Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thank you to the angels

It's been 11 days since we put our son on a plane and sent him off to Michael's House Treatment Center in Palm Springs, California. It's something that had to happen. After a bizarre incident during our family vacation in northern Michigan, and some evidence of drug and alcohol use upon our return, my wife and I could see that things were spiraling out of control again for our son.

Prior to sending him to treatment, we finally gave him the ultimatum that we had previously failed to follow through on: either go to rehab or leave our house. After initially saying he'd go to rehab, our son slept a day away (literally a day; as in 24 hours), and then reneged, saying he could get clean on his own.

We told him that wasn't an option and that he would have to leave. He did leave, too, albeit reluctantly. He packed up a duffle bag and took off, on foot, for a friend's apartment. He asked for a ride (he doesn't drive), but we said no. He asked for some money, but we said no. It was hard to watch him leave with nothing, calling us names as he walked down the block. But as much as it hurt, for the first time in a long time we felt like we had taken control of OUR lives.

Our son was gone for a couple of days. He would text once in awhile to ask for money. Or to say he was hungry. Or that he needed cigarettes badly. But we stood our ground and told him his only option was to stay away or go to rehab. We had taken his house key, so we kept the doors locked, just in case he showed up back at the house. We weren't backing down. We had finally decided that enough was enough. Thankfully, a couple days later our son told us that he would go to treatment. So we let him come home.

While our son was gone, my wife and I had continued our search for a rehab facility, which had begun several days earlier when we first gave our son the ultimatum. For those of you who've never done it, finding a residential treatment center for your loved one is a little bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. Only harder. Not only did we have to find a facility that was right for our son, but we had to find a facility that was insurance friendly. I know this might sound hard to believe, but insurance companies and substance abuse treatment don't really mix well.

We considered the place our son had gone to last time (Brighton Hospital, about an hour away), but they said our insurance company (still) didn't play nice with them. We also considered several other places scattered around the metro Detroit area and the state of Michigan. We even looked Hazelden in Minnesota, but insurance was an issue there as well. It was a total nightmare. My poor wife must've spent three straight days on the phone with rehab facilities, our insurance company, the HR rep at my job, and my son's therapist. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time online searching for places that could help our son. We needed to find somewhere to send him!

During this time, I had reached out to Ken Seeley, an interventionist who used to appear on the A&E TV show Intervention. Ken was my favorite interventionist on that show and I had friended him on Facebook a few years ago. I had even e-mailed him a year or so later when my son was struggling to see if he could help. At the time, he had me call a representative of his new company, Intervention 911, and we talked about possible treatment options for my son. Unfortunately, everything we talked about was just too expensive to consider.

This time I e-mailed Ken and asked him if he could recommend any treatment centers in Michigan that could help my son with his addiction and depression (known in the field as "co-occurring disorders"). Ken finally got back to me and told me that a place called Michael's House in Palm Springs, California, would be the perfect place for my son, and that I should call a gentleman with Foundations Recovery Network--the parent company of Michael's House and three other treatment centers. This man could help us, Ken said.

I was a bit surprised at Ken's e-mail. Palm Springs is 2,300 miles away, and after looking at Michael's House's website, I was pretty convinced that there was no way in hell we could send out son there. The cost would be a huge factor. But my wife and I decided to call the guy from Foundations Recovery Network (FRN) anyway, just to see what he had to say.

What transpired after that can only be described as some kind of miracle. Seriously. The guy at FRN was incredibly understanding and helpful. He knew exactly what we were going through and said that he could make treatment at Michael's House a reality for our son. Because of contracts FRN has with several insurance companies--including ours--the treatment at Michael's House could actually be affordable for us. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It was like we were put in touch with angels to guide us somewhere we'd never been before. FRN even talked to our insurance company and got confirmation that our son's treatment would indeed be covered. Not 100 percent, but to an extent that made the whole thing incredibly affordable for us.

After a couple of days of talking to our guardian angel at FRN, and waiting for a bed to open up at Michael's House, we got word that Tuesday, August 23rd--which was two days away--would be the day we'd be sending our son to Palm Springs.

The next hurdle, unfortunately, was finding a last-minute flight for him. Getting to Palm Springs isn't super easy to begin with, because their airport is so small. You have to take a flight to Phoenix or Salt Lake City or Denver, and then take a smaller plane to Palm Springs. I spent hours online looking at flight options and couldn't find one that worked. I was totally frustrated.

I sent our contact at FRN an e-mail to tell him I didn't know if we'd be able to get our son to Palm Springs on Tuesday. His response? "We have a great travel agent we work with. I'll get them on it right away." Again, it was like an angel was at work here. But it got even better. Our contact called my wife to tell her the travel agent could definitely get a flight for our son, and asked if we wanted them to book the flight for us. My wife said we had no problem with them booking the flight, but that the cost was a concern for us. (We didn't know if there would be a surcharge involved for getting a premium seat on a last-minute flight, or how much the flight would cost...or anything.) At that point, our FRN contact told my wife: "I talked to my boss and he said we can write the flight off." That's right. They were going to write the flight off. As in, they were going to pay for the flight. As in, flying our son to Palm Springs would cost us nothing. Not one penny.

I'm telling you, my wife and I were shocked. All of this was coming together like some kind of dream. The fact that there are people out there who want to help heal other people is so incredibly amazing. And we're so glad that we found them. It was like a tremendous weight had been lifted off our shoulders. And it felt like the first thing that had gone right for us in years. We cried, but this time we were crying tears of joy.

Our son arrived safely in Palm Springs late on Tuesday night, August 23rd. At the airport he was greeted by a representative of Michael's House, who transported him to the treatment center. Michael's House also called us--at about 1:45am our time--to let us know our son was safe and sound.

Eleven days later, my wife and I are happy to be hearing encouraging reports from our son's therapist at Michael's House. There were some bumps early on, but things seem to be going well now and we are cautiously optimistic. To know that our son is safe, in a treatment facility that specializes in co-occurring disorders, and in the hands of people who want to help him is such a wonderful feeling. It truly is.

Thank you to the angels who helped make this happen. You have no idea how appreciative we are.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to share this. It is clear that your son is very loved.

    Dave Grimmer

  2. Wow, Dean, an amazing story. I know from personal experience how incredibly difficult and frustrating it can be to find any kind of mental health/treatment facility that works with your insurance. We got amazingly lucky too when we needed one and found a small facility in Grand Rapids that specialized in PTSD, which was what we needed. Our insurance ended up covering almost 100 percent, which was essential since we ended up with multiple stays there. Hearing your tale, it is mind-boggling how well things came together; I think you're right, you guys ended up having an angel looking out for you on this one.

    I'm hoping for the best for you and Kathy and your son. It sounds like he is in a great facility, so here's hoping, my friend.