When Rob left for wilderness, we were all relieved. Rob hadn’t gone to school that year, because he came back from the eating disorder center a month or two into the school year and couldn’t get back into the swing of student life. Instead, he spent the year doing–what looked like–things to get at my parents and to fill the time. As for me, I was angry with him for upsetting my mom so much, but couldn’t do anything about it because he wouldn’t listen to me anyway. We hadn’t really talked for some years. I did make a few feeble attempts to persuade him to leave my mom alone, but that had no effect.
Going to wilderness and then to therapeutic boarding school gave Rob the opportunity to rebuild relationships with my parents and me. Before Rob got sent away, I had very little hope of ever having a positive connection with my brother, or for that matter, any at all. Rob came out of the wilderness program with a completely different attitude toward his life and our family.
As hard as it is to see someone you’ve put on a pedestal and looked up to all your life mess up in a such an immense way, it also gave me a huge reality check; it reminded me to watch out, because even the smartest people can make bad decisions.
Watching Rob learn and develop at therapeutic boarding school has been a tremendous pleasure. He has become more self-assured and gotten back to his A average. He has learned to use nondestructive coping mechanisms and be a little bit easier on himself. He has thrived on the structure provided by the therapists, the teachers, and the other students who hold him accountable. Every time I visit him at school on parent weekends, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have Rob in my life as a brother, something I have always wanted, and also how lucky Rob is to have this opportunity to rebuild his life and give happiness another shot.
The school lifestyle has also bled into my own life. My parents think about the school’s ethics when interacting with me, and sometimes prompt me to reconsider a decision with a “how would someone at Rob’s school handle this?”
Also, it was nice to meet other siblings that had undergone similar emotions, and seen similar situations. It’s easy to think you’re the only one who understands what you’ve been through, because at home, chances are that nobody else has. But, when you come to a community where everyone has had a similar experience, you find that many of the siblings understand exactly what you’ve been through, and have had similar feelings.