By Will Wooton
As 2012 winds down those of us in treatment services tend to focus on new plans and reflect on the year that’s passing.
Sadly, in the 15-plus years I’ve been working with teens on their substance abuse issues, I have yet to have a year without the tragic death of someone with whom I’ve worked.
Reflecting back over the years on the many relapses, overdoses, hospitalizations, car accidents and deaths can be overwhelming as each leaves a huge impact. The first time a 16-year-old I worked with died, I almost quit the profession as I wasn’t sure I could take it emotionally. It can be devastating on many levels. Clinically you are told, and taught, to be detached, however, spending hours (or years) watching a child grow and then be gone is heartbreaking. I can’t tell you the name of the hundreds of teens we at Pacific Treatment Services have worked with that are sober and happy, but I can name and see the faces of all that have died tragically. Addiction is a killer. Always has been and always will be.
My own family and friends ask me how I do it despite the huge number of successes. They see the midnight phone calls, the funerals, and the meeting of a family at the emergency room in the night. Why continue? Where do I find the inspiration to keep doing this?
One such reason occurred last week.
On Dec. 15 I was able to see what true family recovery stands for and success on so many levels it is impossible to not be inspired. New Life House is a young men’s residential structured sober living home and several of the young men from the program come each month to my weekly multifamily groups to help support teens in high schools getting sober. New Life House holds an annual holiday party and I was fortunate to attend this year.
Over 500 people gathered together to celebrate sobriety and family unity. Personally knowing so many of the stories of the young men there, it was overwhelming for me as most of the moms I saw there have spent hours crying in my office or groups. Tears of hopelessness and fear are now replaced with tears of joy. Families that have been torn apart by their son’s addiction now are brought together by it. For someone who has never had to deal with the addiction of a teen, the idea of addiction bringing a family together may sound odd, but, if you’ve had this in your family, you know what I’m talking about.
I would estimate there were close to 400 individuals from Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and North County there. I (and a few other providers in San Diego) have been placing teens there for over a decade. They provide premier recovery and are the best residential aftercare facility I have ever seen. Truly inspirational. If you would like to know more about New Life, there is a link on our Pacific Treatment Services site and the days they join our groups in San Diego.
Recovery like this is how I handle the tragic loss every year. The needless accidents are immeasurable, but the strength and change I saw last week gives me hope each time I think about it. Addiction is a battle that can be won. Lives can be changed and families can regain the love that drug and alcohol abuse took away. I commend New Life for their active role in saving not only teens’ lives, but changing entire families for the better.
Wooton is director of Pacific Treatment Services and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.” PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults. Website: www.PacificTreatmentServices.com.