My nephew, Ryan, and his girlfriend, Lauren, met on the streets of Dallas, Texas where both were homeless and shooting up heroin whenever they could get it. They were two attractive, blonde, privileged kids from upper middle class homes--bright and well-educated. Their parents and extended families loved them deeply, but could not tolerate their behavior.
Like many in their situation, Ryan and Lauren sometimes committed petty crimes to support their habits. After a time, they were arrested and both were sentenced to Detox and Rehab. Still together, they attended a very expensive and lengthy program, paid for by their parents. It was my nephew’s third, and his girlfriend’s second, attempt to become clean and sober. The program lasted for several months, and used the most current, evidence-based interventions, as well as a 12-step Program, to help their clients achieve life-long sobriety. Exercise, a healthy diet, individual and group therapy, and vocational training were all included. At the end of their inpatient stay, both transitioned to a half-way house in another Texas town, where they lived with other recovering addicts.
It’s at this point that their stories diverged. Lauren realized that she was pregnant and my nephew was the father. Now that she had the responsibility for a life other than her own, her resolve to remain clean outweighed the pull of her addiction. After completing her stay at the half-way house, Lauren enrolled in college. She reunited with her family, developed a supportive group of friends, and regularly attended church, as well as 12-step programs.
My nephew, on the other hand, succumbed to the temptations of the streets once again. After another arrest for burglary, a judge gave him one last chance for recovery before jail time. His desperate mother, in debt after the last recovery program, found a free recovery program run by an evangelical minister in the western part of the state. He spent a year and a half living with the minister, his wife, and their two children, along with other addicted youth. It was bare bones. They pretty much lived on rice and beans, and made wooden crosses to sell at strip malls. My nephew had attended Catholic Church services during his youth, but was never particularly religious. At this point in his life, though, he found strength by reading the bible and attending evangelical services. Ryan reunited with Lauren and their baby is now a three year old boy, thriving with parents who love him.