Finding Treatment — And Getting Her There

This week I’d like to explain how our family received the message that my stepdaughter Katherine was ready to receive treatment — and the process we went through to find a treatment center that worked for all of us. 

When my husband and I moved to Jacksonville, Fl after his company relocated us, we were sitting outside a sandwich shop watching the rain pour down when my husband’s cell phone rang.  It was Katherine.  She called to tell us she was pregnant and very distraught.  In a state of both panic and shock are minds flooded with worries and speculations about her ability to take on such a huge responsibility while battling an addiction on her own.  We asked, “Katherine, are you now ready to seek help for you and your unborn child?”  Fortunately her answer was “yes,” and in a brief moment our world changed yet again.

My husband and I were now living in a city and state where we knew absolutely no one who we could turn to for help.  But we knew we had to remain nimble and respond to Katherine’s cry for help before she changed her mind.  I automatically went into overdrive:  I booked a flight back to California that day, called my sister-in-law to pick Katherine up and take her to a safe place, while my husband frantically took care of our “everyday life” and responsibilities back home.  I had absolutely no idea how we were going to take control of Katherine’s situation and lead her to recovery.  We didn’t know anybody who had experience with drug and alcohol addictions.  I was scared but remembered I had to be strong and stay positive for all of us – especially Katherine.

With Katherine safely in my sister-in-law’s home, the real work began.  I spent hours talking to Katherine; her mood swings fluctuated across the board.  She slept a lot, waking up in a relatively coherent frame of mind only to switch back into someone I absolutely couldn’t reach.  She was ready for help but wanted it on her terms, which was to stay in California.  Intuitively we knew that we needed to take her far from her comfort zone and away from the people who she was connected with.  We had two very large dilemma’s, 1) What treatment center and where, and 2) how to transport her quickly out of California.  There definitely was a higher power working through me in the following week as I went through this process of answering those questions.

My first and most important issue was to find a suitable and reputable treatment center in which to take her.  Now that we were living in Florida, a rather large state, researching within it made the most sense.  Not completely computer literate I began trying to navigate through general search engines regarding “drug & alcohol treatment centers” by location.  It was overwhelming but I systematically went through each one, made phone calls, and began the process of narrowing down the field.  Luckily (or as it later proved to be almost unluckily), I spoke on the phone to an individual who said that he was an acquaintance of a doctor who first treated Katherine in California – someone who we had absolute trust in, a person we will always be grateful for.

I immediately called this doctor but he knew very little about the treatment center located in Miami.  At the time however, this sign of familiarity equated to a false sense of trust in a person and treatment center I believed we could trust to navigate us through Katherine’s emotional ups and downs.  I wanted to believe it was the solution to all our problems.  Working on sheer adrenaline I made the phone call home, talked to my husband and we both agreed to rush her to the Miami facility.  We didn’t give her much time to respond and told her we were leaving immediately.  She met the idea with some resistance and a lot of trepidation as she began to understand the magnitude of what was about to happen.  Then she pushed back, but within a day, we were on a plane heading east, ready to begin the next chapter.

We flew to Jacksonville, met up with my husband and our youngest son and drove five hours to Miami.  The ride was filled with apprehension.  We had never been to Miami, had never set foot in the treatment center and had never personally met, other than by phone, the person we were entrusting her to.  Along the way Katherine became quite agitated, blamed us for taking her away from everything she knew and loved.  Then she began to insist she didn’t want treatment.  It was like having a caged animal sitting in the backseat.  She didn’t want our help, she wanted the false comforts of meth and the people she convinced herself loved her more than us.  Once we arrived everything began to fall apart.  Katherine lashed out at me in a way that I had never see her do – vehemently refusing treatment and running off through the streets of Miami.  My husband and I were physically exhausted, emotionally drained and basically running out of time.  Our son was able to find Katherine and convinced her, as only a sibling can, to give treatment a try.

We left Katherine in their care for six weeks.  I have to say that this facility was instrumental in helping to begin the process, however, we noticed early on that the help was very marginal and that Katherine had begun to exhibit signs of relapse.  These signs were going unnoticed by the very place we believed knew more than we could ever know about treatment.  Once again I found myself beginning the search for the “right place.”  This time, I not only went back online, but I called the doctor we had the most faith in.  He was there to help me again, talking me through the process in a more rational manner.  Ultimately, I went to the Caron Renaissance Treatment Center in Boca Raton, Florida.  There I sat down with admissions, talked about Katherine and what I believed her needs were, asked questions about their approach to treatment, the facility itself and their programs.  Ultimately, Katherine was admitted to Caron Renaissance, completed in-house treatment and aftercare again, only this time she completed the process with more confidence.  As a family, Caron made us a part of Katherine’s treatment process and helped us define our roles so we could help keep her in recovery.  We were given tools, as she was, on how to cope and live with an individual in recovery.  Caron’s approach to involving the entire family, partnered with their exceptional resource and therapists, was instrumental in Katherine’s recovery.

In my next entry I will share my personal recommendations to help you navigate through the maze of addiction treatment centers.

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    August 17, 2009 at 7:37 PM

    I am posting this site for the “just in case” scenario. Theia can be used to assist in at-home, non-invasive drug testing, as well as “teen-tracking” via GPS.

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    Pat Nichols

    August 12, 2009 at 2:23 AM


    I look forward to your next entry.

    Finding the proper treatment care is one of the most challenging steps for parents.

    What I have learned the hard way is this:

    * Ask the program to have your child sign legal documents which allows the program to share information with you about his progress etc.

    * Ask the program to share with you when they see signs of early relapse. What is the plan and how can the parents support that plan.

    * Ask what the procedure is when the child violates the rules and they “kick” him out on the streets. Will you be notified “before” they do that?

    * Look at the staff, is there frequent turnover? If so, look elsewhere.

    * Family week is vital. If the program does not have a family week, look elsewhere.

    * Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    * Keep a written and detailed journal.

    Thanks for letting me share and please take only what is useful and forget the rest.


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