Mother and Son Renewed

Over ten years ago, Laura felt trapped in an unhappy marriage. She was emotionally shut down, and she felt empty inside. She had two sons, Josh and Zach. Over time, Laura saw both boys beginning to show signs of emotional distress, but with Josh being the older boy—he took it the hardest.

While Zach played at friends’ houses to avoid the chaos at home, Josh began to isolate and shut down. He had also been through a couple of “train wrecks” that a 14-year-old shouldn’t have to face.

“I lived on the computer at home, and only interacted with the family at dinner. I was seeing a therapist, but it wasn’t really doing anything for me. [I felt] like I was alone and no one understood me.”

Laura felt utterly powerless to help her son. Her heart was broken, and though she had sought help—it didn’t seem to do any good.

“I would try to talk to Josh, but there wasn’t much conversation—we were both pretty broken at that point. I wanted so much more for all of us, but I felt frozen.”

Laura finally opened up to a friend at work who mentioned Pathways Teen Family Camp.

Laura signed Josh up for the training. She saw a lot of improvement in Josh, and three months after he went to Teen Family Camp, Laura went through the Core (adult) training.

For some time after divorcing, Laura was very involved with Pathways training. When she volunteered with Pathways, she consistently reinforced the tools she had learned during her training, and she practiced using those tools at home. This helped keep Josh on track, too—to help hold him accountable to the tools he had learned during Teen Family Camp.

During Josh’s senior year in high school, Laura had backed off of her involvement with Pathways.

Josh started isolating again.

“I was lashing out, I stopped being responsible, I wasn’t making the best choices for myself and my future. I feel that I had reverted to my old ways when I stopped having someone to hold me accountable or help me use the tools that I had learned. I went off to the Army shortly after graduating. The relationship with my mom was essentially frozen in time. We still talked, but for some reason, it didn’t feel right to me.”

When Josh left for the Army, Laura knew their relationship wouldn’t be the same. “I felt as if my heart were ripped out from my chest. I tried to be there for him, but Josh’s isolation became worse over time.”

Laura continued to grow stronger while Josh was in the Army. When he came home, he wasn’t prepared for the way she set healthy boundaries with him. They struggled, and their relationship continued to suffer.

Laura knew something wasn’t right with Josh. She kept encouraging him to get help. “That’s when he finally made an appointment for a physical at the VA and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. Finally, an answer to him being disconnected and struggling in every aspect of his life.”

Josh continued to struggle, and over time, his fractured relationships completely collapsed.

“I had been out of the military since Christmas of 2006, and homeless several times at that point. I had ruined my relationship with my mom after all my disrespect after I got home from Iraq. My first live-in girlfriend had just broken up with me and kicked me out, and I pushed away or isolated from almost all of my friends. I felt abandoned, worthless, and hopeless.”

Josh hit his breaking point on April 3rd, 2010.

He had agreed to sell some of his possessions at a garage sale his mom had one weekend when he hit his last straw.

“I was in the middle of taking medication as prescribed when I got dummy-jacked. Instead of taking just one pill of Zoloft, at 100mg, I took 25 pills at once. I knew what I was doing, but I had no control over my actions and I didn’t really understand the scope of what I had done until the bottle was empty. I looked over at my brother and I saw a look on his face that is forever etched in my mind. At first, I guess it was a cry for help. After I realized what I did, I really did want to die. I immediately left and wandered around the neighborhood as EMS was looking for me. The fire chief found me and a foot chase ensued. I didn’t want to be found at that point because I couldn’t face my family.”

His younger brother Zach found him and pointed him out to a patrol officer, and Josh was caught and taken to the ER.

He spent the next nine hours there—and most of that time, alone.

After his ER stint, Josh checked himself into a mental hospital, if for no other reason than to have a place to sleep and food to eat.

When Josh was released from the hospital, Laura knew he couldn’t come home.

Instead, she checked Josh into a motel room.

It’s one of the hardest things she has ever done. Laura felt desperate, but Josh was too volatile to be under the same roof with his younger brother. She couldn’t have him there and take the risk of Josh doing more damage than he had already done.

It hit Josh hard.

“That’s when I realized that I had done so much damage to my life, that my own mother would rather pay a hotel bill than to have me home. That’s the worst feeling in the world: to feel so alone and to know it’s all your fault.”

Josh spent the next five months working hard to build a life he wanted. He gained his independence, found a place to live, and bought a car.

He was finally starting to pull his life together, piece by piece.

Laura still wanted Josh to go through the adult training. “For a couple of years I had suggested he go through Pathways adult program, but he wouldn’t have any of it. He was proud that I was involved, but he ‘wasn’t interested’.”

They had breakfast one September morning, and again, Laura suggested Pathways.

Josh recounts, “After years of being harangued about the adult training, I finally said ‘fine’. I didn’t agree to the training, I just said that to shut her up.”

But when he saw his mom’s eyes light up—he knew he had to follow through.

During The WALK, Josh realized that PTSD brought out the worst in him. For the first time, he saw what he had become and he finally faced those parts of himself.

He worked hard to earn freedom and independence during his training. In fact, one point of his training was so pivotal and profound that he was able to release the nightmares he had from his time in the war.

He doesn’t have those nightmares anymore.

“Right away, I noticed that I wasn’t angry. I’m not sure what I was so angry about in the first place, but I felt lighter (in every sense of the word). I felt like I was a kid again: [a] fun loving, fun seeking, happy-go-lucky kid!!!”

The healing that’s taken place between Josh and Laura since Josh went through the adult training is truly awe-inspiring. Josh says, “To be on the same page with my mom is just awesome. I can’t describe the feeling of being connected to one of the only people that has been a constant in my life. We talk almost all the time. The best part is that we communicate from a heart level, so I know how she feels (and vice versa). It is so much easier to use our tools together when we are in sync.”

While the Love and Logic® tools are part of the backbone of Teen Family Camp, those tools aren’t just for teens. Laura had used the Love and Logic® tools on Josh for years—but now Josh uses the tools on his mom, too!

Another way they have continued to deepen their connection and build a stronger, more meaningful relationship is by serving on TA teams together.

They served side by side in May, during The Weekend and The Walk. They even celebrated Mother’s Day in the training room. Not surprisingly, they both said it was the best Mother’s Day ever—made even more special by being on the same TA team for such an impactful training weekend.

But to go back to where it all started for them—Teen Family Camp—was truly a magical experience for them both.

Laura and Josh served during Teen Family Camp in July of this year. Laura served on the parent side, and Josh on the teen side. Little did they know, they ended up working with some of the same families, just in different training rooms.

Laura says, “TAing together has been amazing, priceless, and wonderful! I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. I am still in awe!”

Without a doubt, Josh and Laura have had one of the most compelling turnarounds in their relationship that Pathways has ever seen.

“Life has changed gears quite a lot over the past 10 years, but I can certainly tell you that with this program and tools to manage my life, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as one can make it. I don’t know what I would be doing or where I would be at this point without it. During the times of struggle, my Pathways family has always been there for me and I have used my tools to manage life’s hiccups. I am definitely not the same woman I was then.”

Laura’s contract: “I am a victorious, strong, courageous and dignified woman, living in His light and full of His love!”

These days, Laura has the pleasure of marveling at the way Josh is stepping into the shoes of a young man—especially considering where he was back on April 3rd, 2010. “Watching Josh grow into his inner strength is beautiful. I am loving it!”

Laura trusts him more than she ever has before. And, she’s practically giddy from the depth of connection she and her son now have.

“There is so much more fun and laughter now. The togetherness that we get from spending time with each other is priceless! I understand Josh in a totally different way and we are able to communicate on a completely different level. Thank you Pathways!”

Laura and Josh’s level of communication and the depth of respect and love in their relationship is far more than a two-way street.

In fact, Josh says it best: “…our relationship and communication [are] a two-way luxury boulevard.”

Knowing where Josh was and how far he’s come, his contract is especially impactful: “I am a New & Improved, Strong, Courageous and Everlasting Man, Worthy of His forgiveness.”

Yes, you are, Josh. Yes, you are.