Five Families Recovery Update After Troubled Teens Residential Treatment Program Discharge

Last week we (my husband and I) met with our parent support group for teens that have been in Residential Treatment, more specifically Heritage School in Provo, Utah. This is an informal group of parents that live in our community;  five families (including us) that have had teens in an RTC at the same time; these families got to know each other during their travels to and from the parent conferences. We are the fifth family in the group; invited by one of the group members when she learned about our sons placement. All of the teens graduated a few years before our son and it is interesting to hear how life is “post residential treatment”. This is our group that really understands what it is like to have a troubled teen at home and we always have a great time when we are together with a lot of good laughs and a few crys. Read on, you will see recovery continues to be a mixed bag.

Brief demographics of the group:

  • All the adults are professionals
  • Four of the five teens are adopted, with no siblings
  • Three boys and two girls
  • Two of the families are single mothers, one family is divorced both parents are very involved and two families have both parents at home.
  • All the teens are over 18, except my son who will be 18 in a few weeks. None of the teens are 21.
  • I don’t think any of the teens are attending a 12 step program, many of the parent are in Ala-Non.

Below is a synopsis of each family situation at this time.

Family One: Son returned home from a step down and attended the local high school. Got in trouble at the local high school dealing drugs, was oppositional and defiant at home. A major event happened in the home parents called the police and their son ended up in juvenile hall. After this event the boy did not return home he lived with another family. The parents are very strict about the boundaries at home and he has not lived at home since. He has visited and the parents help with some essential living expenses (health insurance for one). Now he is couch surfing, but seems to be surviving on his own and to my knowledge may not be using drugs or if he is seems to be staying under the radar.

Family Two: Daughter, after graduating from a step down, got a job with a major department store. Kept the job for a few years now is unemployed and not going to school. Talks about wanting to do Internet classes. Met a guy, fell in love and got married at 19. Now she spends most of her day planning her “real” wedding; which I think is this summer. From all that I can tell she is staying out of trouble and appears to be doing well.

Family Three: Daughter, graduated from the RTC returned home and really has not been able to focus or have any real definite goals. Spends most of her days doing nothing. Tried going to school but it did not work. Right now the mother is quite upset, the daughter does not follow the house rules, is not contributing. They are attending family therapy, the mom would like her to move out but is afraid for her daughter that she cannot do it on her own and does not have any money. The girl recently had pictures taken for a portfolio and wants to be a model. Smokes and uses drugs and has had a few different boyfriends.

Family Four: Son and I don’t know much about this family. He is living at home to the mother’s dismay. Does not appear to be compliant and I do not think he is contributing or going to school. Right now the mother is debating helping him find a room, paying the rent to get him out of the house.

Family Five: This is my family, son and soon to be 18. This coming week he should be completing his studies to graduate from high school (keep your fingers crossed). Enrolled to start junior college the next week. Does not have a job, hangs with friends on the street when not in school. Using drugs and smokes cigarettes (not in our home). Appears to be staying “under the radar” and has not been in trouble lately with the law. When at home he is compliant and does not appear to be under the influence. We are taking it one day at a time!

Speaking for my family, even though it may not be perfect, it is so much better than it was pre-treatment. For me I have resolved myself to accepting my family for what some may think as shortcomings and I hope that as we continue to work together it will also continue to improve.

If you have a teen that has completed a treatment program or went to residential treatment and is now discharged how are they doing? Please comment and share your experience. Those of you that have not experienced residential treatment and have a troubled teen how are you doing?

10 thoughts on “Five Families Recovery Update After Troubled Teens Residential Treatment Program Discharge”

  1. Our son does not know yet. He is away at troubled teen boarding school. My husband and I thought it would be best if we told him in person. Our next visit is Easter Weekend.

  2. Suzanne,

    OMG, how terrible. It’s obvious that his family did everything they could, and still they lost him. I can’t imagine how they, you and everyone that knows them is feeling. What does your son feel about this? Do you have anyone that can help you process this tragedy with your son?

    Take care of yourself.

  3. Suzanne, I am speechless. Reading your comment I did not expect that ending. I live with this fear everyday and I try not to go there. A good friend of mine lost her son in November right before Thanksgiving, he would be 21 next month. The suffering they are going through is unbearable. My heartfelt condolences to the family and to you. Tragedies like these affect everyone.

  4. We have a family in our neighborhood who mentored us every step of the way. Their son is 3 years older than ours. They have a similar story to ours – a son who chose reckless behavior, 1st experimenting with marijuana then to harder drugs. Their son has been in and out of residential treatment programs. Shortly after his release from treatment at the age of 17 – he ended up in juvie (drugs) and finishing high school through a special juvie high school program in our area. Being a smart kid with stellar grades he went on to college – away from home. He did great during freshman year – “only smoking marijuana,” he would say. We always looked to up to them as a light at the end of a tunnel. Well, we just found out that this 19 year old son dropped out this semester and was found dead in his apartment at school with a needle in his arm. So much for “Oh mom, it’s not that bad. I’m only smoking marijuana.” Needless to say, the family and whole community are devastated.

  5. My 16yo (almost 17yo) son returned from RTC (not Heritage, but nearby) last June. He did not go to a step-down program, but came straight home. Summer went well overall, but once he returned to the local high school in the fall, he slowly regressed. We are very lucky in that he doesn’t do drugs, self-harm or get in trouble with the police (or even school officials). The problem is that is has depression/anxiety, and he retreats into himself. Last November (2009), he quit going to school and dropped all his outside activities. Very, very slowly over the last 2 months, he has been pulling out of this major depressive episode. He has not gone back to school, but he is not sleeping all the time, he is starting to connect with his therapist (who comes to our house), and he is starting to look forward to things in the future (e.g. college).

    So my husband thinks it is long past time for him to return to a residential (his previous or a new step down one in CA), and I think we should keep working here at home. If there is anything harder than handling the stress of a mentally ill/special needs son, it is trying to do that when you and your partner are not in agreement.

    It is very helpful to have this blog to communicate with other parents in similar situations. This is my first time posting – thanks for providing this place to do so.

  6. Hi Gabriele,

    When does she turn 18? You cannot kick her out at 17, but once she turns 18, if she will not abide by the rules (staying sober, etc.) I would say “adios.” Of course, that is easy for me to say, because my son is still safely ensconced in his RTC. But I am HOPING that when he does come home, if he cannot live according to the house rules – a big one being staying clean and sober – I will have the strength to kick him out. They want to be “free” to do what they want – well, let them do it on their own dime. In the meantime, since she is working part time, I would start charging her room and board – maybe a figure equivalent to about 25% of her net pay. I paid room and board to my mother when I was 18 and working and living at home before I went to college. Kids need to realize there are no free rides, and we will not subsidize their negative “lifestyle choices.”

    Good luck to you!

  7. My daughter (age 17) came out of residential care right before Christmas. She decided to move out immediately–that lasted a week. Now she is home, working part-time (she has put off community college till next fall). She is defiant–doesn’t listen, comes home smelling of alcohol–though on time. I don’t want to live with her in this way. Any suggestions? Maria

  8. Yikes! Thanks for your honest description of “life after RTC” but I must say it is not encouraging. My son is on track to graduate in April or June at the latest. At least he will have his high school diploma, but I am very worried about him lapsing into his old ways when he returns. Right now he is full of plans to go on to community college, then regular college, and then law school. However, he struggles just to complete his high school classes at his RTC. I don’t think he grasps just how much work is involved in his current chosen career path. He does have “the gift of gab,” which is useful for a lawyer, but there is so much more to it than that. At this point he says he has a committment to sobriety, but it is easier to say that in a controlled environment than when you are confronted with all the temptations of the “real world.”

    Frankly, while I look forward to his return because I miss him, I am also apprehensive because we have enjoyed the peace and serenity and lack of drama around our house while he has been gone. I do try to keep in touch with other families from our area for mutual support. It sounds like a great group you have in your area. I wish the best for all of you.

  9. My daughter has been out of Heritage since October 09. Things are not perfect but better. She is going to public high school because it is our only choice here in northern Utah. She recently qualified for “special services” under the special education program (takes a little pressure off, extra time on test etc). Her diagnosis of depression secured this for us. She is smart but is flunking all her classes. She has started smoking and dabbling in drugs, but not at our house. She has been arrested once for MIP. Our biggest obstical is her lying. Her therapist is working with her on that and we are looking into personality disorders. She has weekly therapy and we get family therapy in as often as possible. She also spends a lot of time with her school counselor and he has been a good help. Just recently she has a new boyfriend, and there are good and bad things about him. He is 18, she is 15. He is straight and seems to be against smoking and drugs. He is actually helping her catch up on homework. I am keeping a close eye on this and hope it isn’t too good to be true!

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