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Anne R. Discusses her Son’s Journey From Depression and Substance use

Anne R. is driving alone on a long back road in Utah, away from White River Academy. She insists that it’s the perfect time to talk about her son Sam, his recovery road and how WRA positively changed his path. After all, she’s just picked up her son’s box of personal belongings and has a cross-country trek home.

Anne and her husband Terry recently wrote a thank-you email to White River Academy staff, which begins:

“While I am sad, disappointed and even sometimes angry at Sam’s decision to walk out of WRA, please know that I will be forever grateful and thankful for the time he had there. You are a blessing. You are an incredible group of people who give families hope in the midst of so much turmoil, fear and confusion.”

That’s right. After 15 months in residential treatment, and with just five months until he and other rehabilitated boys would graduate the program, Anne’s son walked out of WRA on his 18th birthday.

Anne and Terry are disappointed, but not disquieted. Anne affirms although her son walked out, his testimony is not at a dead end. Thanks to WRAs familial staff, positive peer culture, holistic treatment and experiential therapies, Sam didn’t leave the way he came.

A life worth living

Anne’s son was introduced to drugs at just 12 years old by a family member. By 16, he had abused numerous substances and was overwhelmed by suicidal ideations and self-harm. Like most, Sam’s drug abuse was merely a manifestation of deeper issues.

Sam’s depression reached a crux where he became suicidal and was placed in protective custody by the court for his own safety.

“He used to talk about ‘a life worth living,’ but he’d spiraled so out of control that we were given just four days to find a place for him or the court was going to send him to the state mental facility.”

Within those four days, in what was to Anne and Terry divine intervention, they were put in touch with WRA staff members. Anne wrote: “Two years ago, I thought I would be planning a funeral for my son, Sam. By the grace of God, I found Robin and Tamara, who led me to … White River. You helped save Sam’s life! You gave me hope!”

Encouragement for other families struggling with son

Anne explains even if Sam’s recent decisions don’t look like it, he actively participated and learned from the positive and altruistic culture of WRA.

She believes that Sam definitely appreciates the self-direction that WRA instills through community service projects, saying, “He wants to help and sincerely cares about people. He made amends with various people [as part of treatment] and felt that helped him overcome depression. He hasn’t talked about suicide again.”

Anne says when Sam left, he had presence of mind enough to seek out a former WRA graduate who lives in Utah and is successfully attending college, working and keeping his own place. “The young man he stayed with for a time was a good role model and good influence compared to the company he could have sought out, when most people relapse.”

Anne affirms WRA imparted formidable tools to Sam. “We do believe he’ll come around,” she says and agrees he’s adding to his future testimony. “He made the wrong decision unfortunately, to cut his rehabilitation short. It would have set him up for success, but it’s not what it was; he’s not on hard drugs or suicidal. It’s more a matter of Sam getting on his feet.”

Sam today

As Anne leaves Utah, she relays the coming weekend is Parent Weekend. “My husband and I have come to every parent weekend for the last year and a half; Sam would have graduated the program in October, had he stayed. Two of the boys graduating this weekend my son knows well; and we know the parents. He didn’t leave with anger or animosity; he simply chose to spread his wings prematurely. He didn’t leave with much and had no solid plan.”

Anne says Sam emails his parents regularly and borrows phones to check in. He says he still wants to get his GED and is a musician. “We’d like to see him bring joy to others with his gifts, share his success story with the tools learned at WRA, and enjoy a sober life of fullness.”

Terry has a frequent saying: “Our direct-parenting is over.” It’s a reminder they’ve planted seeds of love and support in Sam, residential treatment programs including White River Academy have watered him well and watched the first fruits of real growth and development in him. Now it’s Sam’s turn.

It’s been said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children, one of them is roots, the other, wings.”

*This testimonial reflects this individual's result and results may vary. We do not claim that they are typical results that patients will generally achieve.


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We would like to thank all the wonderful staff at WRA for the great parent weekend. We enjoyed it and felt that we learned valuable insights on Positive Peer Culture and the values we must have and the importance of family commitment to each other...

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