My story began with a very messy divorce and a son who went from being an honors student to a heroin addict in less than a year. Michael was the light of my life and when I found that out that he was using heroin intravenously I was beside myself. I went to the Internet and discovered that the recovery rate for kids like Mike was less than 20%. I sat in front of my computer not knowing what to do, so devastated.
Suddenly, for some reason I recalled being at wilderness with my other son Max. It was the session where we all got to pick up our kids either to bring them home or off to another program. For a large majority of troubled kids wilderness is just the first step and I was there getting Max to take him to his therapeutic boarding school. It is a great moment picking up your child at wilderness therapy because they make such great progress and you get to see the child that was before things cycled downhill. So it was a very happy occasion for most of us, should have been for all of us.
I looked across the room and saw two parents, very despondent, one crying, so I walked over to see if I could help. They told me that the reason they were so upset was that they had been counseled to send their son on to another program but could not afford it because they had already mortgaged their home to pay for the program their son had just finished. I really did not know what to say. I felt really bad for them but was focused on Max and getting him to his next stop.
And this is what I recalled as I sat in shock in front of my computer the day Michael told me he was an intravenous user. I realized that I was in for a very difficult time and potentially a tragic conclusion. Over the years I’ve tried to describe exactly what happens at that point and the only word I have found that does so is epiphany. I thought of that family and how unfair it is the parents that love their children so much cannot get the care for them because of their economic circumstances. I was going broke myself paying for my kids and I’ve made a decent living over the years so I understood completely. So in that moment I decided to start an organization that would help provide the assistance so that these kids could have a chance. The rest is history.
In retrospect it was the best thing I could’ve done for my own well being because eventually I lost Michael to heroin and the work I do with SavingTeens has been enormously cathartic. I always tell people SavingTeens has done a great deal more from me and I’ve done for it.