -- our attitudes, assumptions and beliefs -- that needs to be examined and challenged. The concept of our program is not that our daughter's difficulties are the fault of the parents, but that something important has broken in the family and the whole family needs to work together to fix it.
I believe this much more strongly today than I did five months ago, when we sent our daughter away. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the mixed messages I received in my own upbringing, and the coping mechanisms I developed during those years and have used over the rest of my life --withdrawal, frustration, resentment, blame, anger.
I want to use this blog as a vehicle for reflection and I welcome feedback from anyone who stops by. More later.