Story of Hope From A Montana Mom

The drug overdose mortality rate in Montana is currently the 21st highest in the United States, cites the latest report by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).Across lofty peaks of the Gallatin, the Madison, the Bitterroot and the Beartooth, the drug epidemic is reaching as high as their mountaintops. Montana has heeded the call in recent years and is now home to some outstanding primary wilderness treatment centers. Unfortunately, the epidemic still remains. Montana is severely lacking in both wilderness therapy aftercare facilities and a stable sober community so vital to the recovery of young people ages 18 to 32.

I could tell you that the number of drug overdose deaths, mostly from prescription drugs, have doubled in Montana since 1999 when the rate was 4.6 per 100,000 residents (TFAH). I can give you statistics galore but nothing speaks as well as this Montana mother’s personal experience. Her family led an idyllic life in Bozeman, Montana. Skiing, fishing, boating and hunting were daily activities where others might go to the gym or enjoy these types of outings on weekends and holidays. Long winters, boredom and isolation don’t faze many of them, but they’re the perfect fuel for someone with a predisposition to addiction. The Treasure State has many amazing gifts to offer its residents, however in the range of addiction treatment it is light years behind other states.

In 2002, it was evident to this mother that her son had a drug and alcohol problem. Together with her husband, she quickly began what was to be a frustrating search for some type of addiction recovery for young adults. They had only one option in Bozeman, a drug and alcohol out patient assistance program. They were elated as they wanted to keep their son close to them, he was 15 and they could not conceive of living apart.

It was soon apparent that this family needed to break out the big guns. Every time he made the smallest progress, their son would relapse. He couldn’t seem to get any distance from peers who were exhibiting the same poor decision making skills. They decided to enroll him in a behavioral boarding school close by. No luck. He’d follow the program during the week and when he came home on weekends he’d find a way to “accidentally run into his friends.” They knew this was status quo for teenagers; they are Salmon swimming upstream where their peers are concerned, like magnets, nothing can keep them apart.

Next, they chose a behavioral boarding school with a chemical addiction focus in Arizona. He came back more sneaky and knowledgeable than he was when he left. It was at this point they realized they we were in trouble. They had to do something quick – time was running out. At 17 they admitted him to a wilderness treatment program in Northern Montana for 60 days. They suggested he live in an age and gender specific sober living out of state upon discharge. His parents were filled with sadness. There was nothing available in Montana. Their dream of keeping their family in tact had vanished but they were finally ready to do whatever it took to help their son stay sober.

They located an age-specific sober living for young men in Torrance, California with the help of the wilderness program. They did their due diligence and found out it had been in business since 1985 and that in excess of 80% of the young men were still sober five years after moving out of the house. The wilderness program put everything in place and shepherded him there immediately upon discharge.

Their son to New Life House the day he was discharged and the family has never looked back. He lived in the New Life House recovery community for 18 months. He was advised not to attend college immediately, to focus on his sobriety, get honest, attend AA meetings, expunge his negative behavior and help others.   He was shown how to develop relationships with his peers based on values, purpose and fun. He was no longer checking out of life, but checking in.

Since the day their son first came to New Life House, this family has witnessed countless young men achieve sobriety and stay sober….for years! The family focus component is paramount. New Life House is a community both while the young man is a “house member” and when he becomes a graduate. Graduates never stray far from the house, returning on a regular basis to offer assistance to newer house members.

As much as they did not want their son to live in California so far away from his family, they have him back in the spiritual sense. He has returned to the man of character he was and more. He could never have done this if it weren’t for the structure, sober friends and the vast fellowship that exists in the greater Los Angeles area. Let’s face it…as much as people put California down for this and that, it is the leader in addiction, recovery and sober living for young adults.

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