In 2014, two bombs were thrown into our family: Addiction and Mental Illness. It was like the chicken and the egg. Which one came first? But trying to figure that out would only distract me. Distract me from the fact that there was some serious shrapnel from those bombs in our family members. I was in rescue mode. I thought if I could give the right advice, find the right therapist, buy the right recovery book, find the right medication, give the strongest ultimatum we would all heal from the bomb. But I was proven wrong over and over.

In 2018, the damage of the shrapnel overwhelmed one of us and he could not recover. We lost our husband, father, and best friend. The rest of us were left to deal with the aftermath. 

Soon it was apparent that the bombs of addiction and mental illness were still lurking in our home threatening to strike again. My youngest, Zach, was the most affected. He had addictions to pot, food, and video games. He spent most of his days going from his bed to his video game chair. He hated school and when he did attend he was non-functional; he spent the time in his classes on his phone… I got many many calls from the Dean. Nothing that I tried changed anything… yelling, pleading, restrictions, groundings, bribing, weekly therapy. I was forever trying to get through to him but nothing was working.

Though a dear friend, I found out about Wilderness. I sent Zach to Wilderness and then to a Therapeutic Boarding School. It was at these places he could work the shrapnel from the Addition and Mental Illness bombs out of his system. I would wait for him to get healthy and then we would go on with our lives.

This is not what happened.

As Zach embarked on his path to healing, I learned that I also had pieces of shrapnel left in me. I had many coping/parenting strategies that were not healthy. I needed to learn new ways to parent Zach and his brother Sam. I had to face that what I was doing wasn’t working. This process was not going to be easy and I came into this process kicking and screaming.

After 4 years of dealing with the aftermath of losing the most important person in my life, I feel like I can truly say (most days) I’ve been given a gift. I’ve been given a gift of community though the Therapeutic Boarding School my son attends. I’ve been given the gift of healing through meetings with other parents who are in a similar situation. I have been given the gift of new tools to parent Zach more effectively. I have been given the gift of empathy and compassion for others that I didn’t have a few years ago. 

I would never ever wish what happened to our family on anyone else’s family. The scars from the shrapnel will always be present but with the healthy tools I have to use now, I can diminish the effects that it has on my daily life, and in turn, the life of my children.

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