Never in my most outlandish dreams did I think Utah would become such a powerful, soul-healing, and life-changing place for my family. Yet that is exactly what it became when it was there that my son learned to love himself and where our family started the process of actually becoming, well, a family.
For years we were living in an emotional war zone. Our son slowly spiraling down to the point where he was cutting himself, isolating, living his life in electronics and social media, flunking out of school, and ultimately began contemplating suicide. Interventions throughout the process were significant, but we obviously had no choice but to admit him to Children’s Hospital.
Exhausting the resources of Children’s accomplished something, I’m sure, but not enough to change our son’s self-destructive thinking and behavior. Feeling desperate, we received a suggestion from our marriage counselor for something called a therapeutic wilderness program. I had no idea these programs even existed, yet after some research and a good deal of soul searching, that’s the path we chose. We left our son with strangers, hoping . . . praying that this would help.
To say that this program helped is an understatement; it saved our son’s life and allowed our family to take strides that I thought might not ever be possible. He emerged from 82 days of totally unplugged life in the desert of southern Utah with a fresh perspective. The regular therapeutic interventions there had an unbelievably positive impact. His departure from wilderness was not the end, to be sure. The journey continued with his move to a therapeutic boarding school. The wilderness did, however, reverse the direction of his life and I now actually have hope. I miss my son beyond belief and on certain days I struggle so much that I just want to stay home and cry. I know the path we chose for our son was the right one, though.
My hope is that sharing this brief glimpse into our family’s journey will encourage others to share, which in turn will allow our community to grow and connect; the type of connection that only comes through sharing common experiences.