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Opinion & Essays - Nov, 1999 Issue #63

Wilderness Quest Confirms Old Lessons
By Jackie (A Parent)
Wilderness Quest
E-mail: angela@wildernessquest.com

Hi! My name is Jackie. I am the mother of a lovely, talented, and extraordinarily intelligent 16 year old, drug addict know to Wilderness Quest as Kat (Katherine). The story of alcohol/drug addiction is an old one. I grew up with it, I married into it, and then I moved 1000 miles to get it out of my life. For many years moving away seemed successful—for the most part my life was unaffected by the drinking and drug use of others. 

I first learned about the Family Disease called Alcoholism/Drug Dependency when I got a job right out of graduate school as a therapist in a small Alcohol/Drug Program. When I started the job, I knew nothing about addiction except for the crazy effects alcohol and drug use by my family members and husband had on my life. It was there I lived and worked for five years the steps of recovery through AlAnon. For the first time in my life, my family, and the feelings I had about my relationships began to make sense. It was there I realized that all the time and effort I put into trying to fix my family was pointless, as I had no control over anyone’s life but my own. When I moved away, I took a lot of what I had learned with me. Yet the denial in this disease is powerful. Although I knew the genetic component to addiction and acknowledged the high risk symptoms in my daughter, I ran back to denial when Kat’s attitude toward life began to change in puberty. I wanted it to be just a rebellious phase of adolescence. I began to respond to her – not in the manner AlAnon or even by education taught me—but in the manner of an afraid, hurt, and disappointed Mom. I didn’t want her to be an addict, so I snatched back control, and was going to make her put her talents and intelligence to good use. 

Well the old story of addiction unfolded. Kat began skipping school, grades plummeted, she began using foul language, refusing to cooperate around home, taking what she wanted without asking, sneaking out at night, engaging in indiscriminate sex – using alcohol and drugs on a regular basis. Panicked, filled with hurt and anger, I laid out the consequences and began yelling to make sure she knew she didn’t have control over the home. We had already been involved in counseling, but Kat could out talk the Counselors, and was able to convince them there wasn’t anything wrong with her. Twice I admitted her to a local adolescent psychiatric unit emphasizing her alcohol/drug use and symptomology. But even to the professionals, Kat was too smart and too talented to be an addict. They decided it must be depression, and Prozac was recommended to help resolve her problems. No improvement. Her behaviors and attitude and alcohol/drug use escalated. She began to run away from home, and made it clear she was not going to accept any consequences for her behavior or attitude from her Mom. I began looking into longer- term programs. By chance, I was given the video on Wilderness Quest to review. By this time I had already reviewed quite a few. As I watched the video, I was reminded of what I had learned years ago at the Alcohol/Drug Program, and I acknowledged that my responsibility as a Mom was not to fix Kat’s life but to provide her with the knowledge and skills to fix her own life. When I called Wilderness Quest, Angela greeted me with warmth and understanding – no promises to fix Kat. As we were making the arrangements there was one major obstacle – Kat had run away a couple of weeks prior and I didn’t know were she was staying. Prayers work. The day before she would need to leave in order to start with a new group, a young man knocked at my door. She had been staying with him and his mother for the last three days. I told him about her alcohol/drug problem and about Wilderness Quest. He agreed to encourage her to go. 

It was hectic but the flight was arranged and she went to Utah. I hadn’t met the folks at Wilderness Quest and I didn’t have the money to fly to Utah to check out the program first hand. I also knew that videos often present only an element of truth. But the Wilderness Quest video had familiarity, the principles and concepts were so close to what I had learned when I worked the A/D program, and the warmth and understanding Angela shared gave me hope and fail in Kat’s safety. 

Although she agreed to go, Kat did not give any level of commitment. She stayed in the program about nine weeks but did not graduate. There were no surprises. The communication from her counselors through weekly parent reports, and weekly telephone sessions with her therapist, Michelle, were excellent. The video did not describe a program they wished they had; instead, a program that is. Although the concepts and principles taught at Wilderness Quest may not be new, Mr. Wells found a way to package them in a most valuable and useful way. The counselors, Dan, Wendy, Chris, and Andy “kept the faith” when most would have lost patience and just given up on Kat, as she refused to cooperate. Michelle, our therapist, demonstrated a great knack for keeping it simple and honest. The Family Program was powerful and genuine. Karen helped me realize that no matter how far away I travel, Alcohol/Drug Addiction is a lifetime Family Disease, and serenity within the storm can be a reality. Kat shared a lot of her journal writing and workbook with me. In one of her entries she stated, “I’ve met my match in Wilderness Quest.” 

During Family, she was honest that she had not reached her “bottom,” and did not have a commitment to recovery. Although she was not ready to stop drug use, I knew from her changed attitude and the way she communicated that she learned skills necessary for survival, and the requirements for recovery. I learned that the Family Disease will not disappear no matter how many miles I travel. I’m back in AlAnon and my hurt and anger isn’t a focus at all. Thank you, Wilderness Quest for guiding me back to the12 steps and for teaching Katherine the tools of survival. 

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