New here, need advice re wilderness

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by AHF, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. AHF

    AHF Member

    Hello. I've been looking over this site and finding some commonalities. My difficult child (I think that's the right moniker) was discharged from residential treatment for severe depression in late December. Was doing very well, but insisted on coming home for the holidays. Returned to poker playing, inconsistent schedule, inconsistent medications, drinking, compulsive behavior--basically regressed during every one of the 9 days he was at home. By the time I got him to the step-down program that had been recommended and that he had chosen, he was an oppositional mess. Continued to resist treatment there until they gave up on him 2 weeks ago. I advocated for his finishing the 2 courses in which he'd enrolled at the local college, because academics have been a stumbling block for him and I wasn't eager to see him fail at that again as well. So they have compromised by placing him in the dorms and offering continued therapeutic treatment until the end of the academic quarter, only a few weeks away. I have insisted on this continuing treatment as a condition of supporting his residency at the college (which is, incidentally, 3000 miles from home). Now his opposition has cancelled out any support from the step-down folks, but I have continued to insist on full therapeutic support--psychologist, psychiatrist, transition planning, all of which he can rustle up himself--as a condition of my financial support. I realize this is a Band-aid at best. He cannot develop a new therapeutic relationship in a few weeks; he no longer wants to work on his issues, but only to have a warm bed and a chance to play poker; we can't hope for him to improve over these weeks, but only possibly to pass the courses and not become suicidal. My question to you folks is: What, if anything, do you know about emerging-adult wilderness programs? This is what the step-down treatment team has recommended. He is completely resistant, but if he does get a new treatment team and realizes that I will not support him beyond March 15 unless he enters a program, there's a slim chance he'll do it. I don't know what kind of success these programs have with people over 18, especially with so little buy-in. But no one has suggested anything else, so right now it's either that or leave him on the street and watch all the $$$ and effort I have expended thus far turn to ashes. Any thoughts?
  2. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Good morning... And welcome! (I already posted on your thread asking for forum help.)

    First things first... How old is he? I understand that he's legally an adult... But that doesn't always mean much for our kids.

    ...Why was he discharged from Residential Treatment Center (RTC)? Age? How was he doing there... IOW, was he working with them, or did he have them snowed? And if it was for depression - was there anything else? Acting out, etc.? (I see that he's very oppositional now.)

    Being that he is an adult, yes, there's a slim chance he will work with you. However, he may not, and you may have to let him find out the hard way. LOTS of us have had to do this. It hoovers, but that's how it is for some of our kids.

    Unfortunately, this isn't my realm of experience, so I don't really have a lot of advice. I know others will be here. In the meantime - {{{{{HUGS}}}}}!
  3. AHF

    AHF Member

    He is 21 (I have this on my info, and at some point I'll figure out how my info goes at the bottom of a post). He was discharged from Residential Treatment Center (RTC) because they felt--cautiously--that he was ready to enter a step-down program, also insurance was no longer covering the $1200/day fee. He was definitely working with them, but at least subconsciously he was bringing up his level of functionality because he wanted so much to be released in order to have a holiday at home. He has been oppositional ever since he became academically dysfunctional and mood-driven, about 7 years ago. If he works with me, it will be only because his poker-rich friends will not give him money for rent and food. That's not much of a buy-in, but if others have found wilderness effective anyway (I know it can be for younger people), I would give it a shot.
  4. Star*

    Star* call 911


    Hi and welcome to the board. I can feel a lot of emotion in your post and a ton of love for your son. I also feel the same things that most if not all of us feel for our children at one time or another and that is desperation. Sometimes we want so badly for there to be that one last cure, that one last hope that one last try, the one miracle, or rock that WE feel WE have not over-turned for them - that we often loose sight of the fact that the help seeking has become a quest for US ----and not THEM. The problem in that? At what point do WE step out of their lives and allow them to fail on their own? To try their own successes or, sadly failures. Scary? Oh (long exhale) yes. I have a 20 year old 'living the life', I buried a 19 year old two years ago last Sunday. Scary isn't even close to what I feel. However - at what point do you hand them the reigns to their own life whether you feel they are mentally ill or go the next step and declare them completely mentally incompetent and begin to take care of them for the rest of their life? Is your son that bad at 21? Or does he have a gambling problem, and you're afraid to let go for fear of what he will do on his own without your care? I'm in no way judging or telling you to do one thing or another - he is your son. You make those decisions - I'm merely proposing you look at this situation he is bringing to your family and asking you to rationally decide is this a situation you are willing to put yourself, your husband and the rest of your family through for say another five years? Or do you want to begin to learn how to detach, and allow your son to finally take care of his own problems?

    At 21? He's talked you into bringing him home at Christmas when he wasn't really stable enough. I would guess that the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) had alterior financial motives masked in "cautious feelings" for his step down program AND the fact that he was probably older than most of the residents. If he was working with them prior to Christmas? My thoughts would be (just like my son - that months prior to Christmas - he was not working and then all of a sudden it was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE) - he had alterior motives to get out, come home, hook-up with his buddies stating he was just going to the store - and voila~ slip-town again because WHERE would he go again if/WHEN he messed up? DUH - right back to residential...(I was so naive).

    I think at 21? With the thought of NOT having to work - and yet again MOM supporting him for a 'wilderness camp' vs. actually getting a real job - to me? Sounds AWESOME. Depressed or not - I think the kid is SO smart - he's got everyone so buffaloed he knows if he stays JUST on this side of the line? He has more time to figure out how to stay out of the main stream life. I think he's brilliant. He's obviously NO dummy if he's in college. My back burner thought would be '''''WHAT?? would he say if you just threw it out there that 'There was no more money for WILDERNESS camp, funding had been cut for college and it seemed he would HAVE to get a part time job - and be on his own to support himself?" Id be curious to see his reaction to that knowing that you couldn't pay for his lifesytle then. Let him see what it would be like on his own - EXCEPT for -------THERAPY, and medications.

    At that point DO YOU THINK would see a child interested in his mental health as much as he is now?

    If so? Then you have a good idea where he is -------that yes he really is interested in getting well and helping himself. And be careful about the time it takes him to answer -like I said he is really smart.

    If not? Then you know he's stringing you along for a free ride ------and not interested in getting well - just taking a few more years of free room and board and will do "whatever' in the mean time...then figure out the rest as he goes. It will be one crisis after another.

    We chose NOT to do wilderness camp - We did ONE last group home at 17, foster care and then called it quits. We still support our son - but from a distance and we do love him - but we took the high road to detachment 3 states away and we STILL have drama - but it's interesting to see that he has MANY regrets and NOW wants all those things we offered him - but he'll have to get them on his own....He's 20. Life is kicking his hiney.....he's uneducated, has a felony record, and is 'living the life.' ------and will continue to do so until he gets his own education, gets a job, and straightens his own mess out. Things we can't do for him.

    Hope this makes sense - sounds harsh I know - but after a year? I finally got - "Mom, I'm sorry." I waited years for that.....and my son was also suicidal - attemted 3 times, is depressed, has no drivers license, and I'm not sure currently if he has a place to stay or not. Yes I hate it, No I'm not doing anything about it.

    Hugs -
  5. AHF

    AHF Member

    I have actually considered that, if I need to cut him off, I should cut off the funding for mental health. He is a compulsive poker player, though that's not his main issue--bipolar and possibly a personality disorder are more fundamental--and so money looms as an even larger piece than with other problems. And it seems to me that if he is refusing to take treatment seriously, if he's acting as though treatment is something he's doing for me rather than something I'm supporting for him, then I should get out of the mental-health funding business. Keep the insurance going maybe, but let him cover the rest. As to wilderness vs cutting him off--the question is whether anything can help without complete buy-in from the patient. With his Residential Treatment Center (RTC) (and he was in an age-appropriate venue, neither the oldest nor the youngest in the place), he was not at all eager to go and yet he got something out of it, something that we're all loathe to see vanish entirely. He does not belong back there, and I hope he does not have to return, for his own sake and for the sake of my financial well-being. And other solutions, like this step-down program, obviously don't work if those working with the patient are trying harder than he is. And if he is left on his own, he will find temporary support in the arms of the vampires who have gotten their poker hooks into him, then crash and burn and end up back in the hospital. So my question is whether the wilderness thing is worth a shot, or if those who've been there think I should save my $$ and just await the worst.
  6. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    We sent our son to a wilderness program when he was 15 and then to a therapeutic boarding school. I think both things helped him at the time but they did not save him. He still ended up relapsing and getting into huge trouble. I think they prolonged the process so that he didn't get into the really serious trouble until he was older... and at least for a while it curbed the drug use when he was young. So I don't regret sending him or the money we spent.

    However at the age of 19 we are now taking the stand that we will help him in his recovery and we are paying for rehab etc. but he had to get to the place where he wanted it. His motivation was external (the legal system) but it was not us He had some tough choices to make and he chose rehab and we agreed to pay for it. We are willing to help him out as long as it supports his recovery, but we are no longer willing to demand that he do these things.

    Our son is also very oppositional and I think even more with kids like that it is important to try and step out of the authoritarian parent role because that is what they are fighting against. At the same time I think they need our love and support but with limits.

    I think I would put your son on a budget for school - how much money you will give him to school - pay for what you can directly rather than giving him the money. He has to stay within that budget or fend for himself. Gambling will get him into trouble I would watch how much money you give him.

    I think he probably needs to get himself into a situation where he wants help..... any wilderness program he goes into at 21 he can walk out of. They are not going to keep him against his will. They can't do that legally.

    It is tough being a parent of a young adult, who emotionally is not an adult but of course thinks he is.
  7. Star*

    Star* call 911


    Could you; file for SSDI and petition the court as a guardian to gain complete control over his financials? Being BiPolar (BP) and having a mood disorder it could be a consideration. I guess at this point if he's willing to go, and you are willing to pay for it? Then you both mutually agree it would help it's worth trying, possibly set a 'check' date to see how he's progressing. If by your progress date he isn't making the grade, I would have a plan B in place where as you, your husband and son all agree if A does not occur then plan B is what will occur. I would write it out, have everyone sign it like any contract that you all agree on.

    If it's something like Wilderness camp does not work then Mom and Dad will get you an apartment close to home with SSDI money and we will control your financials with a $20 week allowance, pay the utilities out of your SSDI and you will continue in community college until which time you graduate - so be it.

    If it's something like Wilderness camp does not work then you will be on your own, receive no financial support from Mom and Dad.

    Or it could be - If Wilderness camp is successful then Mom and Dad will - and list your options as you have discussed them as a family perhaps with a family counselor as a mediator in the room for balance.

    This is your life, your family - and you know what you want. It's easy for me to say - I WOULD THIS----or I WOULD NOT THAT....just as much as it would be very easy if something happens six months from now and someone comes back and says "well you said do THIS and now look this is your fault." Always keep in mind that the final choice is yours, this is your son, your family, your life - You're an awesome Mom with a lot of tough choices to make- very tough. No one envies you any of these decisions. Just know that you have friends here who will tell you like it is.....not sugar coat it - because we've been through the trenches and value each others opinions on hindsight.

    I wish at this point poker would go jump in a deep lake.....

  8. AHF

    AHF Member

    Thank you all so much. Now a related question. Today is Wednesday. He was to have gotten therapeutic support beginning 2 weeks ago in order to continue my support for his school situation. Last week the step-down people gave up on him and I said I would not pay dorm fees, food, etc. as he is not in a therapeutic environment and is therefore regressing (and probably failing one of the two courses that are his only activity right now). On Monday he called to ask what he could do to get my support. I told him he needed a therapeutic team in place immediately, that I didn't know what was available, that it was up to him to investigate and get back to me the next day. As of now, no further word. If you were in my shoes, would you:
    1. Wait for him to call, and if it's this weekend and he calls to say he's had one visit with counseling center, say "too little too late"?
    2. Contact him to tell him it's too late? Do so today, tomorrow, not till the weekend?
    3. Confirm that I am here to support serious treatment or wilderness when he's ready, or just stay mute on that point?
    I should point out that he will not get kicked out of the dorms or handed a bill he cannot pay. I have told the good people at the step-down program that I will make this good with the college they work with, so as not to injure those relations. The only immediate consequence for my son is that he will not get his computer back (they've been holding it as collateral until he works this all out with me), he may run out of food money, and he will not get back any of the money he put into his account at the step-down for spending $$ before it all fell apart. The ploy that my son will use is a "But you PROMISED" routine that's hard to stomach though easy to refute. I welcome feedback. Thanks.
  9. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    AHF - Welcome. I am almost positive I know the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) you are talking about, I think it is the same one my son Matt was in. Since we can't say names of places on the board, suffice to say I know exactly where you are coming from.

    Matt was at wilderness before he went to the Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Here is my problem with Wilderness, there is no Dr supervision. In fact none of the staff had counseling degrees, and the one that did came to visit for an hour once a week. Matt spent 2 weeks spiraling into a deeper and deeper mental break, until he was almost psychotic. Finally they called me via a Satellite phone, and it took me to tell them that if he did not get in a hospital asap, something really, really bad was going to happen. By then, they had to walk him out 10 miles to get to a road to get him to a hospital. For me, it was the worst decision in care that I have ever made for Matt. He was too sick of a kid to not have a Dr supervising his medications, and assessing his mental stability.

    Now, on the flip side - I would have truly excelled at something like that. That is exactly what my parents should have done for me when I was depressed as a teen. You are the only one that knows your kid - and you just have to weigh all of these options and be careful.

    For your last question - I am not sure. It depends on how sick and depressed he is. I can get so depressed that simply the thought of having to pick up a phone to take care of something seems like something I cannot handle.
  10. KFld

    KFld New Member

    Hi AHF. I just want you to know that I feel the pain of the decisions you are trying to make for him. My difficult child's problem is addiction, so I'm not quite sure how what I'm doing with my difficult child would work for yours, because they are two different things. No matter what the issues, we can't help any of them until they are ready to help themselves. Just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you and no matter what our difficult child's issues are we all deal with the same pain and just having others here to support you can be a great help.
  11. Star*

    Star* call 911


    I think if I were in your shoes, I would stay mute. Period. You have said your peace to a 21 year old man who isn't taking you seriously. Otherwise he would have done what you asked him to do 2 weeks ago.

    Sadly my feelings are thus: The only one taking any of the treatment, school seriously here is you.

    Hugs -
  12. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    Welcome to the board.

    I don't have any experience with wilderness camps and the like.

    All I know is that you can't force an adult child to do anything they don't want to do. You can throw programs at them, you can convince them to go to docs ect, but if they don't believe there is a problem and want to work a treatment program you're wasting your money, time, and energy for nothing. It stinks to the max, but that pretty much sums it up.

    Glad you found us.

  13. mrsammler

    mrsammler Guest

    Absolutely what Star said: he's 21 and it sounds like the only person who's taking his school, treatment, possible return to a sane and productive existence, etc is you. If he's playing you (i.e., "but you promised" and all that), he's not interested in getting better: he's interested in getting money, shelter, etc.

    My nephew, a classic difficult child (and ODD in teens, CD in late teens, and almost undoubtedly ASPD/sociopath now), was sent off to a wilderness-centric Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in UT for most of a year at 16, and they declared him OK for return to home, and within weeks he was at it again. He's now almost 19, supposedly attending classes (i.e., not really attending) at a community college but actually just living off of his mother's ceaseless denial-driven financial support (paying for his apartment, his meals, his utilities, his car, his gas, allowance--it's just incredible). The unspoken deal is "pay all my bills and keep me housed in comfort here or I'll come home and make your life a living hell all over again," and she's tacitly succumbing to it.

    Here's what works, especially after they turn 18: after you've tried all reasonable paths toward help, treatment, etc--and it's evident that you have--you have to turn away and let them just plummet. Really let them plummet, all the way to the ground. Yes, they might die. Yes, they might turn to criminality and end up with a criminal record, incarceration, etc. It's a chance you HAVE to take: otherwise you'll be wringing your hands and funding their lives, in one way or another, and thus enabling them to remain dysfunctional, for potentially decades, or the rest of your life, or until your money runs out. And you won't be posting in anymore: you'll eventually migrate over to the "psychopath in the family" forum at, where the stories are simply the adult-years extensions, albeit much more hopeless and miserable, of what you see here in the "parents emeritus" forum. And believe me, the parents over there, while they still ache for their adult children, are no longer asking "why does he do this?" or "what can I do to help?" They're asking "why in the world did I give most of my adult life to this emotional sinkhole?" That is a conclusion much to be avoided.
  14. AHF

    AHF Member

    I can't tell you all how much this tough support helps. He called tonight. Had finally gone to the counseling center for a 90-minute intake. Good. And the result? An appointment for a 50-minute counseling session a week from today. This, with 3 weeks to go in the school quarter, him failing one class and scraping by in the other, his medications unmonitored, hostile and aggressive toward me, isolated from others, owing money everywhere, with no plans after the last day of classes and nowhere to live, no job. Mostly he wanted to know how much more financial support he was getting. When I reminded him that I've spent the equivalent of a middle-class income in the last 3 months on his mental health, I got a "what's your point?" response. When I pointed out that I had specifically said that 50 minutes 1 day/week was not the level of therapy I was supporting, I got the victim response--none of this was his fault, and what else is he supposed to do? I did not tell him what he was supposed to do. I told him I loved him and hoped he could figure it out. I do have permission to speak with the administrator (not a psychiatrist or even a psychologist, apparently) who did the intake, and will do so tomorrow. But I'm not going to force therapy down someone's throat, especially when he is doing it only to get his food card replenished.
  15. KFld

    KFld New Member

    Good for you!! It's not easy, but sometimes gets the best results. Hopefully he'll get the point and start doing what he needs to do for himself.