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Posted August 12, 2002 

Cindy Brookshire and Carrie Cross

August 9, 2002

The authors of this article are Cindy Brookshire and her daughter, Carrie Cross. Carrie was at New Dominion School (part of Three Springs Corporation) from January 14, 2001 until she successfully terminated from the program on July 9, 2002. Carrie is currently enrolled in a private school in Northern Virginia and lives at home with her family. As part of a healthy transition, she sees a therapist weekly.

Recently, my daughter turned 16 years old. She didn’t have a party or cake. She celebrated it in an outdoor therapy program in Virginia, where she‘d been for nearly 18 months. She stood on a wooden bench in the lodge while close to 50 girls and staff sang “Happy Birthday” to her. That was her rite of passage.

I think back to the beginning of her journey. You don’t just send your teenager to a residential program without good reason, and I remember filling up page after page of the intake paperwork with everything she’d done to hurt herself and hurt others at home:

She skipped school and failed her classes ... she put a teacher’s shoes in a trash can and poured soda over them ... she was picked up by the police for violating curfew ... hung out with older boys who dealt drugs ... she tried drugs ... ran away four times ... cut her arms ... threatened her nine-year-old brother ... used foul language and raged if you told her “no“... pushed her mom downstairs.

On the advice of her therapist and a pastoral counselor, who got six inches from my face and told me she needed an intervention ... needed to get out of her environment ... I’d brought her to this program. And I left her there, that same day, with only the clothes on her back -- a pink “Hottie” t-shirt and tight metallic red jeans. When I got home and told her dad and brother what I’d done, they were relieved.

Her first letters home were, in turn, self-pitying, manipulative, selfish and demanding.

“I think I’ve really learned my lesson already. I cry each night before I go to sleep...this place is so scary. Please take me home ...You know what they make me do if they think I’m being dishonest with them? Push wheelbarrows full of gravel down that path we took!”

“By the time I can see my friends, they‘ll be gone. I mean u ruined my life, u could change that all around, but I know you’re not going to. You made me drop everything in my life 2 come here.”

“I don’t even have enough time in the showers to shave my underarms and I have 10 minutes to be outta bed, 5 minutes to be dressed. It’s like boot camp or an army reserve, I’m 14 freaken years old! I should be at home spending quality time with my family.”

“I can’t get in touch with any of my friends cuz I don’t have my address book . So please, asap, mail me my Princess hat, my blue address book in my top computer drawer, and pictures. The pics I would like are the ones around my computer screen.”

Then, she started to change. “I’ve pushed 27 wheelbarrows so far ... I’ve got my rec goals set: To stay out of myself by reaching out to others. To make it safe for people to confront me with feelings by working on my attitude. To be motivated during work project and volunteer more ... You gotta earn your rec before your crest [the outward sign of inward change]. Last night Ms. H---- (my group leader) recognized me cuz she thinks yesterday was the first day that I’ve stayed out of myself for a whole day. I’m starting to have some confidence that I’m making progress.”

I had to let go of birthdays ... proms ... and all the other “normal” touchstones of my daughter’s teen years. She had chosen her own path, and we both were on new ground.

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