Your daily routine most likely consists of making coffee, taking the dog for a walk, and trying to keep your head on straight as you run a household. For Liz Miller, a mother from Phoenixville Pennsylvania, her days still started with all of that however, it also included writing her daughter a letter. Every single day Liz wrote to her daughter who was in a Residential Treatment Facility (RTF). Typically we get to talk to parents and get their perspective on a wide array of topics for our blog but this week we got to talk to the child; Emme Miller. Emme is a 19-year-old woman who attributes her sobriety, and ultimately happiness to both of her times in an RTF and her parents' never-ending persistence to get her the help she needed. Last week we heard the story of a mother whose daughter was in an RTF and debuted our tipsheet on how to select the right facility for your child. This week we are talking to someone who was actually in an RTF and releasing our tipsheet on things to keep in mind while you are preparing for your child to go, while they are there, and while you are getting ready for them to come back home.
Emme described her mother as a "saint" when explaining the fact that every single day she was able to open a letter from her mom, and mentioned that it was a driving force for her. If you would have told either Liz or Emme that one of them would be describing the other as a "saint" just 4 years ago both of them may have found it hard to believe. "Before my first time going to an RTF my mom and I couldn't even be in the same room as each other, it was terrible," said Emme. She went on to explain that the family sessions at the first RTF really helped to bond them and helped them work through a lot of issues on both sides. These days Liz and Emme still communicate daily but it is via phone calls and time together, not letters. "We are pretty much inseparable now. I call her all of the time."
In retrospect, Emme is able to see the immense amount of pain and stress her parents were in at that point in her life and she is enamored by the fact that neither of them stopped pushing for her to get the help she needed, no matter how difficult it was. She can point to two distinct moments following her second time at an RTF that her parents stayed strong and contributed in major ways to her sobriety today. Emme went to a halfway house immediately following her second time at an RTF. She urges parents to do their research on this just like selecting the RTF in the first place because some have much better reputations than others. She is grateful that her parents and the facility had a discharge plan and that it included the halfway house that she went to.
"I was there for three months and I know I would not have stayed sober if I went home right away. An addict's mind will them to do god knows what in order to get what they are addicted to. I could have really convinced myself to jump off of a bridge if I thought drugs were involved, it's very scary," said Emme. "Because of this, I was trying to tell my mom that I would be okay to come home. I kept telling her 'mom I just miss all of you I won't get high I just want to be back home', even though I had every intention of doing just that. Thank god my mom knew that too because she didn't budge once. She saved me. She didn't give in and she saved me."
As for her dad, Drew, things were never as rocky as they were with her mom. She mentioned that their relationship was strengthened during the family sessions but they had never really strayed in the first place. While things were not as hot and cold with her dad she does think back and remember how incredibly hard everything was for him. That second moment that her parents contributed to her sobriety included one time when her dad put his foot down. "After my second time at an RTF I was on probation and my PO had told my parents that he was not going to drug test me. Little did I know my dad said 'No, drug test her.' I am two years clean because my dad said that. I didn't find out until much later that my dad had taken this stand but I am so grateful that he did."
Emme had an overall positive experience with RTfs and if you are the parent of a child who needs intensive help we want to try and help make it a positive experience for you and your family as well. Just like last week, we sat down with a group of parents who have been in your shoes. We wanted to get their insights on what worked for them, what didn't work for them, and what they wish they had known. After our meeting with these parents, their tips were broken up into four sections; Packing, While They are There, Family Impact, and Discharge.
You may be thinking; "I have packed for a million different things in my life why do I need tips on how to pack?" First of all RTF's are known to have a number of rules of what is allowed and what is not, and these parents expressed that a number of the things they sent with their children had gotten lost or messed up during their child's treatment. They offered tips and tricks to ensure that your packing is efficient and you and your child's belongings are being protected. Secondly, you are under immense stress. It can be nearly impossible to think straight during that much stress and these parents understand that completely. They wanted to give other parents a quick set of things to think about as you are packing to make your life a little bit easier.
While They are There
Like Emme mentioned she missed both of her parents and her sibling immensely while she was gone, but they missed her just as much. Our team of parents wanted to remind you of things you should keep in mind while they are there to help you better cope with and understand the process.
Chances are you don't have any friends or family members that are going through this too. It can be an incredibly isolating feeling going through this alone and our parents wanted to remind you that you are not alone and can and should lean on others for support. This does not just impact your child, but your whole family.
Finally, our parents thought it was essential to discuss the importance of discharge and a discharge plan. Emme mentioned how vital this was to her sobriety and without a set plan that the RTF and her parents were both comfortable with she isn't sure where she would be right now. Our parents recommended a discussion of discharge to be had AT LEAST 60 days prior to the discharge date.
Emme's sobriety is a testament to her own, and her families' strength. She would not be where she is in life if she did not work incredibly hard for it, and if her parents did not persist past a lot of heartaches to get her there. "My biggest piece of advice for someone who is about to go into an RTF is to try your hardest to be open. If I could do it all over again I wouldn't hold back with counselors as much as I did especially in the beginning. I didn't realize how helpful and therapeutic the entire process could be. My advice for parents, from my perspective, is to, first of all, do your research on places. My parents were so good with that and did thorough research on everything. Secondly, she mentioned that having a support system is vital to this process. Her parents sought out different support groups that helped them to feel not alone. "
We want to emphasize Emme's sentiment. You are not in this by yourself, and all of the work and hardship you are going through is the ultimate sign of love. Letter by letter, therapy session by therapy session Liz and Emme rebuilt their relationship and are both better people because of it. It is not just Emme who is in admiration of the strength and love that Liz, Drew, and all of the parents who shared tips with us displayed; it is all of us at PA Parent and Family Alliance.