Opinion & Essays
- Jun, 1996 Issue #40
"Love bears all things;"
-1 Corinthians 13
by: Jackie and Dave Morrow
(The following is from one of my first clients to find me
through my Homepage on the Internet's World Wide Web. Sharing their experiences might be reassuring to other parents facing the same
hard placement decisions. -LON)
It was then, when there seemed to be no answers, that Dave tapped into the
Internet to discover "WILDERNESS" treatment centers. That was the beginning of our own investigation for which I believe Dave receives
full credit. With the help of an Idaho consultant, two wilderness programs were selected.
The first program was the Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy
Treatment Program which operates out of Oregon. Their main objective is to have small groups of troubled teenagers, groups numbering
about six-seven, survive backpacking (each carrying fifty-plus pounds of food, clothes, tents) in the Cascade Mountains or deserts.
Each teenager is responsible for themselves and their team members in food preparation, daily camp set-up and take-down. They must
start their own fires for food preparation and locate their water for washing and cooking. The kids write daily in their journals
of their personal feelings, their reactions to nature and team members, their lessons on philosophy, religion, and experiences surviving
the wilderness. Each is also to focus on their main problem, the reason why they're there, and write a recovery plan for themselves.
Mike had a "jump-start" for this particular program....
We flew out to Portland on Good Friday, rented a car and immediately started
driving south four hours into the mountains. On Saturday morning at 9 A.M. we joined Mike for the first time in a month and met his
teammates and their families. It was a beautiful, sunny, brisk day and the setting for this meeting was breathtaking. On a floor of
pine needles in the pine woods of the Cascade Mountain Range all six families formed a ring around a continuously burning wood fire
for nine hours talking and listening to each other's stories. It was directed by the three therapists who were the supervisors of
the six kids on the trail and one of the doctors of the program. The focus was directed on the kids and their problems, and their
personal growth through this trek. There were many tears and there was laughter...but more importantly understanding, respect, and
pride of their survival.
Our impressions of Mike were these. He seemed the best one going through
and coming out of this journey of six. He and one other, I believed, best persevered this trek. They were the only ones who could
build and start a fire. He was the first one to initiate a very articulate written plan for his recovery when coming home. When talking,
he was clear, focused, and articulate. He answered all of our questions honestly and sincerely. He told us of certain actions that
he was ashamed of and said he was sorry. Dave and I were very moved. It was a tremendous healing experience that I'll always embrace
and cherish. He told us what he liked best and that was reaching a pinnacle of a mountain and looking out over the panorama of the
plains below. I believe that was near the end of the trek and they had covered at least two hundred miles. The climax was each teen
spending three days totally alone to think and write about their life. This was at the end. He told us what he hated the most...THE
FOOD...he was sick and tired of eating oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast and pinto beans and rice for dinner at night...every
day...for three weeks. The "good food" was their lunch with cheeses, crackers, oranges, and apples. They were supplied every week
and the kids would carry their lunch supplies and ration it to themselves. Well, you know what happened in the first week...the kids
pretty much ate their week's supply of lunch in the first day or two....
[After leaving], We took the scenic route through the mountains. We stopped
for breakfast and THAT WAS A RIOT! Mike ate three huge breakfasts. He started off with pancakes and country ham...then eggs, hashbrowns,
and toast...then went on to sausage gravy over biscuits. We thought he wouldn't be able to finish eating...he did. Then we thought
he'd be sicker than a dog...he wasn't. By the time we were in the airport and after buying tennis shoes there, he was ready for lunch.
After we arrived in Las Vegas and in a rental car about 8:30 P.M. he asked about the possibility of Chinese food. No problem. We watched
him shovel down a couple thousand calories before we were back on the road at 11 P.M. for two more hours of driving before checking
into a motel in Utah.
Checking Mike into Brightway, which was a holding hospital until he flew
out to the Pacific, was the hardest and most heart-breaking part for me and Dave. Mike wanted to come home with us. We knew he couldn't
have tried harder to show us that he'd changed. It was there in the hospital after the tour that I "lost it." I told the director
that I didn't think Mike belonged there and he was a fine kid who wasn't at all like some of the kids I saw there. We had handed over
the checks, the two twenty-page packet information sheets, the luggage, the medical information and the endless number of release
forms... AND I WANTED TO TAKE MIKE HOME. The teacher of the kids there and two therapists talked to me. They told me Mike would definitely
benefit and love being in Western Samoa but he had to get his passport and be medically checked out, etc. I finally walked away with
David but with a lot of tears. The hardest loss of my life has been that of my mother...this is a close second. It's been about two
weeks now since we last were with Mike.
We talked to him a week ago last Sunday. He arrived in Western Samoa a week
ago today and we've talked to his caseworker last Thursday evening. He was adjusting and told her to tell us that this was better
than the last place (Brightway.) We will be in contact with his caseworker once a week on Thursday evening. We've already sent one
letter by fax on Sunday night and two packages containing underwear (would you believe we forgot to pack underwear?), snorkel/mask,
Dave and I are adjusting to the change in our family dynamics. We miss Mike.
This week has been our first normal week without working out some major problem. Taxes were sent out on time and we're meeting all
our obligations. We've been going out together which is almost a new and strange experience. AND WE ARE RELAXING. We have changed
through all this for the better....
Thank you for being patient with this letter. I'm enclosing some pictures
of Mike. I know your prayers are with him and our family.
Copyright © 1996, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced
without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)