2 Years…….Full of Gratitude and Positive Changes


On June 28/29th we will mark two years into our journey. We are so grateful for the time, which has been full of positive change and family healing. When we sent our son to Wilderness therapy with the help of a transport company in 2017, we took a giant leap of faith. We had no idea what to expect. Would this “reboot” work? Would he resent us? Would we get our son back?

Our decision was excruciating. But ultimately after trying everything, we knew we had to do something drastic to keep him safe and stop the downward spiral. He was just shy of his 16th birthday. Today our family can see a future as he turns 18 next month. We all have come a long way!

A couple of weeks ago, our son was home for a quick visit and I asked him a few questions, sort of an interview. His answers might surprise you!

Interview with my son

Warrior Mom: What do you remember from that time two years ago?
Son: I don’t have a lot of memories from that time, since the drugs heavily affected me. After wilderness, my memory got better at the RTC (residential treatment center).
Warrior Mom: What was the worse part for you from that time?
Son: The last part of my freshman year was the worst. I was spiraling out of control. I thought that you should have sent me sooner.


Warrior Mom: What are some of the positive parts?
Son: Being sober. My mental health is stable. My happiness level is better. My anxiety is better. My self confidence is better.

Warrior Mom: Thoughts about the two year anniversary of going to treatment?
Son: In some ways it feels short, in some ways it feels long.

Warrior Mom: Do you think that others at your local high school would benefit from treatment?
Son: Yes, I know at least fifteen kids who have been to some kind of treatment. A lot of kids from California are in Utah!

Warrior Mom: What was it like when you visited your old RTC last month?
Son: It was really surreal. It looked the same. Some new kids, a few from when I was there. I liked being there without the same rules. A bunch of us from the step down answered questions about it and what it was like to have more independence and privileges.

Warrior Mom: You also had a chance to go to one of your RTC mentor’s wedding. Tell me about it.
Son: It was really fun. We were no longer just staff and students, instead we interacted like friends. I had a good time. We got to decorate the wedding get away car! It was a long day and we got back around 11pm.

Warrior Mom: You have made lots of friends in treatment. Do you keep in touch?
Son: Yeah, I text them and most of them are doing well. One friend and I have talked about working a couple of shifts at our old Wilderness program next Summer.

Warrior Mom: Wow, that sounds like fun!
Son: Yeah.

Warrior Mom: Can you share some of your current goals?
Son: I want to earn money by getting a job. (He was hired at McDonald’s last week and has completed orientation and two training sessions on the grill so far!) I want to move into the Bridge Independent Living House. I want to go to college. (We are going to tour University of New Mexico in July).

Warrior Mom: We are very proud of you. You should be proud of yourself, too.
Son: Thanks. I am!

We have so much to be grateful for as a family. The past two years have been filled with renewed opportunities for growth, communication and love. It has been joyful and at times tearful. The financial end of it is unimaginable! We have met so many wonderful professionals and had support from family and friends. We have made many new friends who are going through similar journeys. Thank you to all who read this blog. I know writing it helps me and hopefully I can shed some light of hope for others.

It is a one day at a time process. This hits home to me this very moment, after hearing of the passing of one of my son’s most extraordinary teachers today. She was a special person to my whole family. I want to dedicate this blog post to her. Her positive outlook was contagious and she touched all of us who knew her. I am saddened with her passing, yet she was able to see my son in person not long ago and witnessed the 2.0 version of him in action. RIP dear Christy. You were there with us the past two years and of course for all the years before as well. I will miss our weekly walks and your unwavering support. Thank you. My thoughts are with your family.


Shhhush…It’s a Secret

Shush...It's a Secret

After filling out the LONG online application for the Wilderness Program our son would be going to, we were given a TO DO list a mile long to make it happen. And we had to keep all of this a secret and under wraps or he would resist. The list of things we needed to get accomplished was scheduling a physical exam with the pediatrician, getting an up-to-date dental exam, ordering another retainer (since he lost one previously) and a finding a host of other things that needed to be scanned. I needed to find his report cards, student ID and get images of the front and back of the health insurance card. We needed to re-arrange big money and free up some room on our credit cards in order to pay for everything.

It seemed overwhelming but it actually gave me an action list of things TO DO  each day, so I was occupied. The last thing I wanted to do was to tip our hand and give away the Big Secret. So, we went on lock down. Any conversation we had with friends and family was on a different topic. No more posts on Facebook. The hardest part was that I still had to converse with other parents of our son, since he went “missing in action” a number of nights. I told them nothing.

My son would take his cell phone, but then go to places that had little or no coverage. He would take an extra charger, yet his phone would go “dead”. What a pain it was to try and communicate with him. Things couldn’t get worse, could they? YES! However, I knew we were on the right track, when at my son’s physical appointment, I asked to speak privately to the Doctor before he gave the exam. I told him what was up, and he firmly “shook” my hand when I told him our plan. “Way to go!” he said. I felt empowered. This was the same doctor that examined our two day old infant son and said he was a bit jaundiced so, “Give him a sun bath” for a few minutes. The same doctor that treated a young boy with the stomach flu and pink eye. Now we were dealing with not going to school, screen addiction and marijuana. How did this happen? No one tells you it actually gets harder, not easier!

The last piece of the puzzle was giving the final okay to the Wilderness program and setting up the transport company. It was getting down to the wire. There was one final spot saved for our son for the end of June or we would have to wait another month to begin. NO MORE WAITING! We confirmed the dates and then had to get through three seemingly long weeks without giving the secret away. Find out if we did it in tomorrow’s blog post.

Breathing a sigh of relief,


The Tipping Point in Our Decision

Our Tipping Point

It was strikingly clear that our decision was the right one. Wilderness it was. But how would we know which one? Our Education Consultant said it was all about the people. And she knew most of them working at these places, from her years in the field. She also said don’t go looking around the internet because they can all paint a wonderful picture with a well done website, which made perfect sense.​

I wanted to get a sense of what the therapy part of the Wilderness programs were like, so a family member gave me a set of videos from their child’s experience six years before at a program in Utah. I watched it and started to get sense what a gift the nature component played in helping kids. Their brains needed to have the serenity of the earth and it’s elements to relax and change.

The world was moving too quickly for some and out of control for many, including my son. Along with his ADHD which appears to create a lag in his development, so does using massive amounts of technology. The cherry on top was the abuse of substances like marijuana. So my fifteen year old was at least two years behind in his emotional development. WOW!

I was at my rope’s end so I posted something on Facebook that showed my vulnerability. It said something like: “Not sure what the future holds, private school, boarding school or wilderness?” Very simple, but lots of my friends responded. “Hang in there!” and “This too shall pass” were in the comments back to me. And then along side of my posting was an ad for Blue Fire Wilderness. It said something like “Wilderness Therapy Programs can help get kids and teens lives back on track – Call today”.

So I called. A very sympathetic voice answered and talked with me for about forty-five minutes. He was so caring and helpful by answering my questions that I wanted to check it out. In fact he told me he knew our Ed. Consultant. So we mentioned this place to her and though it was fairly new (since 2014), it was in the same location as a well known program before it, so she knew a little bit about it from that perspective.

We filled out the online application which is daunting to say the least. I was like a “mad woman” typing quickly to fill in all the questions of what led us to the position we were in currently. We did compare it to another program that our Ed. Consultant suggested and it was a toss up. Both were exactly what we were looking for. The tipping point had to do with Equine Therapy and the activity based model that Blue Fire Wilderness used.

The other program was outstanding and I also filled out an application there, too. Boy what a ton of work, but it was formalizing our need to send our son. A big question was the cost. These places are not cheap. Seriously, not cheap (over $500 per day, yes per day!) We are still waiting to hear if were will get any compensation from our insurance company, but we worked on our finances and increased our line of credit and we were off to the races. It’s only money right, when you are talking about saving your son’s life?

Come back tomorrow to see how we kept this secret in the weeks before the admission date was scheduled. There were many ducks to put into a row, it kept us all very busy!

Getting Stronger,


Our Day to Day Baloney


As each day ended, I would take a deep breath and say to myself, “Well, got through another day”. Honestly, that is no way to live! The stress was killing us! We had to come to a decision of how we were going to get more help, and quick.

We talked to therapists, consultants, school administrators, friends and fellow parents about private schools, boarding schools, boot camps, alternative schools and wilderness programs. We continued to encourage our son to go to his weekly therapy session that cost a bundle. We read books and blogs about teens. We talked to family members who worked in schools and in counseling. We had to exhaust all possibilities before making the last resort decision of wilderness.

Then as the session with our son’s psychiatrist was finishing up, the Doctor called me into the office, alone.
“Did you know that your son was HIGH today for his appointment?” he asked.
“No, really?” I sighed. “Well that’s it. He is so going to Wilderness!” I exclaimed.
What a blow that was and how sad I felt. This was not going to be easy, but we had no other choice. It was a matter of saving his life. He was only fifteen!

The next day I called a “transport company” recommended by our Education Consultant. They explained how they worked and what was involved in getting our son to a wilderness program. I took notes so I would remember, because my brain was now in a huge blanket of fog. I asked some questions and went online to fill out the application and paperwork.

Wow, this was getting very REAL! But it actually was decided for us. NONE of us could continue to deal with the day to day “BALONEY” (you fill in any word you like here) that consumed our family. It had to stop and we needed more help.

That weekend I made another call, too. This one was to the Wilderness Program we selected. There were many considerations. Come back to tomorrow to find out how we chose the place we did! “Hello, my son is flunking out of school and smoking marijuana everyday and never gets off his phone……Can you help us?”



An Education Consultant


Life used to be so simple. Wait isn’t that a line from the song, “The Way We Were”? Sounds a bit like it I guess. But it’s true, life was much simpler than our current way of living, especially  if you have kids with learning and behavior challenges. Nowadays, in order to keep up with all the options of where to go to school, it may be necessary to hire an Education Consultant. In our case, she was a gift from above! Recommended by our teenage son’s psychiatrist, she met with us on a Saturday morning last March.

She had tons of experience and explained that in order to recommend schools to her clients, she travels to visit all the places in person, at least one weekend out of every month. The people behind the schools and other programs like Wilderness Therapy, is what makes or breaks a good program. She told us NOT to start searching for places on the internet, because what we will see is how good a website the webmaster has created, not necessarily how good that school is. Don’t be fooled or fall for the “bling”. It’s all about the people!

“Judging a book by it’s cover” is similar to going on a college tour during your senior year in high school.  Everyone falls in love with the exterior of the campus buildings covered with ivy and with the sight of well manicured, green lawns. If you were going to be a happy, engaged college student, going inside the actual classes would be the best way to decide. Another way would be to talk to the people who attend the school and ask a lot of questions.

So, that’s what we did with our Education Consultant. We asked a LOT of questions! She explained that Summer was a good time for teens like our son who struggle with school, drugs and alcohol and are defiant. Many kids that have negative friends also benefit from going to a Wilderness program. And then you have to find the right After Care or school when you finished the program. Many of the good Wilderness programs are in the Western USA: Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Montana. They often have service focused people working there. Many of the staff are fulfilling a promise of community service. Some have become mentors to kids because they might have been “that kid” and are now giving back.

Then, our Education Consultant asked for all sorts of info about our son. We brought her report cards, IEP reports and filled out a questionnaire about him so she could determine what place might be a good fit. She asked if he might come to a future appointment and we thought there would be NO WAY, so she would have to go solely on what we told her, the paperwork we brought and speaking with his doctor.

There was so much to learn. Our meeting lasted a couple of hours. We had no idea there was another world out there: Wilderness, Aftercare, Private Schools…..What would we decide?

Peace and hope!

The Sleep In and No Talk Zone

Dark Bedroom

As this saga continues, I want to share that this blog will be part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge and that it is my intention to blog everyday during the month of October. At least that is my goal. Our story will move along much quicker and I hope you will post comments when something moves you.

Life with a fifteen year old can be up and down to say the least. Teens have biological needs to sleep more and most will also begin to stay up later and later into the night. That was certainly true in our house this past year.

Freshman year in high school for my son was becoming more and more miserable. No school work was getting done, at least not at home and reports from teachers said that he was always tired at school. He would often put his head down on the desk and zone out while in class. He told his teachers he had trouble sleeping at night. I told the teachers it was because he was gaming and on his phone “Snapchatting” most of the night. He refused to use the family charger and get that “thing” out of his bedroom to be able to get proper rest. But NO GO!

So instead of repeating idle threats, we took action to get his attention! We took his computer out of his room and out of the house. Boy did that shake things up! He came home and went ballistic! He turned over chairs, put more holes in the walls of his room, yelled and basically threw a tantrum just like a toddler would. Only he was much bigger and stronger. Funny how much the teen years resemble toddlerhood! Or truthfully, not so funny!

The timing of the computer removal was at the beginning of Mid Winter recess also known as Ski Week in our area. We had planned a family trip down the state to visit some of our family, his aunt and uncle and cousins. He said, “No!” and wouldn’t get out of bed. He also said that he was sick and honestly I didn’t believe him, but in fact he did have a low grade temperature and sore throat as we later discovered.

We tried and tried to get on the road and at then realized we were not going to be going anywhere. He was controlling our house and it felt like we were helpless. It was his way of telling us that he was mad that we took his computer away. We stood firm. He stayed in bed. By the time school was back in session the following week, he was still in bed and by now not speaking to us at all.

The silence was “deafening” as they say. “Would you like something for lunch?” I’d ask. No reply. “Are you going to take a shower today?” was another line from me, but no response. NOTHING. It was becoming a huge stand-off. At least it was a peaceful protest, but difficult for me to swallow, none the less.

If only he could use that determination towards a positive goal or school work. It was an amazing thing to witness. No talking, at all! For over a week. Until……….(check back tomorrow to see what broke the silence spell!)

Until then, I remain a CALM:

Right Under Our Noses

To pick up where we left off last time, the answer to what was in the backpack was like an ongoing game of surprise and shock. Lighters, bongs, rolling papers, containers with marijuana buds, soda pop, candy, sharpie pens, and of course power cords and phone charging cables, you name it, it was in there. My son carried all this stuff around for himself AND his friends. His backpack was the UBER backpack of the group. Now that’s one way to stay popular! It’s what I have called being a WILLING TOOL!

As I shared the story of what daily life with our 15 year old teenager was like, with friends and family, we received responses and comments like, “Oh, this too shall pass” or “That’s typical of a teenager, don’t sweat it” or “Don’t you remember how you were as a teen?”. Frankly, after hearing those lines repeatedly, even their well meaning intentions became hard to take. We were zooming into unchartered territory and choppy seas. Seriously, we needed dramamine in our house on dry land just to survive.

Our son’s moods were controlled by the digital contact he had with his friends, by phone or computer. If he received good texts, he was somewhat nice. If the texts or posts were not, he was somewhat mean. If you asked him to do anything resembling a chore or household task, “I will, I will, later” was the response. Or with very good manners, he would often reply, “No thank you.” He also would grunt and roll over while laying in bed, binge watching any number of Netflix shows. Occasionally, we could bribe him to go see a movie like “Rogue One” or out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant. But no sooner would we get home, his moodiness began all over again.

One particular holiday weekend we took him to do his favorite activity: play paintball. Not an inexpensive hobby, in reality. Even if you have your own paintball equipment, the paint balls themselves aren’t cheap and that’s what you need in order to play! We thought we were connecting with him, doing the fun things he liked, eating the food he liked, going to the movies he liked. You get the idea, all about him, just to keep him engaged. During this period of time, for some reason he had the door to his bedroom back on the hinges. (That wasn’t always the case, because if a door gets slammed over and over, parts of the house start to fall apart, truly. So we removed his door a year earlier.) Can you say, trust factors?

Well, after what we thought was a good weekend for all of us, we smelled something unusual coming through the vents soon after we went to bed. We marched into a room filled with smoke and our son was just sitting there smoking pot. And what was shocking was that he totally denied it. We SAW it with our own eyes! WE SMELLED it with our own noses! And he said he WASN’T doing anything. I couldn’t believe it. Really, right in our own house? You’ve got to be kidding me. All I could muster to say to him was that I was really disappointed in him, and turned around and went to bed.

The next morning he acted as if nothing had happened. I was still realing and very upset. He went to school and I called a therapist, for myself. Now to put things into perspective, I know many kids do this behavior and some can handle it, but not my son. He was also failing in school but never want to talk about how to improve the situation. So the only way left to get his attention was to take the computer AWAY. And what happened after that was surreal. The saga continues…….

Anyone else out there have difficulty with teens and their moods? How did you handle it or get through it? I would love to read any comments you have.

Hanging tough! Thanks for reading!


Getting High in High School

Marijauna Plant

High School. Let that sink in for a moment. What does it really mean? You got it, my son got high in school! And he kept the iPhone connected to his physical person every waking and sleeping moment. Not to mention the amount of gaming on his computer that took place and you can see what a “wonderful” time it was at our house!

We didn’t really know the extent of the marijuana use. There are ways to cover it up: stay away from home longer, use eye drops, stay in one’s room in the dark. 9th grade can be a time when teens seek independence and have less monitoring by parents. They want to “hang” with their friends and not be with their parents as much. I get that, but in our case we were being pushed away every day.

On top of that, his computer and phone use was obnoxious. We suggested trying to take some time away from the devices and chill, but to no avail. A couple of our son’s doctors suggested putting the charger outside of his bedroom and charge AWAY from where he slept, but that wasn’t even an option in his mind. The net he threw out to friends and their friends was so large that “someone” would answer a text, join a snapchat or post some pics on Instagram. It was a full time job just keeping up with all the groups and “friends” he connected with.

Those devices became the biggest distractions from doing any homework at all. None, zilch, nada. And the grades reflected just that. “Do you have any homework?” I would ask daily. “Nah” is the refrain I heard over and over and over. “How is that possible? I’ve checked your online portal.” He would tell me to get off of my computer and stop checking on him.

He was a master of avoidance, a student of social media and a habitual user of being connected. ALL of the TIME! His sleep was disturbed because he would answer or send a text in the middle of the night. I could gather some info from using a parent app connected to our phone service. I was able to squeeze out of him some of the repeated phone numbers and who they belonged to in his group of friends. But short of turning off the phone, which we did do a number of times, he was out of control.

Now, this is the part where I will say “don’t judge”. Some of you may have kids who actually responded to “NO”, but our son was becoming a monster, no matter what we did. Honestly, his disposition was dependent on if a social media “friend” responded to his text positively or not. Sometimes he came out of his room to comment on the crazy election and we’d share a laugh. Other times he didn’t speak at all. We were beginning to be held hostage by his moods related to his online conversations, use and postings.

I turned off the modem, I changed network passwords, I turned off his data. You name it, we did it and then some. I even pulled an important wire from his room to disconnect him and the next thing I discovered is that he actually “cut” the internet to our whole house!  That didn’t hurt him, he just went to the local Starbucks and used their internet connection. He was out for revenge!

One of the oddest things was his obsession with carrying cords and plugs and extra batteries so he could charge his phone from where ever he was. And he carried all these cords in his famous “backpack”. Whenever he left the house, the backpack was with him. “What’s in the backpack?” was our daily question. “Oh, just chargers, cords, batteries so I don’t lose power”, he replied. But sometimes, he did lose power.  And, he was never without this backpack. He even took it into the bathroom with him when he showered. REALLY?

I do not consider that behavior normal, however it was very OBVIOUS that he was hiding more in the backpack than just cables and batteries. You can’t believe what we found in there……Come back to the blog for the next post and find out.

Peace for now,


13 and the Beginning of Teenage Life


Do you remember being 13? Did you look forward to becoming a teenager? Was it a good year for you? I can barely remember it myself, other than playing sports and becoming interested in photography. However, I do very vividly remember the summer my son turned 13, just before entering 7th grade. That year turned out to be doozy and “the wheels on the bus began to wobble”, as they say.

The public middle school warned us parents that our kid’s friend groups may change and that their interests may change as well, but that didn’t prepare us for what actually happened in our house. Maybe other signs were showing up too, but one particular moment stands our clearly. It was Super Bowl Sunday and of course we were getting ready to watch the game with some friends. But not our son, he hates football. He was going to meet up with some friends and left on his skateboard. Soon after, I went into his bedroom for some random reason and was shocked at what I found. It was a bag of marijuana on the floor. I opened it and sniffed. Full disclosure, I never smoked pot, but had some brothers who did, and I immediately felt let down. “Really?” Oddly enough, those brothers have kids that are clean cut, so why did I have to deal with this? It was a pretty big bag of weed. This can’t really be happening is what I thought to myself.


I was quite shaken up but didn’t want to share this info with our guests. I hid the bag in my sock drawer. I decided NOT to let my son know what I found. After all, he wouldn’t dare ask me if I knew where he lost his “weed”! I began to open my eyes and see what other signs and evidence was lying around. I found lighters, wrapping papers, open packaging from eBay orders with suspicious return addresses like stoner.com. It was becoming quite clear that his illegal pot activity was growing.

I was called by the school one day and was told that my son’s name was being mentioned for a possible drug deal that was going down outside the local Starbucks. I intervened and questioned his friends, who all looked scared to death. But not my son. He just blankly denied it. More evidence would show up and I began searching his room when he left for school. It felt awful, but my detective work became a regular duty of mine. I’d find something, I’d dispose of it. He became more clever, I had to dig deeper. This silent game went on for the rest of the school year.

I brought up the subject of drug use with him and the research that showed the damage it had on the teenage brain and yet, there was more denial. Hold off for as long as possible is the advice from professionals, but Mr. Know-it-all didn’t think it applied to him.  I have since learned that his use was about twice a month in 7th grade, twice a week in 8th grade and every day in 9th. Who says it’s not habit forming? My son had a problem and we as a family were suffering. To top it off, his phone use was getting out of control and he stopped putting it on the family charger at night. He held onto it 24/7 and simply became defiant.

He also had trouble in school in part due to learning issues that were finally diagnosed as ADHD and so meds were prescribed. His mood became sullen and his communication was distant. We sought help from professionals but they didn’t get very far with him. So we continued to seek help for ourselves. I noticed tiny spots of blood on his bed sheets. Those were signs of “cutting” and he hid it by wearing long sleeves all the time, no matter what the temperature was outside. And then near the end of school year, his counselor called me to say they received an anonymous message that my son was talking about suicide.  “The wheels on the bus were barely hanging on.”

Ending this post with a cliff hanger…..more next time. Thanks for reading.

Keeping the faith…..

Wheels on the bus were falling off