November 25, 2015

On Thanksgiving Eve, it only seems appropriate to write this letter of support for Safe Harbor, an organization that I never imagined my family being a part of. Today (and every day), I am thankful for their services and their dedication to restoring families in a time where our youth are faced with tremendous challenges and temptations.

Our youngest daughter was an easy-going, pleasant child. She was always silly with not a care in the world; she also idolized her older sister and loved her family. But something changed for her in middle-school. Negative attention-seeking behaviors became part of her identity and a teacher identified her as having ADHD. We sought medical advice and began a 4 year journey of attempting to ‘fix’ her. Through high school, her behavior escalated as she slipped through our fingers. Her grades plummeted and outlandish behavior became the norm; it was as if she was trying to find herself in all the wrong places and screaming for help, when nothing seemed to help. She went through 4 different counselors, several medications, numerous friends, and a lot of heartache. At some point during her junior year, a family friend (actually one of her preschool teachers who also had issues with one of her children) told me about Safe Harbor. In denial, I told her I would think about going but of course, never did.

On April 22, 2015, my husband and I received a phone call from the city jail because our daughter had been arrested for shoplifting. In one sense, we were relieved because she had not physically hurt herself or anyone else. Yet at the same time, it was a wakeup call that things were not getting any better. Through tears, I surrendered and made the decision to get help after we asked her to leave our home because she refused to follow our rules. I emailed Sean at Safe Harbor for more information and we met in May.

I began going to Safe Harbor for me. I was so worn down and probably in a state of depression, since our family had been in total crisis for at least 6 months. I was scared, sad and embarrassed that I had to turn to others to cope with my rebellious teen.

Having not grown up in church and being in an interfaith marriage, I have had difficulty ‘plugging in’ religiously and spiritually for a long time. Safe Harbor immediately offered a safety net and an opportunity for me to grow not only as a parent but as a child of God. I made a personal commitment to go every Tuesday night. Many times arriving defeated, I left each week with a sense of hope and renewed strength. I met other families dealing with similar issues (or worse) and I learned about setting boundaries, home contracts, co-dependency, grief and loss, forgiveness, and more through videos, discussion and fellowship. I also learned about myself and how to work as a team member in my marriage. I knew that our family was prayed for and that there was hope for us. I also learned about who and what we were dealing with in terms of a child who had relied on marijuana to manage her emotions for several years; she had stopped developing emotionally at about age 15, when she started using drugs on a regular basis.

Our family situation is not close to being where I want it to be. Our daughter is not currently living in our home but she has been coming to Safe Harbor for several weeks, is working a part-time job and has mentioned taking some college courses. We do have a long way to go but I know I have the love of my God, the support of my family and friends, as well as the backbone of Safe Harbor behind us. Having been able to shake some of the shame and pain of our situation, I have learned that there are many families facing similar issues. I write from the bottom of my heart when I tell you that your partnership is critical in reaching other youth and families.

Thank you for your time and support.

Pelham, AL