Joe entered Caribou Ridge Intervention in May, just before his last day as a sophomore in a Midwestern, suburban high school.
"I had, like, two tests to take to finish my sophomore year, and then I'd have a summer break and hang out with my friends."
Instead, Joe found himself on a plane bound for the mountains of North Idaho. He knew why, but had no idea what to expect.
"I really messed up. I'd been arrested for stealing stuff from a grocery store. I was constantly stoned. I was in rehab but I disagreed with everything I learned there. I'd tell my parents I'd do what they wanted me to do, but then I didn't do anything. I got suspended from school. I disrespected my parents and had an absolutely terrible relationship with everyone in my family. My siblings couldn't stand to be around me and I couldn't stand to be around them.
After a day of flying, Joe slept during the final leg of his trip, and a two hour drive from Spokane he awoke in the Selkirk Mountains of Idaho and was checked into the Caribou Ridge Intervention.
"When I got there the staff laid out the rules and expectations. It was clear that I was prepping to go to a therapeutic boarding school after I completed CRI, but the amount of time I would spend at Caribou Ridge was based on how I did there. I would need to do my best, be honest and respectful. I'd get out of it what I put in.
"My progress was like a rollercoaster at first. I'd be doing well, and then all of a sudden plummet. My moods fluctuated. I'd talk about hard stuff with my parents and my old attitude and denial would come back. It was hard to be there (at CRI)."
When Joe got down or the writing assignments got too hard, he found that the time outdoors and service projects allowed him to refocus and think more clearly.
Accountability lists and writing letters to his parents were daily assignments designed to unearth issues that were keeping Joe from reaching his potential.
"I hated it at the time, but the writing assignments were a really good thing. You had to make lists of all the stuff you did, or lied about-what you did that made your parents put you in (CRI).
"Nobody writes letters anymore. But I wrote to my parents every day and Dusty (the CRI director) scanned my letters and sent them to my parents. They would send e-mails back and Dusty would print them out for me. It got very emotional. It's easier to say things in letters than on the phone or in person.
"At home, when we talked, we just argued. I was hiding a lot of stuff. I thought (my parents) were trying to make me feel bad. I felt like I was being attacked.
"The letters were like stepping stones to better things; building our relationship up, making it more comfortable to talk about hard things. The letters got more positive. Mom and Dad really wanted to support me. I hadn't realized it was all coming from a place of care. They wanted the best for me. I learned how to receive it; rather than getting defensive about criticism right away.
"My parents also got much more comfortable with what they had to tell me. When I was at home, they pretty much had to walk on eggshells and try not to set off this bomb. So it made it all easier for them too."
Joe was ready to move on to a therapeutic boarding school as he neared the completion of Caribou Ridge Intervention.
"After a while I started to feel ready to move on. It was really important for me to realize I was ready. I was in a good headspace and things were a lot better with my family. That was the sign. I realized how far I'd come in two weeks. I was planning sound stuff for when I got out."
The experience at Caribou Ridge Intervention paid off for Joe. He entered the therapeutic boarding school with renewed motivation to graduate from high school, continue rebuilding his relationship with his family, and plan for a successful future.
"Now I'll graduate from high school in seven months. My time at (CRI) served a good purpose. I have a new relationship with my parents and an understanding of what I need to keep working on- with that comes my attitude and my motivation.
"I'm very thankful I got to do what I did. While I was there (CRI), it sucked. But looking back it was the best thing that has happened to me for a while. They do a very good job. I got to do a lot of productive stuff."
About Caribou Ridge Intervention A co-ed, outdoor-oriented therapeutic intervention program for 13-17 year olds. The strength-based intervention is 14 to 21 days in length and is designed to help a teenager break the cycle of destructive behavior through individual and group therapy, therapeutic workshops, experiential activities, strengths assessment, limit setting and positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior, and transition planning.